1932 – 2017
Words of Remembrance for Brother Christian Edward Martin, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
Christian Brothers Academy Brothers’ Residence
September 29, 2017
By Brother Charles O’Connell, FSC
Ed and I were together three times: In New York’s Good Shepherd Grammar School where I, a student, only knew him, a teacher, by reputation. At La Salle Academy, Second Street, New York, both of us teachers. The last at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft. Ed was distinctive, a personality who never dissolved into an institutional role. What ingredients made him?
First ingredient- New York City. Growing up in that metropolis during the Great Depression, his family prized self-reliance. He sought out advantages urban life offers resourceful young people. Places to explore and to develop their curiosity—libraries, zoos, museums, planetariums, the daily spectacle of the city. He grew up with an adventurous mind and a spirit of initiative. He recalled warmly how he and his neighborhood friends shared their experiences and useful adventures. I imagine Ed explaining the finer points of the periodic table to his pals. Whatever else attracted him to the life of a Christian Brother, he surely felt teaching as his destiny.
Second ingredient- Inspired teacher. Ed taught at 8 schools. Seeing him among his students, one saw “a teacher’s teacher.” At Good Shepherd, he had a fearsome reputation among the students. Legend held that Ed, in the midst of a lesson, looked out a top floor classroom window, saw notoriously tough miscreants loitering on the street, flew out the door, leaped down the stairs and nabbed them, his stern visage alone making them cry. Ed believed in classroom order, which he obtained without raising his voice, by a masterful use of hand and eye signals. By the end of the first day of school, he had established all he wanted. Order served only as a means to an end, students quickly saw it was not oppressive but it enabled their success. Students at Second Street bragged about being in “Brother Ed’s” classes. Order established, he was a forward looking teacher who nurtured inquisitiveness and a sense of enterprise. He saw far beyond the classroom mechanics he deployed effortlessly. At Second Street, we both served on a committee for how to teach slow learners. Ed’s list of suggestions started with field trips, not random enrichment, but integrated into an overall conception.
He often recalled a science club he had here at CBA, Lincroft. He cherished the informality and lack of artifice he experienced in that context. His days at Second Street sometimes tried him because few students attained a level of love and curiosity for math and science that would allow him to be their companion on such learning adventures. Eventually many did attain this level when they got older, some came to thank Ed for enabling this growth by giving them a foundation. Ed always tuned in accurately to his setting, but I don’t think he realized how much students respected him and knew how much they owed him.
Third ingredient- a life long learner. Ed loved investigating things. He retained all his life a boyish enthusiasm for learning new things and sharing them. He had the instincts of a first rate researcher, spotting clues that lead the search forward. He and I informally collaborated on dozens of research adventures. The most recent: When did the IRT subway station at 207th St and 10th Avenue come into use? You probably think this easy to find. It is if you drive there and find the station’s plaque giving the date. We used computers. Ed found real estate maps, transit authority maps, building permits, census tract data, and early photos. Sorry to report
we hadn’t yet found out when that station opened. By the way, locating the station’s date isn’t a trivial pursuit. Such information is critical to understanding the pace of New York’s outward expansion, or the residential paths taken by generations of immigrants and numerous more seemingly “important” searches.
Ed was a well informed conversationalist. He knew current affairs as well as the mechanics of hurricanes. He steered wide of gossip. Ed rarely said “you’re wrong.” Conversing didn’t mean showing the other guy up. He believed in sharing, enjoying conversation, not making it a form of guerrilla warfare. This didn’t mean he avoided a vigorous argument, in which he could be formidable, in rare instances even scathing but always focused on the issue, not the persons of his opponents.
Fourth ingredient – personal characteristics. Have you heard of the foxhole test?— if in war you had to share a foxhole with one person, would you trust it to be this specific person? For me Ed aced this test. I say this with utter seriousness—I would have trusted him with my life.
Ed rarely said “sorry, I can’t.” If you asked his help, you got it. He was a patient, thoughtful man. Ed put in considerable time assisting in the CBA library. A while back the library was weeding out books. Ed picked out discards for several men at De La Salle Hall, knowing their interests well enough so he could tailor the choices. He liked to do things anonymously, leave some books beside one’s door, and not take credit.
One thing Ed found hard to endure was what appeared contrary to common sense. He had common sense abundantly. Occasionally, Ed found some time worn routine or idea lacking sound basis, which had the perverse effect of making it seem he was the one out of step. He sized up the realities within which he lived. After 13 years at La Salle Academy, he said to me, “I think I’m becoming stale, I should move on.” He moved to Buffalo where he became, as expected, a renowned teacher and where he could engage the students at a higher level. After many years at St. Joe’s he said to himself, “age is catching up with me, I’m not giving the students top quality anymore. Time to move on.” He came to Lincroft to assist at CBA and De La Salle Hall. All Ed’s finest qualities came to the fore in this last role. At the Hall, he created his own niche of interesting, profitable activities and put hours into preparing them. When Ed first started at De La Salle Hall over a decade ago, he insisted not to be on the staff, though this had been urged of him. The system didn’t quite know what to do with him: a member of the CBA community, who wanted to be deeply involved with the residents at De La Salle Hall, not involved with management. Quietly and carefully, he found how to realize his conception and became a cherished fixture of daily life.
Fifth ingredient— Ed was an exemplary religious. He made no display, he hated humbug and self congratulation. The gospel’s admonition not to be a religious show off fit him precisely. He thought about and read about theological topics often. I feel he yearned for a close friend with whom to share his thoughts. The closest friend he had as a Brother was Brother Eugene O’Gara with whom I think he shared his deeper thoughts. When Gene died no one filled his place. After Jim Leahy moved to CBA, Ed engaged him more in conversation and said this refreshed him.
Sixth ingredient— Wariness. If you look at a photo of Ed smiling, you may see, as I do, a big smile that just before it bursts out fully, stops short. What remains is a welcoming, sincere smile, one that holds back. That was Ed in person too. He had a reserve. No matter how
serious the topic, how genuine the honesty, at a point Ed stopped short. As I got to know him better over the last years, I encountered this repeatedly, never in an off–putting way, instead gently indicating that’s as much as he would say. Many people hold back. Ed puzzled me because of his evident wish for companions to share with deeply. I wondered whether this wariness was a price exacted by the way we live as Brothers. Must we hold back with those whom we live closest to? Does the everyday closeness itself demand a boundary? Is this harder on a type of person open-hearted by nature? The New York youngster in Ed would have been less cautious. Or maybe it was just being careful about his facts, like a good researcher? Anyway, it was there. It seemed linked to an inner loneliness and longing I don’t think he ever resolved, and perhaps is just the fate of certain kinds of people.
Might as well say it: some found Ed’s particular ensemble of qualities not to their taste. Myself, I’ve known a rare few who had near universal approval ratings. It has seemed to me, though, a special wrong that a deeply serious person like Ed should be mistaken by some as not serious because of his cheerful enthusiasm and appreciation of life’s quirkiness.
Brother Christian Edward did not oversee a successful capital campaign. He did not build a school. He did not rescue a failing institution. He did not get elected to office except for a couple of stints as a director. A rare person who didn’t need to look or sound important, he wasn’t a lot of prestigious things. He excelled professionally other ways and in living he practiced the greatest commandment. He deserves the highest accolades.
I have left out so much: his cordiality to Lasallian Volunteers, National Science Foundation study grants, his devotion to his beloved disabled sister, his care for his mother in her last years, his freedom from vengefulness, an early, eager appreciation of the computer’s role in school, a deep interest in photography, summers spent working at the New York District archives . . .
A man of parts, above all a teacher. A teacher of the absolute first rank. Principals prized him. We count ourselves blessed to have known this good man and Brother of the Christian Schools.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Christian Edward Martin, FSC
Born Edward Patrick Martin in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 1932
Died at Christian Brothers Academy Community, Lincroft, NJ, on September 27, 2017
Entered the Barrytown Novitiate on June 28, 1950
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Christian Edward, on September 7, 1950
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY, in 1957
St. Augustine School: teacher
New York, NY
Good Shepherd School: teacher
St. Jerome School: teacher
St. John School: teacher
Christian Brothers Academy: teacher
Christian Brothers Academy: teacher and director
New York, NY
La Salle Academy: teacher
St. Joseph Collegiate Institute: teacher
St. Joseph Collegiate Institute: teacher and director
St. Joseph Collegiate Institute: teacher
De La Salle Hall: volunteer (residence: CBA community)
Friday, September 29, 2017
Christian Brothers Academy BROTHERS’ RESIDENCE
854 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1698
Viewing from 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am
Followed by luncheon at Christian Brothers’ Residence
Brother Christian Edward has chosen cremation.
Burial will be private at St. Gabriel’s Cemetery, Marlboro, NJ.
The District of Eastern North America remembers Brother Christian Edward with memorial liturgies according to the tradition of the Institute. Through their prayers, communities and individuals entrust Brother to God’s loving care.
Brother Christian Edward passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in the community during the morning. May he rest in peace.