Reverend Paul Scalia

Homily at the Funeral Mass for His Father, Antonin Scalia

delivered 20 February 2016, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

 

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text excerpts below transcribed directly from audio]

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Your Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Your Excellencies, Archbishop Vigaṇ, Bishop Loverde, Bishop Higgins, my brother priests, deacons, distinguished guests, dear friends and faithful gathered:

On behalf of our mother and the entire Scalia family, I want to thank you for your presence here, for your many words of consolation, and even more for the many prayers and Masses you have offered at the death of our father, Antonin Scalia.

In particular I thank Cardinal Wuerl, first for reaching out so quickly and so graciously to console our mother. It was a consolation to her and, therefore, to us as well.

  Thank you also for allowing us the -- to have this parish funeral Mass here in this basilica dedicated to Our Lady. What a great privilege and consolation that we were able to bring our father through the holy doors and for him gain the indulgence promised to those who enter in faith.

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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.

Scripture says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.1 And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today. In effect, we look in three directions: to yesterday, in thanksgiving; to today, in petition; and into eternity, with hope.

We look to Jesus Christ yesterday, that is, to the past, in thanksgiving for the blessings God bestowed upon Dad. In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them. But here, today, we recount what God did for Dad, how He blessed him.

We give thanks, first of all, for the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lord died and rose not only for all of us, but also for each of us. And at this time we look to that yesterday of his death and resurrection, and we give thanks that he died and rose for Dad. Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional. We give thanks that Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step, and even hold him accountable.

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He was a practicing Catholic -- "practicing" in the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet; or, rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God's grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin.

But don't take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister2 whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals (and why he didn't like eulogies). He wrote

Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner.

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Full text transcript available at First Things

1 Hebrews 13:8

2 Dr. James C. Goodloe IV

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American Rhetoric.
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