Just after I took my seat at Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., I looked up and saw what seemed to be a message meant for a time such as this — a time of passions and testing, a time of pain and confusion. And, most obviously, a time of farewell that has stirred up much of these things.
“Virgin Mother Remember Us / On Our Behalf Speak to God / His Anger Turn Away from Us.”
And on another panel below it: “Mother of Fair Love and Knowledge and of Holy Hope / Strengthen the bonds of faith hope charity.”
Aired live on many channels, TV viewers’ eyes were fixed on what is known as “Mary’s House.” I found that a remarkable thing. If there is one topic I’ve found more controversial on social media than same-sex marriage or Donald Trump, it’s Catholics and Mary. There’s so much misunderstanding. And yet, here, things were clear. We were focused on Jesus. As it always is. As she always wants. As she always leads us. (What else is the Rosary but a walk through the life of Jesus, a deep dive into the Christian life?)
By now you’ve possibly heard Father Paul Scalia’s evocative homily opening: “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 great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.”
I found myself moved to tears at a few points during the Mass. The first was when Father Scalia pointed out that his dad had been taken through the Holy Door of Mercy before the start of the Mass. We’re almost 100 days into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and I’m not sure how many Catholics realize the great and urgent invitation for reconciliation with God that the year offers with a heightened sense of urgency. With the nation watching, that invite was highlighted and extended. (Have you made a pilgrimage in your diocese?)
Another was during the recessional hymn — “O God, Beyond All Praising.” It was hard not to wonder if Scalia’s passing, if this Mass, was happening in the life of our country for a reason. To focus us here. On gratitude. On the gifts that we have and are responsible to be good stewards of. Scalia did a great deal during his life of public witness to the centrality of Christ in the life of a Christian. Excellence in faith, family and civic service. Will we do our part? Will we be good stewards of the talents and the freedom we have been given? At Mass were all varieties of public servants. Pray for them. Pray for those to come.
That evening, as South Carolina’s primary results came in, I found myself at St. Anthony of Padua Church, during a “Capuchin Cafe” with Eucharistic adoration and a concert after. There, too, at the end of the Holy Hour, the same hymn began. The last stanza stood out this day, as if a call to duty:
“O God, Almighty Father, Creator of all things, / The heavens stand in wonder, / While earth Your glory sings; / O Jesus, Word Incarnate, Redeemer most adored, / All glory, praise and honor Be Yours, O sovereign Lord; / O God, the Holy Spirit, Who lives within our soul, / Send forth Your light and lead us / To our eternal goal!”
Whatever you do, wherever you are, however you feel about where we are in our nation’s history and politics, live this Trinitarian reality. The bonds of faith, hope and charity will be strengthened here. Indeed, His anger will be turned away from us. It will make the difference.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).