Life From Death: How the Scalia Funeral Mass Became a Triumph of Evangelization


The death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 at the age of 79 was a loss on many levels. As a fearless advocate for the Constitution and the rule of law, his absence leaves the balance on the Supreme Court in a precarious position. As a bold public witness for the Faith, the Catholic Church in America will miss him. And, just as important, as a father of nine and a grandfather, he leaves his family without its beloved patriarch.

But, God can bring good out of anything, and today, he brought great good out of the death of Antonin Scalia.

His funeral Mass on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the gorgeous neo-Byzantine Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. — where it’s not a parish church, but a church for the whole United States — was broadcast on news channels, EWTN and CSPAN. It was beautiful, solemn and reverent, a version of the “simple parish Mass” requested by the Scalia family writ large.

An editor I work with at, a non-Catholic Christian, was quite taken with the ceremony and asked me to write a story about it, that perhaps explained some aspects of it that she didn’t understand. Click here for the result of that.

It’s impossible to know how many other non-Catholic Christians, lapsed or lukewarm Catholics, or even non-Christians, were flipping channels today, perhaps looking for news on the presidential-nomination contests in South Carolina and Nevada, caught the Scalia funeral Mass, were drawn in and lingered for a while. Maybe a lot of them had never seen a Catholic Mass before, or had been to Catholic weddings or funerals that didn’t do the Mass nearly as well.

If they stuck around, they may have heard the homily given by Justice Scalia’s son (one of nine kids), Father Paul Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who was also the main celebrant. After thanking supporters and friends for help and prayers, and noting an upcoming memorial service, he formally began the homily with:

We are gathered here because of one man, a man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more; a man loved by many, scorned by others; a man known for great controversy and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.

It is He whom we proclaim, Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of Him, because of His life, death and Resurrection, that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.

Click here for the full transcript; here’s a look at what he said.

This has also been heavily covered in the media, and the video is posted all over the Internet. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful tool of evangelization than the faithful and heartfelt words of a loving son, part of a big Catholic family, speaking about his Fathers in heaven and on earth.

There’s no question that the death of Antonin Scalia is a sad moment that opens up many troubling questions for the nation. But, it was also a gift in a tumultuous time, a sacred moment of love and respect on a loud and fractious news day — ending as the assembled clerics stood on the outdoor steps and sang “Salve Regina” a cappella as the casket was carried to the hearse.

Now, if only GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz had waited until he was outside the Basilica to take a bunch of photos with supporters. Here’s a screenshot of one of the four photo-ops I saw.


Ah, well.

Images: CSPAN screenshots

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The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

A native of the Adirondacks and Saratoga Springs in northern New York State, journalist and fiction writer Kate O'Hare now lives in Los Angeles, where she's on a neverending quest to find a parish in the L.A. Archdiocese with orthodox preaching, excellent traditional music and parking.


  1. Nice article except for that cheap shot at Ted Cruz. First, the Mass had ended. Second, he wasn’t seeking the photos but rather those who wanted take photos with him. Third, he isn’t Catholic. Many of those in attendance were not Catholic and they were gathered around the nave talking and laughing before the start of the Mass. I didn’t see the author take those folks to task for being disrespectful. Enough of trying to take down a man who is our only hope to restore the values we long for in our great nation.

    • First – it’s still a Catholic basilica and they just finished a solemn funeral Mass. Some decorum should be expected.

      Second – Just because someone asked to take a picture with him doesn’t mean he has to right away. It was just as possible to relocate outside. J

      Third – Simply because non-Catholics were milling around talking and laughing before Mass doesn’t make it right. Again, some simple respect for the location.

      “a man who is our only hope to restore the values we long for in our great nation.” <- why don't we stop putting all our hope into human beings? I understand that the president wields a lot (perhaps too much?) power, but at the end of it, prayer is more powerful. That being said, not sure that Ted Cruz is the *only* one.

    • Yes agree! Cheap shot on Ted Cruz only one of presidential candidates to attend Mass. I too saw a social gathering in church before Mass, which should have said silence in respect of the Eucharist

  2. Haters are going to hate so I’ll take it as that. Having been there on many occasions, I have yet to see signs that prohibit photographs inside the Shrine when a service is not in progress. I have several photos of the Shrine myself. Yes I am Catholic and do respect that no photos should have been taken DURING the service but this was after and the family was on the way to a private ceremony and out of view of the crowd inside. My only point is that the author had written a very nice article but found a way to take a cheap shot at someone who did not deserve it. He wasn’t the only one taking photos and don’t blame them if they wanted to take photos at that point in time. Yes, I do support him and defend him. And yes prayer is more powerful but under our Republic we are led by an individual who should hold the values and traditions that our founding fathers expected. I wonder if any of you had problems with the TV cameras turned on during and after the funeral Mass.

  3. James Kevin Richardson on

    Yep, the snitty swipe at Cruz was just that; snitty. You imply that he obviously should have known to exit in silence. Haven’t you ever heard “when in Rome…?” There were probably close to a thousand Catholics waiting to leave who immediately struck up conversations and otherwise misbehaved in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. At least Cruz is not expected to believe in the Real Presence- the reason for observing silence and reverent conduct in the Church. Too bad so few of the Catholics there provided the good example for our separated brethren to follow.

  4. Saturday morning I happened to enter the waiting area of a nationally known tire service center and the TV channel was already tuned to the funeral (I think CNN, of all places!). It stayed on for about a half-hour until one of the mechanics, apparently tired of hearing the bells, organ music, and prayers, used his remote behind the counter to change the channel over to “Mythbusters”. Oh, well — knowing the modern tendency of many people to quickly escape from anything “religious”, I was really surprised it stayed on for as long as it did!

  5. You write this lovely piece about the good that came out of the death of Scalia, the Mass and evangelization and a tone of sweetness and light and then you take a cheap, unfair potshot at an excellent, Christian man? What a jarring, shocking thing to read. Poor writing and poor taste.

  6. I watched the entire Mass on the news and was so very, very proud. I was so excited to read this story on Catholic Vote, and was all set to SHARE it, you know, as a form of EVANGELIZATION…but, NO, you just had to get political and snippy. You couldn’t be forgiving and magnanimous by just leaving off that last sentence?? What is wrong with you? Pitiful. Now, you made us Catholics look just as judgey and snide as some others I refuse to name…. thanks for NOTHING.

  7. My thanks to Fox News network.. They aired the whole thing and kept quiet the whole time. It was a beautiful Mass and the homily was incredible. A lot of focus on Christ. Thanks again fox for not showing the politicians. Just the ordinary family and friends worshipers. Iwas so thankful that Obama wasn’t there. It would have ruined the spiritual feeling of the whole service.

  8. These worshippers of Ted Cruz are amazing..Why any Christian and especially Catholics supports a candidate who spreads lies about his opponents dropping out and beliefs about the Bible..their open idolatry is a affront to The Lord.

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