Justice Scalia remembered as loving father

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Amidst a crowd of political, religious and judicial leaders, Justice Antonin Scalia was remembered as a man who loved his Catholic faith and his country. But above all "he was Dad. He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life."

That was among the points made by Father Paul Scalia, one of Justice Scalia's nine children and for the past 20 years a priest of the Arlington Diocese, during his homily at the funeral Mass for his father.

Father Scalia was both celebrant and homilist at the Mass celebrated Feb. 20 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

"He loved us," Father Scalia said, "and sought to show that love, and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured. And he gave us one another, to have each other for support. That's the greatest wealth that parents can bestow, and right now we're particularly grateful for it."

An estimated 3,300 people were in attendance, including Vice President Joseph Biden, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Catholic University President John Garvey.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the Archdiocese for Military Services presided at the liturgy.

Deacon Colin Davis of the Arlington Diocese read the Gospel and the petitions. Numerous diocesan priests concelebrated the Mass.

In his opening remarks, Cardinal Wuerl offered a word of welcome on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington and Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Shrine. He expressed to the Scalia family his heartfelt sympathy at the loss of their husband, father and friend and pledged his prayers, comfort and consolation.

"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 greater compassion," Father Scalia said at the beginning of his homily. "That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.

"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," he said.

"Scripture says 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.' And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today.

"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," he said.

Father Scalia said his father, who died Feb. 13 at the age of 79, was nourished with the Eucharist and healed 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," Father Scalia said.

Justice Scalia loved the clarity and coherence of the church's teaching and treasured the church's ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship, he said.

"He trusted the power of the sacraments as the means of salvation, as Christ working within him for his salvation," Father Scalia said.

He recalled one occasion when his father scolded him for hearing confessions on a Saturday afternoon. "The issue that evening was not that I'd been hearing confessions, but that he'd found himself in my confessional line. And he quickly departed it. As he put it later, 'Like heck if I'm confessing to you.' The feeling was mutual."

Justice Scalia saw no conflict between loving God and loving his country, between one's faith and one's public service. "Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and a public servant he became," Father Scalia said. "God blessed him with a desire to be the country's good servant, because he was God's first.

"Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves," he said. "Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment.

"So we cannot depart here unchanged," Father Scalia said. "It makes no sense to celebrate God's goodness and mercy if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and toward the Lord."

Wiley Lott, who works for the Southeast Alabama Gas District, was in town last week for the national governors' meeting. Although not Catholic, Lott said he realized the historic significance of Justice Scalia's death and wanted to pay tribute to him by attending the funeral liturgy.

Scalia was a good man who made this country a better place because of his service, Lott said.

A memorial program for Justice Scalia will be held March 1 at 11 a.m. at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. All family and friends are invited to attend and participate in this tribute to Justice Scalia.

Memorial contributions

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to any of the following organizations:

Supreme Court Historical Society, supremecourthistory.org

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, ccda.net

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, benedictinesofmary.org

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016