Prose by UNL’s Stephen Lahey is being credited with helping protect a student from the Nov. 20 shooting at Florida State University.
According to national reports, Florida State student Jason Derfuss had just checked out books from the university’s Strozier Library when he heard a gunshot. Derfuss said he turned and saw the gunman shoot another student before running from the scene.
Hours later, Derfuss removed books from the backpack and found a slug embedded in a shredded edition of Lahey’s 2009 publication, “Great Medieval Thinkers: John Wyclif.”
“I find it remarkable that a book stopped a bullet,” Lahey said. “And I was floored to learn that, by complete chance, my book helped save that student’s life.”
Wyclif was a 14th century English philosopher and theologian whose beliefs — which included that Roman Catholic Church leaders/priests own nothing and that the king should be in charge of the church — resonated among Czechs and led to the Hussite Wars (1419-1434).
Lahey is now working with colleagues in Prague, Czech Republic, to create a complete edition of Wyclif’s treatises. He is also working on a book on how Wyclif’s work came to Prague 20 years after his death.
“The church really didn’t like Wyclif’s ideas about how the king should be in charge and that he was telling them to get a job,” Lahey said. “But he was protected because he worked for the king.”
After Wyclif died, the king’s son, Richard II, married Anne of Bohemia, eldest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. Through that marriage, Wyclif’s ideas spread to the Czechs.
“His ideas hit it right with the Czechs,” Lahey said. “And, they led to the Hussite War, which was the first, true revolution in history.”
Now tangentially linked to the latest school shooting, Lahey hopes the incident will lead to a national conversation on gun safety and weapons availability. He also hopes to get in touch with Derfuss.
“I’d love to send him a new copy of the book to replace that other one,” Lahey said.