He was my theology teacher my freshman year in High School. He impressed upon us that theology is not a field of sentimental mush but a rigorous discipline. In fact, he got angry at us callow 13 and 14 year olds if we took recourse to any sentiment at all to defend our faith. One day he dropped our naive little jaws when he asserted that there is too much suffering and evil in the world for there to exist a God and demanded relentlessly that we give him a convincing counterargument. Every one of our meager attempts he swatted, and I at least left the class bitter and worried. He did not relish exposing us to ruthless atheistic arguments as a cheap way of showing the superiority of his Jesuit intellect. He was not a jesuitical Jesuit. He was a Classic Jesuit, a member of the Shock Troops, and he was hard on us because he was preparing us for spiritual battle, where warm and fuzzy feelings just do not cut it.
Fr. Hagan died on Monday. I found out about his death only a half hour ago and discovered to my great sorrow that I had already missed his funeral. He was the teacher that first impressed upon not just the necessity of argumentative rigor, but also the passionate urgency thereof. Arguments matter because the human being lives for meaning, and, therefore, it follows that it is of the utmost vital importance to get this meaning right. And if you have to shock the pious sensibilities of pink-cheeked altar boys to do so, so be it. Education is rough. But it would not be worth it if it weren't. Thanks, Fr. Hagan, and I am really sorry that I missed the opportunity to say good-bye to you. Resquiescat in pace.