A Great Man Has Fallen

Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, AP Photo,
  shamelessly pinched from here.
I was present at the ordination party for Rev. Paul Scalia, one of the 9 children of Maureen & Antonin Scalia. Paul & I were good friends at the time, having worked in the same office for a couple of years.

I loved and respected my friend, but every so often you get a window into someone's life that raises your respect by a degree of magnitude. The reception was fun, filled with joyful conversation and singing show tunes around the piano. What stuck with me, however, was that after dinner, spontaneously, someone rose from nearly every table to say a few words about the newly ordained priest. Most of the words were of a roasting nature -- we laughed so hard at Paul's expense!  But eventually every speaker wound down to some serious words, which were always about some kindness Paul had done, or the witness he had borne in a certain circumstance, that got the person through a hard time or changed him for the better.

That would be remarkable enough, but interestingly, the speakers were from every period of his life. Someone from the neighborhood; from grammar school; from high school; from university; from the seminary; even Justice Thomas rose in gratitude for Paul's influence on his own reversion back to the faith.  I remember thinking: This is a man. Already he has spent his entire life being a quiet but real force for good everywhere he has ever been.

Others will write the story of Antonin Scalia's jurisprudence and the mind of one of the genuinely great American justices.  What has struck me over the weekend as remembrances have trickled out from bereaved friends is that the man was not only an intellectual giant and genuine force for liberty, but also a man of that deeper greatness he, with his wife, forged in his son: a genuine friend, a person of conviction, someone with a sincere love of Christ and of people, whose friendship made life better everywhere he's gone.  It is rare for a public figure to have the respect and affection of ideological opponents, yet his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and with Elena Kagan is well known --and read Cass Sunstein's gracious words about him below.

If you read nothing else about the man whose passing was announced on Saturday, read this. I easily believe the truth of it, because daily communicants in the downtown parishes in DC have all seen the Justice at the back of the chapel saying his prayers just as described.  And we have all seen the broken and oddballs who likewise come to daily mass.

Have you read it yet?  See? This was a man.  May he rest in peace.

Antonin Gregory Scalia 1936-2016

Update: Now you must read this, too. A letter from Justice Scalia to a Protestant minister who preached at a funeral he attended.

Other Worthy Reads:

Hadley Arkes

Jonathan Last

Robbie George

Cass Sunstein 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Scott Johnson (watch the video embedded there, in which a progressive law student admits the only decisions she can bear to read are Scalia's)