Justice Scalia and the Jubilee Year of Mercy

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Mary Clare Scalia Murray gave the following reflection at the recent memorial service for her father, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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 meaning.

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.

Thank you.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016