Yesterday’s Mass of Christian Burial for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia began with the entrance hymn, “O God Our Help In Ages Past”, which contained these final these verses:
Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.
These timeless truths remind us of the passing nature of this world, and how we do not know the day or the hour when God will call us – or someone we love – home.
The sudden death of Justice Scalia broke many hearts, beginning with his wife Maureen’s and their children and grandchildren, and extending out to friends and colleagues throughout our country. He was a national treasure and a giant of a jurist and it still seems impossible that he is no longer at the center of American jurisprudence. Our family was shaken by the news, too. My wife Mary lived for twelve years on the same street as the Scalias, just four houses down. Justice and Mrs. Scalia came to our wedding, and their second son, John, and his wife, Terry, are among our closest friends. In fact, they are the Godparents of our daughter, Marie, and Mary and I are Godparents to their daughter, Mary. The Basilica was overflowing with people like us who were touched by his life as husband, father, scholar and judge.
Mary and I arrived at the Basilica an hour before the Mass began and bumped into Fr. Chris Pollard at the security station that was in place. He is the pastor of the parish in McLean, Virginia where 150 Ave Maria University students stay each year for the March for Life. I watched as the Secret Service checked his belongings and was saddened that life in American had gotten to the point where even for a funeral Mass, people – even a Catholic priest - had to be screened for weapons.
In the hour before the Mass began the dignitaries filed in. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a friend of Tom Monaghan’s and a supporter of Ave Maria, was the first on the High Court to arrive.
It was good to see Ave professor and friend, Ambassador Michael Novak, arrive and be seated in a place of prominence, on the aisle, and observe well-wishers come and greet him before and after the service.
You will have to go to The Washington Post website to see the immense crowd and the grandeur of the gathering. And when you do, make sure you watch the video of the homily by the celebrant, Fr. Paul Scalia, who is the third of nine children in the Scalia clan (and is pictured here with my wife, John, Terry, and our Goddaughter at a family gathering following the graveyard service).
His remarks were catechetical, evangelical, profound, and poignant. He wove humor into his sermon to help lighten the solemnity and sheer sadness. What a tremendous priest! He helped the assembled put into a divine perspective the death of his father and their friend. He had the assurance of faith that for his father, life had not ended but simply changed. Mary and I have never heard a better funeral homily.
Perhaps Justice Scalia will “fly, forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day” as the hymn said, but it won’t be anytime soon. His legacy, beginning with his exceptional family and the superior legal scholarship he left behind, will be one of lasting influence.
Ave Maria University will honor the legacy of Justice Scalia by holding a symposium that brings to our campus two individuals who knew him and the body of his work very well: University of Notre Dame Law School professor Gerald Bradley, and a former Scalia law clerk and current head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, Ed Whelan. Final arrangements are being made for the mid-March event, and we will publicize the date, time and location soon. Please plan on attending.
His days of wearing the robes of a Supreme Court justice have ended. May he now be robed in glory as befits all who dwell in “our eternal home.”