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 PJMedia.com, 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.
Images: CSPAN screenshots