IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn
By Mark Zimmermann
(CNS) — Just as many pilgrims are passing through the Holy Door at the Basilica
of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in this Year of Mercy, the
casket bearing the body of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
entered through the door Feb. 20.
Paul Scalia, the justice’s son and the main celebrant and homilist at his
father’s funeral Mass, said the fact that Scalia’s casket was carried through
that door of mercy was a great blessing. In his homily, he emphasized that his
father was a man of faith, dedicated to his family and service to his country, a
man who relied on God’s mercy and was sustained through the sacraments.
give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with
the Eucharist and healed him in the confessional,” Father Scalia said in
his homily. “God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith, the conviction
that Christ’s presence and power continue in the world today through his body,
of his father’s devotion to his Catholic faith, Father Scalia said, “He
loved the clarity and coherence of the church’s teachings. He treasured the church’s
ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power
of her sacraments as the means of salvation, as Christ working within him for
Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is episcopal vicar for
clergy for the diocese, where the late justice lived with his family.
The elder Scalia
died Feb. 13 of natural causes while in Texas for a hunting trip. He was 79. He
is survived by his wife, Maureen, and by the couple’s nine children and 36
bells tolled, family members accompanied his flag-draped casket up the steps
into the national shrine and down its main aisle as the congregation sang the
hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past.” The family then sat in a front
section as the casket was placed at the base of the steps leading to the main
the Mass were the eight remaining members of the U.S. Supreme Court: Chief
Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justices Anthony
Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel Alito,
Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Retired Justices John Paul Stevens and David
H. Souter also were present.
dignitaries in attendance included: Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Attorney
General Loretta E. Lynch; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Speaker of
the House Newt Gingrich; and Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz,
currently a candidate for president, once served as a Supreme Court clerk.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, welcomed Justice Scalia’s family members and friends
and the dignitaries to the Mass and acknowledged the presence of Archbishop
Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Arlington Bishop
Paul S. Loverde.
Catholic leaders at the Mass included Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of
the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector
of the national shrine; and John Garvey, president of The Catholic University
of America. Nearly 100 priests concelebrated the Mass and were joined by about
36 deacons. The congregation of 3,300 people included Catholic laypeople and
women and men religious, as well as guests of many different faiths.
cardinal expressed “our heartfelt sympathy at the loss of your husband,
your father, your grandfather and friend, and we once again pledge our prayers
that God will grant him eternal rest and grant you comfort and consolation.”
Leo, a friend of Justice Scalia who is executive vice president of the Federalist
Society, read the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which opened with, “The
souls of the just are in the hands of God.” Justice Thomas read the second
reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and Father Colin Davis, a priest
of the Diocese of Arlington, read the Gospel reading from St. Matthew.
Mass included some hymns in Latin, including Mozart’s soaring “Ave Verum
Corpus” (“Hail True Body”) sung by the shrine’s choir during
Communion. The liturgy also reflected Scalia’s sense of humor, with both
Cardinal Wuerl and Father Scalia joking about the family’s desire “for a
simple parish family Mass” for the justice’s funeral, which ended up being
held in the largest Catholic church in North America to accommodate the
number of mourners.
his death, Father Scalia said in his homily, the justice had been praised by
many for his intellect, his writings and speeches. “But more important to
us — and to him — was that he was Dad. He was the father God gave us for the
great adventure of family life,” Father Scalia said. “Sure, he forgot
our names at times or mixed them up, but there were nine of us!”
on a serious note, he added, “He loved us, and sought to show that love,
and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured.”
priest also expressed thanks for his parents’ marriage, noting 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.”
blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country,” Father Scalia
said. “He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was.
And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing. A
blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we
refuse to bring it there.”
priest said Scalia “understood that there is no conflict between loving
God and loving one’s 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.”
during the prayer of commendation, Father Scalia, prayed that God would grant
the justice a merciful judgment.
the congregation sang, “O God Beyond All Praising,” Scalia’s casket
was carried down the shrine’s center aisle, accompanied as he had been in life
by his family, and then they left for his private burial ceremony.
is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.
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