The Rev. Paul Scalia leads a prayer during a private ceremony for his father Justice Antonin Scalia in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. (Pool Photo by Jacquelyn Martin via European Pressphoto Agency)
One might have assumed Rev. Paul Scalia was speaking about his father Justice Antonin Scalia when he began his homily.
“We are gathered here because of one man, a man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to many more; a man loved by many, scorned by others; a man known for great controversy and for great compassion,” Scalia said.
And then he turned: “That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.”
“In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them,” Scalia said. “But here today we reflect what God did for Dad. How he blessed him!”
Speaking of those blessings, Scalia focused mostly on his father’s family life and his deep faith, making little mention of his service on the Supreme Court.
“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,” Scalia said. He joked that Justice Scalia sometimes mixed up the names of his nine children, then said that the close bonds his father helped forge among the large group of siblings were the greatest gifts a parent could give his children.
One personal recollection that Scalia shared: His father once realized that he was in his own son’s confession line, and quickly left. “As he put it later, ‘Like heck if I’m confessing to you.’ ”
“I hope that it is some consolation, if there are any lawyers present, that the Roman collar was not a shield against his criticism,” he said, referring to his father’s sharp questions in the courtroom.
He spoke of his father’s affection for Catholic tradition and also preached about how that faith played a role in his father’s career as a Supreme Court justice.
“He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our country was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders, a blessing — a blessing quickly lost when faith is lost from the public square or when we refuse to bring it there,” Scalia said. “Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became.”
The homily was based on a poignant passage from the book of Matthew: “Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father.”