Reading James Schall is like talking to James Schall. About a decade ago, when I knew intimately the meaning of US ARMY (“Uncle Sam Ain’t Released Me Yet!”) and orders deployed me for a week downrange to Washington, D.C., and its environs, I contacted Father Schall, and we agreed to meet at the best place for conversation in Georgetown: Billy Martin’s Pub. We spoke of everything: how Muslims do not worship the same god as Christians; the Army; how Jesuits like Robert Drinan and James Schall managed to live together; and, of course, Chesterton. As was fitting, these conversations were had over beer—and a goodly portion of it. It was for me a glimpse of the “Inn at the End of the World.”
“An essay is not an exercise in ‘thinking out loud.’ Rather, it is thinking while writing, or even perhaps the writing is, in its own way, our thinking things out.” This definition of the essay, found in the beginning of Father Schall’s The Classical Moment, is fitting for the work of the author, who is arguably one of the finest essayists yet living. The revered Georgetown political-science professor thinks about everything, and this small volume testifies to the breadth of his interests. A Jesuit friend of mine once remarked that he envisioned Chesterton writing between drinks, and Schall writing between books.