CORRECTION: Thanks to Politco publishing the actual program of the funeral Mass, this writer stands corrected that the Agnus Dei was not Paletrina, but Tomas Luis de Victoria, a composer from the 16th century (and one I LOVE to sing.)
Every Catholic gets a hitch in the heart when we hear the Funeral Bell begin to toll, it does not matter the church involved. This morning, the bell at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,…it was especially heart rendering. Today, we said goodbye to the champion of life, of liberty, and of the U. S. Constitution, Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonin Scalia. Thanks to the Archdiocese of Washington, and the staff at the National Shrine, a Mass just short of a state funeral gave testament to the greatness of the deceased.
The casket bearing the body of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is wheeled down the aisle to begin his Funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
After what is a typical 24 minute procession for such an occasion, Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington gave remarks of welcome, and apologizing for the seating and scaffolding as the Basilica is currently being renovated. The principle celebrant for this Funeral Mass was Rev. Paul Scalia, son of the judge, of the Archdiocese of Arlington, where the Scalias live. (He has a lovely singing voice and chanted the prayers, and led the congregation in the Our Father chant that every Catholic knows.)
As the Mass proceeded, the First Reading was from the Book of Wisdom* from the Third Chapter read by the Executive Vice President of Federalist Society Leonard Leo.
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself.
The Responsorial Psalm was a modern setting if the now fairly traditional or a Funeral The Lord is My Shepherd. The Second Reading, Hope Does Not Disappoint from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, was read by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The Gospel from St. Matthew, Praise to You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth…Come to Me all who are labored and burdened and you will find rest, was proclaimed by a Deacon from the Archdiocese of Arlington.
“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. Aman known for great controversy. And for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.” (Fr. Paul Scalia, Homily at his father’s funeral)
Father Paul gave a moving homily relating the connection of the Funeral Mass to Christ, the past, the present and the future, and told a charming story of his father finding himself in Fr. Paul’s line for confession once. Justice Scalia promptly removed himself from the line and later told his son that he’d be darned if he confessed his sins to HIM. Father Paul readily agreed with his Dad.
The professional choir at the National Shrine added some lovely Palestrina, a Vatican composer from the sixteenth century, the Chant Mass Sanctus, and a soprano from the choir sang a beautiful Cesar Franck “Panis Angelicus” in canon with the choir followed by Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus,” one of the most beautiful Motets ever written, during the Communion Procession. And most welcome to this writer, a fairly simple “May the Angels Lead You Into Paradise” from the Order of Christian Funerals, one her favorites.
Writer’s note: no, this was NOT overdone for a simple, parish Mass as the Scalias requested. We do this music all the time in my parish. The incense and the bells weren’t even too much.
As is actually liturgically correct at a Catholic Funeral Mass – or because, as Father Paul told us, Justice Scalia HATED eulogies – there was not one. In attendance of note: Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife, Jill, Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich whose wife, Calista, is a member of the professional choir at the Basilica, the full Supreme Court, and countless mourners who were not recognized formally.
The Funeral Mass of Justice Antonin Scalia ended with “O God Beyond All Praising,” a hymn set to THAXTED and one of the themes from the Jupiter movement of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” In great keeping of the idea of vocation, Justice Scalia was led to his rest to one of the great hymns imploring the people of doing the job God put you on earth to do. Justice Antonin Scalia was put on this earth to defend the Constitution of the United States, raise a family of good citizens and faith, and give us all an example of courage in the face of adversity. He accomplished that in spades.
As the casket was carried down the steps of the Basilica, the priests and deacons in attendance chanted the traditional Salve Regina, or Hail, Holy Queen, in Latin. Mrs. Scalia, flanked at all times by two members of the family, walked closely behind. The burial was private for the family.
Requiescat in Pace, Justice Scalia, and may Perpetual Light shine upon you.
*The Book of Wisdom is one of the seven books of the Helenistic Canon, or Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. (Protestants call this the Apocrapha.) These books were removed from the Hebrew Canon by the Jews in Jerusalem before the closing of the Canon of the Bible at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Catholics include these books as part of Sacred Scripture rather than the newer one that Martin Luther substituted as the Septuagint (meaning 70 books) version of the Old Testament is the oldest.