To study history one must know in advance that one is attempting something fundamentally impossible, yet necessary and highly important. To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task, young man, and possibly a tragic one.
Father Jacobus warns the scholar against trying to reduce history to patterns. The specifics that are discarded in making patterns work, (the chaos), are the reality that historians ought to be studying.