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For God and country

WASHINGTON (SE): Borrowing the words of the patron saint of the legal profession, St. Thomas More, Father Paul Scalia said of his father, Antonin Scalia, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court in the United States of America, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Speaking at his funeral Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on February 20, Father Scalia continued, saying, “God blessed Dad… with a love for his country. He knew well what a close 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.”

He understood that the deeper the faith, the better the citizen. “So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between loving one’s faith and loving public service,” Father Scalia continued.

“Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better the citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant, because it was God’s first,” he added.

Scalia the judge was known and admired widely for his faith and character, but Father Scalia implored those gathered in the historic national shrine to pray for his father’s soul, as although he believed, he said that he did so imperfectly. “Christ was not yet perfected in him.”

Father Scalia said that his father was a practicing Catholic and he needed to practice, as he had nowhere near perfected the art and he knew that only the perfect can be admitted into heaven.

“We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God’s grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin,” he said.

“To this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace,” Father Scalia prayed.

The late justice was born in 1936. He attended a Jesuit school and later as a lawyer in the Court of Appeals earned a reputation for clarity, as well as being a conservative with a talent for dissent, always ready to criticise the opinions of the Supreme Court by which he was bound.

In his dissenting opinion on ObamaCare, he referred to the court decision as “interpretive jiggery-pokery” in which “words no longer have meaning.”

He loved clarity and this love carried over into his faith life. As his son pointed out he loved the coherence of Catholic teaching and spent his whole life endeavouring to absorb it.

But on February 13 he passed from this world and his son reflected at his funeral that it was an opportunity to look in three directions; to yesterday with thanksgiving; to today in petition; and to eternity with hope.


Father Scalia is a priest of the diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

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