Antonin Scalia. Last Saturday as I entered the narthex after celebrating 5pm Mass one of the ushers came up to me with a stunned look on his face and said: “Father, Justice Scalia is dead.” It was like a stomach punch. People remember where they were when they heard the news of Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, and the attacks of 9/11. I think I will remember this in the same way—this was such an historic life and death.
After a quick prayer, all sorts of thoughts raced through my head. After a few moments those thoughts would include the terrible loss to our nation; the great legal legacy of this judicial giant; the political battle that would soon follow, etc. But before any of that my thoughts were first of a different sort: a great and devout Catholic had gone on to his eternal judgement and reward; a great Catholic family had lost their husband and father; my classmate and friend, Fr. Paul Scalia, had lost his Dad.
All these thoughts, along with prayers related to them, have been circulating in my head this week—and I’m sure something similar has been happening with many of you.
Of course the media has covered Justice Scalia’s death exhaustively. Much of it has been very positive and uplifting, but most of it has been very distressing, especially the almost immediate turn to a bitter debate over who would take his place on the Court and when. There will be plenty of time to sort through that in the coming weeks. For now, I’d like to focus on other aspects of his life.
While we can disagree with some of his political and judicial views, we should all acknowledge that Scalia was one of the great Catholic thinkers of our time. Not a great theological thinker, like a Ratzinger or Wojtyla, but rooted solidly in a Catholic philosophy imbued with love of truth, reason and logic, he applied his Catholic faith in the public square by being one of the most honest, clear-thinking, expansive, well-integrated, and intellectually brilliant legal minds in our nation’s history.
And as such, employing his talents with forthrightness and courage, he became an incomparable example, an icon, to all the talented Catholic and non-Catholic Christian men and women in our nation, showing them how they could be, simultaneously, good Christians and great Americans. He reminded us that we could take public stands that reflected our faith, not simply because they were consistent with our Catholic doctrine, but because they reflect our fundamental understanding of good and evil, of the God who created all men to be equal in His sight and endowed us with our rights and the law of nature. As such, he taught us that we can stand as staunch defenders, as he was, of things like the right to life, traditional marriage, freedom of conscience and religious liberty, not simply because the Pope tells us to, but because it is right, just and immanently reasonable.
Beyond this, he reminded us, in a private life constantly exposed to public scrutiny, that our private lives must be rooted in love for Jesus, the Church and our families. He was above all a devout Catholic man—everyone who knew him attests to this. Was he perfect, was he a saint? No—not many of us are. But how many of us strive as well as he clearly did to live their catholic faith with integrity, consistency, devotion and zeal, especially in the face of so many temptations and assaults as he was forced to endure. He was well known for his love of Holy Mass and Confession, his understanding and embrace of Catholic doctrine, his personal kindness to those in need, and his love and dedication to his wife and 9 children and 35 grandchildren—especially as he raised his children to follow in his footsteps as faithful and devout Catholics, and patriotic citizens.
When I think of Justice Scalia I can’t help but think of St. Thomas More, for whom he had a great devotion. I know that Justice Scalia would scoff at such a comparison, and I don’t want to overstate the case—he was not perfect. But I can say that he followed well the path the Saint laid out for Catholic lawyers and fathers, and did so in a uniquely heroic and admirable way.
Finally, Justice Scalia was a great judge, but he was so fundamentally because he knew that there was another Judge above him, higher than any human judge or judgment—Jesus Christ. And he knew that one day Christ would judge him for his entire life, public and private. Now our brother Antonin has faced this Great Judge. In charity we should pray for his soul, that he be cleansed and purged of any imperfections that the Just Judge may omnisciently see in him, and so swiftly receive his eternal reward. But how many of us wish we could stand before Christ presenting our case with the facts reflected in the life of our brother Antonin.
Let us pray for him: Eternal rest grant unto Antonin, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
And let us pray for his family, especially his wife, Maureen, and his 9 children, particularly Fr. Paul Scalia. Let us pray for each other, that we may follow his example of courage and Christian integrity. And let us pray for America, who has lost a great champion of truth, reason and justice.
Ignorance. A poll taken in the last few days says that 1/3 of Americans don’t even know who Justice Scalia was. Amazing. I pray to God that doesn’t include any of you. If it does, I beg you to become better informed. It is essential to the future of our Nation and our families.
Catholic Scouting Awards. Although two years ago the parish switched our male scouting affiliation from Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to Trail Life USA, many of our young men and boys are still part of BSA. As such, under the prudent and diligent guidance of their parents, I hope they are reaping the many good things available through BSA. And I am delighted to congratulate those whom Bishop Loverde recently awarded the “Pope Pius XII Religious Emblem Medal,” the highest award in Catholic scouting, centering on Catholic maturity, relationship with God, vocations, and commitment to faith. These St. Raymond recipients were: William MacDonald, Peter “Max” Gelbach, Luke Morris, Kieran O’Hare, Jarod Slaton, Noah Fuller, Anthony Valenzuela. Congratulations, gentlemen; I’m very proud of you. God bless you!
Making a Good Confession. The Sacrament of Penance is essential to having a good Lent. In the next few days I will be publishing a tri-fold brochure entitled “Making a Good Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to Going to Confession.” When this brochure is circulated (either in this bulletin as a foldable insert or in the pews as pre-folded pamphlet), I hope it will be helpful in easing any fears and in preparing to make a good confession.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles