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Father-son challenges

"We cannot depart here unchanged," said Father Paul D. Scalia in the funeral homily for his father, Justice Antonin Scalia. Indeed, as I listened to a son reflect on his dad and glimpsed the justice's nine children and 36 grandchildren at the funeral, something about Justice Scalia's fatherhood confronted me.

"I have found his death to be a great inspiration to be courageous," one friend and fellow dad told me after watching the online video of the 16-minute funeral homily. Seven challenges struck me:

1. "Jesus … He died and rose for Dad … a sinner"

First, Jesus Christ: "We give thanks, first of all," said Father Scalia, "for the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ … and we give thanks that He died and rose for Dad."

Justice Scalia once wrote of "God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner" and understood himself as a sinner. Can we imagine one of our children - at our own funeral - placing our life in such a precise and truthful way, in the context of our life with and in Christ? There is still time to put Jesus first.

2. "Deep Catholic faith"

"God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith," said Father Scalia, "the conviction that Christ's presence and power continue in the world today through his Body, the Church. He loved the clarity and coherence of the Church's teaching. He treasured the Church's ceremonies … He trusted the power of the Sacraments as the means of salvation …" Could one of my kids, at my passing, say I did the same?

3. "He loved us"

"He loved us, and sought to show that love," Father Scalia said. Sure, Justice Scalia had "intellect, his writings, his speeches, his influence, and so on," said Father Scalia, but "more important to us - and to him - is that he was Dad." How often do we chase the allure of the "and so on" of our career at the expense of giving our families our love?

4. "The great adventure of family life"

"He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life." These simple words call us fathers to a certain examination of heart: How are we doing on this adventure? Are we selfish, petty, anxious, withdrawn and irritable - or are we joyfully laying down our lives for our wives to make our families the "great adventure" our children deserve to recall at our own funeral?

5. "The greatest wealth"

"And he gave us one another," said Father Scalia, referring to his eight siblings, "to have each other for support. That's the greatest wealth that parents can bestow …" My siblings remain close to me, and the unfolding of our children's love for one another continually amazes my wife and me. Do we give our marriages to the Lord in a way which opens this "great adventure" to the "greatest wealth" of children?

6. "Share the blessing"

Justice Scalia "sought to share the blessing of the Faith he treasured." A dad who blesses his wife and children is one who selflessly reflects the blessings of the heavenly Father. Do others see us as channels of the Father's blessing?

7. "The country's good servant"

"Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith," said Father Scalia, "the better a citizen and a public servant he became. God blessed him with a desire to be the country's good servant, because he was God's first." Are we known as men who take the blessing of our faith into the public square?

How "thin the veil is," Father Scalia said, "between this world and the next … between the opportunity for conversion and the moment for judgment." Justice Scalia had 79 years to receive and nurture the gift of Christ and His church; to love and bless his wife and children; and to serve his country. While none of us dads know our day or hour, we know the veil is thin. Today we can still give "thanks for God's inexplicable mercy" to us sinners and turn anew to Christ.

May this good servant rest in peace, and, we pray, enjoy eternity with the One he served.

Johnson, a husband and father of five, is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde's delegate for evangelization and media.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016