Mary Clare Scalia Murray gave the following reflection at the
recent memorial service for her father, the late Justice
Thank you for being here and for your kind words of sympathy,
for your wonderful affection for our father, for the stories
of your friendships, and most especially for your prayers.
There have been many remarks about Dad's faith and the
central role it played in his life. And for many of us the
only way to comprehend the loss of our father, friend, or
colleague, is to place it in the framework of God's plan and
God's mercy, particularly during this year which Pope Francis
has named the Year of Mercy.
But when we say that his faith was important to him, some may
understand that to mean: he was Catholic, he went to church.
What Dad's, and really Mom and Dad's, practice of faith meant
for us growing up was that we never missed Sunday Mass unless
we were sick (in which case we'd better plan on staying in
that bed for the day), and that as a family we drove however
far was necessary to find what Dad considered an appropriate
liturgy. Our Sundays in Chicago were especially adventurous:
rather than walking 10 minutes to the neighborhood church,
Dad drove us 30 minutes to a city church lead by Italian
priests whose accents were so thick that it was hard to tell
when they were speaking English or Latin.
We can tell stories about this as part of our strict
upbringing, but what that approach to faith did for us was
give us a framework of obedience to the church and instill in
us an acceptance of the basic obligations we owe her. We also
learned that though worship is a deeply personal experience,
it is built on centuries of tradition and history rich with
Faith in our home was also the intellectual exercise of
explaining the teachings of the church through reason. There
were frequent conversations about sermons, good and bad, and
about why the church taught certain things and why the
teachings made sense for mankind, why we could understand
them as Truths.
In the many stories that have been published or shared since
Dad's death, I've continued to grow in my understanding of my
father and in his daily exercise of God's love, which is what
mercy is. His ability to form deep, life-long friendships
with people of varying views; his generosity and humility in
reaching out to others, to strangers, to people from all
walks of life. And now the unbelievable outpouring of respect
and affection from people throughout the country because of
what he symbolized to them. These are the fruits of my
father's faith and of God's mercy through him.
The events of the last two weeks have been physically and
emotionally exhausting, but also spiritually renewing. The
procession of thousands of Americans through the Supreme
Court as Dad lay in repose brought many of us great
consolation. As for the funeral mass, we really did initially
consider a small private Latin mass. That's what Dad would
have wanted. But it fell to me to remind my mother, as it so
often does, since when do we care what Dad wants? He wouldn't
want us to change our way of doing things so suddenly.
As a family we recognized that the final opportunity to pray
as a church with his body should be shared with the large
number of friends and faithful that relied on him. The joy
and peace from that Mass were a gift to many, who continue to
respond to it.
Since his death I have learned so much about my father's
faith and how he lived it. This is the great mercy we have
been given through this loss: that our love for him and our
understanding of his legacy to us continue to grow even in
death. That we grow in a new understanding of God's love
through the words and memories of others. Some of my friends
have expressed this so beautifully in the Jewish tradition:
may his memory be a blessing. It is that, and also a source
of grace, and an opportunity to grown in faith. I can't think
of any greater legacy.