Father Earl Tore His New Cassock

by James Mullaney, 1968

This event occurred in 1964 right in the middle of Father's Earl tenure  at Aquinas. The 9th graders were divided into 3 groups: A, B, and C. The  event occurred while teaching the "A" group. 

The first day of class I came into the classroom designated for 9th grade English and sat down in a desk. There were over forty 9th graders in the classroom. The room was packed.

None of us had any idea what to expect. Father Earl was already standing waiting for us and when the right moment occurred he boomed loudly out for us all to “sit down and shut up”. And then class began. After a few minutes Father Earl walked over to his desk and leaned over to either get or look at or for something and his brand new black cassock caught on the desk drawer and tore. Father got angry. 

Father Earl pulled the drawer out of the desk and threw it across the room and it loudly smashed into several pieces. Every one of us was more than a little scared. And then Father started dictating the things we had to learn. During the class he stood several of us up to read. He told each one of us to read slowly, loudly, and distinctly. And as he spoke each one of the commands the next command word got louder. So the word slowly was almost normal loudness but by the time he got to distinctly we each understood he meant business.

If it hadn’t been happening to me it would have been hilarious and from time to time we would laugh at the person told to stand up to receive Father’s personal attention. I remember Father taking his open hand and shoving it into my chest to get the point across. He was a strong man.

He was a great reader and his presentations of Shakespeare were captivating. His soliloquy during class of a section in the Merchant of Venice was amazing. And I have heard that play and several others done by professional British artists and none of them were able to bring the energy that he brought to it.

Father created a system of correcting papers by the other students that allowed him to get give each one of a lot of feedback on our progress and efforts. As an ex-teacher I am still amazed that he managed to project the intensity required to maintain that kind of integrity among a bunch of 9th graders.

And then when our Latin teacher left the school in the middle part of the year he took over teaching Latin with the same intensity that he projected in English. He never missed a beat. He was also a good confessor and shared as much wisdom as he thought we could absorb.

When I taught myself 13 years later I tried to imitate him but it was impossible and I had to develop my own style. But Father will always be the best teacher I ever had – save Christ Himself.