The Fantastic Vincente Fox

By Dean Nelson:

Vicente Fox and his classmates wanted their 10-year college reunion to be something they’d never forget. They rented the University Club in Mexico City, one of the swankiest rooms in the city; they made sure the food was exquisite, the liquor plentiful, the cigars imported, and the women beautiful. They wanted to remember this reunion for one thing in particular: They wanted to impress each other.

Some of the classmates were bankers, some were presidents of manufacturing companies, some were CEOs. This was the nation’s elite—including Fox. He was president of Coca-Cola in Mexico, at the ripe young age of 32. It was a night for bragging.

They had attended Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, a school run by the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church, and they invited their main professor, Father Schiefler, to help them congratulate themselves. Schiefler mingled with the newly enriched graduates, watched as they preened in front of each other like so many peacocks, and then called for their attention. The classmates became quiet, in anticipation of the praise that would follow. What the priest said changed Fox forever.

“He thanked us for inviting him to the dinner and said he was pleased to be with us, but then he paused,” Fox said. “He said ‘I feel very sad and sorrowful tonight. I think I failed in my teaching and my education with you. I tried to teach you to live for others and not for yourselves, to promote opportunities for others and not just enriching yourselves. I am disappointed. I am not going to stay for dinner with you. Good night.’”

Schiefler left the party, and the crowd stood in stunned silence. Fox said they felt ashamed of themselves and did the next best thing.

“We all got drunk,” he said.

But he got the message, and began thinking about what he had learned in college. He had studied Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. He remembered that Ignatius was quite self-absorbed, much like Fox’s graduating class. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes Ignatius as a man “affected and extravagant about his hair and dress, consumed with the desire of winning glory.” At the age of 30, Ignatius was wounded in battle and, during a long, painful rehabilitation, had a spiritual revelation that propelled him into serving and educating others.

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About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Amos Paul

    Hmm.

    Unfortunately, Father Schiefler forgot the part where he was supposed to eat with the sinners…

  • Dan Jones

    @Amos,

    Seriously? That’s the best you can do? Why not rail him for being a Jesuit, part of the genocidal Catholics who invaded native America? Or why not mention how Fox took his guilt like so many Catholics with no understanding of the Gospel, and washed it down with alcohol. Man, Amos. You really are myopic.

    DJ|AMDG (proudly educated by Jesuits)

  • Jeremy

    Amos, that doesn’t seem especially relevant to this particular situation. It was a forceful, impactful way to express disapproval as a mentor who these people obviously respected and wanted to inspire them to greater things. Clearly it had its effect.

  • T

    Amos,

    I don’t know if it’s that simple. Paul says this: “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”

    Now, even before we get to that level, I think it can be totally appropriate to simply refuse to “go along” with a group that was doing this sort of thing, especially as a leader of such a group. I applaud this teacher, from what I can tell.

  • Amos Paul

    T,

    I would argue, not being a inerrantist, that Paul was likely being a bit overzealous. While there is a tension of not putting yourself in compromising situations, the priest came specifically to see those guys and came off, to me, as abrasively missing a real opportunity.

    Even if it was a healthy rebuke, I would have hoped that he took the time to still get caught up with them and love them where they were at in hopes of guiding them back on path.

    I realize that we’re all broken individuals. But it struck me nonetheless.

  • James

    What he said and did is very much in the spirit of Jesus’ words over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-39, it seems to me:

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (NIV’84)

    Sometimes, we don’t need dinner, we need a humble rebuke. Jesus had more than one tool in the box, and so did this priest. Wisdom is knowing which tool is right for the job.

  • T

    Paul? Overzealous? Never! :D

    From this report, the teacher could have been either way in my mind.

    But, regardless of the Pauline quote, the NT is full of “reversals” that this story reminds me of. Mountains will be laid low, and valleys filled up. Rich will be sent away sad, but the poor will be filled up with good things. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The poor man should rejoice in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation, etc. etc. The bottom line is that it’s one thing to kick a man that’s down (he will not break a bruised reed, or put out a smoldering wick) but it’s another to be a voice of rebuke to a group of self-congratulatory young rich people. I’m sure this rebuke was hard for those to whom it applied, but good news to others who felt as though they didn’t measure up.

  • http://www.allanbevere.com Allan R. Bevere

    Father Schiefler’s actions were appropriate. These were his students (disciples, if you will). Just like Jesus, he expected more from them because, as his disciples, he believed they should know better. Jesus reserved his harshest words for those “on the inside” of Israel’s faith because they too should have known better.

    If this were an event where Father Schiefler knew not his audience, a different approach would likely have been in order. But as a respected authority for them he was calling them to account for what they had learned but failed to put into practice. Just because he ceased being their professor did not mean he had stopped being their mentor. And that is what gave him the authority to speak and act prophetically.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    I agree with Allan, #8, and w/ T. Jesus ate with sinners who knew they were sinners, yet who longed for the reign of God. Fox & his friends wanted their priestly teacher to approve of their worldly accomplishments & self-aggrandisement, according to Fox’s account, and according to the young men’s rebellious reaction to their teacher’s expression of disappointment.


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