A Salutary Corrective in Scalia’s Funeral

Attention Californians: TCT’s founding editor-in-chief, Robert Royal, is in the Golden State. Here’s Bob’s schedule: Tomorrow, Monday February 22 at 6:30 PM, he’ll speak at the University of Santa Barbara, Catholic Chaplaincy, St. Mark’s University Parish: 6550 Picasso Road, Goleta, CA 93117 (Tel. 805-968-1078); and on Tuesday February 23 at 4:00 PM Bob will speak at the Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College. (See the flyer at the end of Fr. Pilon’s column.)

I had a Nunc Dimittis moment yesterday, watching the funeral of Judge Scalia. My guess is that I wasn’t alone. I have been waiting for fifty-two years for some corrective to the kind of Catholic funeral liturgy that began to take hold with the Funeral Mass for President Kennedy in 1963. With that particular liturgy, there began the deterioration of Catholic funerals across this land. And now that has received a certain corrective in the beautiful liturgy at the National Shrine. It was a true liturgy, which means it was focused overwhelmingly on the Lord Jesus Christ and only secondarily on the deceased.

The celebrant, Justice Scalia’s son Fr. Paul Scalia, was only a few years old when JFK was assassinated. So he probably wasn’t paying much attention to that funeral at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. But his father was, I suspect, very attuned to what went on that day, as were most of us Catholic adults at the time. It was the beginning of the eulogistic liturgy that has become the norm in many churches today.

The Mass itself was celebrated by Cardinal Cushing in twenty minutes flat, with no homily. At the end of the Mass, the liturgy suddenly became focused on JFK and his accomplishments. Bishop Hannan, a family friend, gave a ten-minute eulogy, which meant it was half as long as the Mass itself.

That eulogy, something completely out of place in the old liturgy, did throw in some biblical passages JFK liked. But the bulk of the eulogy was a reading from his Inaugural Address, which made it about a third as long as the Mass itself. The biblical passages seemed almost arbitrary really, as a lead in to the really important material written by JFK.

Cardinal Cushing, perhaps feeling slighted by Mrs. Kennedy’s inviting Hannan to speak, gave us a taste of the kind of eulogy that would be standard fare in the future. And not only at state funerals, but at ordinary funerals throughout the country. On the day before the funeral, Cushing celebrated a Memorial Mass in Boston, in which he gave the most maudlin and effusive, and almost totally secular eulogy of JFK and his family.

After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the funeral Mass celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, using the new Mass funeral liturgy, featured a long eulogy by Sen. Ted Kennedy. His eulogy was much more like Cardinal Cushing’s than Bishop Hannan’s. In just five years, the eulogistic funeral now had become an occasion for glorifying men rather than God.

I don’t blame the Kennedys as such, because they couldn’t have done this without clergy cooperation.


Well, all of that received a kind of counter action or corrective at the funeral of Judge Scalia. This liturgy was totally focused on Christ Himself, and only secondarily and derivatively on Scalia. Lest anyone think that I’m disrespecting the judge, the most powerful example of this focus was in the homily given by his son, Fr. Paul Scalia, who writes for The Catholic Thing from time to time. His clever introduction to the homily set the tone and theme of what was to follow.

He spoke about coming together to honor someone whom we all know and love, and then surprised the congregation by saying he was speaking about Jesus Christ. That was it. The corrective. At last. Father Scalia went on to organize the funeral homily around what God had done for his father, the many blessings that God had bestowed upon him and upon the family indirectly through his father. It was fantastic. If I weren’t so old, I would’ve jumped out of my chair and cheered.

Father Scalia, I’m sure, conducted the liturgy and framed his homily according to his own faith, and I was quite sure this is exactly what was going to happen. Quite honestly, I was not surprised at all, and yet I couldn’t help feeling tremendously lifted by his words. Further, he stated that he also was fulfilling what he was certain was the will of his father, whom he told us really despised eulogies if for no other reason than that they tended to deprive the deceased of the prayers he would otherwise benefit from if the focus were not on his virtues.

As his son so adeptly mentioned, while his father was a man of great virtue, he was nonetheless a man like us all, that is, a man whose weaknesses required our prayers and God’s mercy.

The focus of every liturgy, including baptisms, confirmations, marriages, ordinations, consecrations, and even funerals, if they are Catholic, has to be on Jesus Christ. Father Scalia made that clear in his words and in his whole conduct of the liturgy. In doing so, he not only served well his earthly father, but more importantly his Heavenly Father.

I don’t know how much affect this is going to have on the American church, but let’s hope it will have some effect in both public and private. A friend once told me that I don’t have to worry that they would be canonizing someone with a personality like mine at my funeral. I told him that was very comforting. Nonetheless, in my will, I have asked that the celebrant and preacher do for me what father Scalia did so effectively for his dad on Saturday. And just to be safe, I have also arranged for many Masses to be celebrated for the repose of my soul.

With a proper funeral liturgy, I will also get a lot more prayers than with some kind of maudlin ceremony with a meaningless eulogy. I’m sure Judge Scalia is very grateful to his son for the kind of reverent and theologically meaningful funeral liturgy that took place at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday.

May Judge Scalia rest in peace.



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Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

  • Bobo Fett

    What a great example that whole family is! Praying for him, his mom and the family.

    But especially for the repose of the great Antonin Scalia. “I think continually of those who were truly great.”

    • HermitTalker

      Delighted to hear. Back in Ireland. afterthe homily the eulogistic has taken over the ending of funeral Masses for prominent people in a predominantly Catholic culture

  • Chris in Maryland

    It was a sacred privilege to hear Fr. Scalia’s homily, and watch the funeral Mass for his father on EWTN. I was so happily surprised at Fr. Scalia’s opening. That Mass was so beautiful, it made me proud to be a Catholic.

    God bless Fr. Scalia, and his mother and family, and all of their friends in their grief. I will be praying for the soul of their father, that he be made perfect, and be united with God Our Father.

  • michael ortiz

    I was there. It was a profound moment of grace. A much needed corrective.

  • Manfred

    Thank you, Father, for an excellent column. Thank you for mentioning for the eaders’ benefit that you have taken the prudential step of pre-ordering Masses to be said for the repose of your soul; a step all of us should consider.
    While much of this false underststanding may have started with the JFK funeral; it must be admitted that BISHOP Robert Barron, raised to the episcopacy by Pope Francis, has officially promoted the idea that all souls are probably saved, and thus perpetuates the heresy. When one considers the number of Catholic souls in Purgatory who have been denied the prayers of their living family members which might lessen their suffering, the crime, for that is what it is, is horrific
    (“You have seen Hell where poor souls go who have no one to pray for them”. Our Lady to the Children at Fatima)
    Justice Scalia, and we, are blessed by the existence of the genuine prieist he has given us.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Barron’s elevation as bishop whose widely known views on Judgment, Heaven, and his denial of eternal punishment due to unrepentant sin fits into the continuing drift of dilution and confusion of the Apostolic Tradition.

  • Tanyi Tanyi

    I completely agree with you, Fr. I too was taken aback when he mentioned Jesus Christ, for I was hoping to hear the name of his father! That was a very beautiful twist. May the soul of this great justice rest in peace.

  • AquinasMan

    The greatest tragedy is that we not only rob the deceased, we rob the rest of the Church from the grace received by those prayers for the deceased. None of it goes wasted, even if we were to hypothetically assume Mr. Scalia was already in heaven. Grace redounds throughout the Church when we pray. And perhaps a soul on the edge of destruction, still among the militant, would be saved in the process. Beautiful homily.

  • Anne Marie Whittaker

    President Kennedy’s Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew The Apostle, Washington, DC, not St. Mark’s.

    • Catherine Darcy

      You are correct.

  • Chris C.

    I had the same thoughts while watching the funeral yesterday. It was an example of what a funeral mass is and should be. The stark contrast I drew was with the Boston funeral of Sen. Ted Kennedy. That, and others like it, were at least partly political spectacles. The Scalia mass was properly focused our our Lord.

  • WJW

    Well said father

  • samton909

    It was the best funeral I have seen in years and years. Changing the focus from the deceased to Jesus is, in fact, far more comforting.

    I know people want to gush over the dead person and sort of indicate how much they were loved and how much they will be missed, but in reality, that approach is profoundly secular, and probably the same thing pagans did. No, the church in its wisdom focuses on the fact that the person is now with Jesus, in a new, better place, and that focus leads to a real calming and even a joyful, hopeful effect. Their life, their accomplishments are so much piffle when you get the right focus. It is all beside the point. There are much more important things to be talked about at this time.

    I found myself thinking. Gee, this means if I am good, I will get to talk to Justice Scalia someday. What fun that will be.

  • Nancy Lynne

    I agree with you, Fr. Pilon. Eulogies can be comforting to family and friends but are more appropriately presented at a wake or at a collation after the funeral Mass or printed in a program. The focus at the Mass should always be on Christ.
    Some eulogies I have heard were brief and appropriate to Church while others were cringe-worthy! I ,too, hope Fr. Scalia’s example will cause a similar effect on funeral homilies/eulogies that JFK’s funeral had but in a better way.

  • Peter Connor

    I, too, caught the ‘zinger’ that Fr. Scalia used to commence his homily. I would guess that Justice Scalia and Fr. Scalia had conversations about the Justice’s funeral arrangements, including the place and how much ceremony there would be. Cardinal Wuerl’s comment about ‘parish church,’ conveyed with a smile, was telling. The last official act of our lives, our funeral, should be as Christ-centered as our ‘living’ lives must be. I need to be better at that.

  • Cal-gal

    I felt so proud and grateful to be Catholic as I watched Scalia’s funeral Mass. I viserally thought, “This is how it should be!” The Church guides us, leads us on our paths to be saints and the then, in the end here, gloriously gives us to Christ. I have been to parish funerals, and the wonderful understanding is the same. I only wish I could see my Catholic funeral…I am a convert and I thank Jesus, the Blessed Mother and St. Therese for loving me into the Church. My prayers will be with the Hon. Antonin Scalia and his family…May God’s richest blessings be on them.

  • Dennis_Moore

    Fantastic article, and I think it will have an affect going forward, albeit a small one. Almost all Catholics think the funeral mass is only about the eulogy, and the American Bishops have to only look in the mirror to see why. A return to the Extraordinary Form, or at least something close to it, would resolve this error, which as Father is alluding to have damaged the faith. That way there is no question as why we are at the requiem mass. I’m afraid that until that time, it will be more of the Kennedy funeral precedent.

    • William Beckman

      You miss the point. President Kennedy’s funeral was celebrated in the extraordinary form (ordinary at the time), nevertheless the eulogistic style took over. Justice Scalia’s Mass of Christian Burial was in the Novus Ordo (ordinary form) and is here praised by Fr. Pilon as being a model and corrective. Your assertion that a “return to the Extraordinary Form, or at least something close to it, would resolve this error,” is refuted by the plain text of this essay.

      • Dennis_Moore

        No, I disagree, it does not. My point is that the mistakes in Father’s article clearly started with the modifications to the mas — as per se, a eulogy is. The late 1963 funeral was obviously after the liturgical reforms were codified, and to suggest that liturgical reforms of the funeral mass (e.g. white vestments, no Dies Irae, the title still in use in some places “mass of the ressurection”) have no bearing on the roots of what Fr. is writing about is incorrect. Just adding the Dies Irae would reform some of the problems Fr. is talking about. Just because Cardinal Cushing decided to push the limits of the funeral mass (while knowing that the reforms were done, and just years away) is not relevant in my opinion.

        • ChrisMcC1

          “The late 1963 funeral was obviously after the liturgical reforms were codified”: this is simply untrue. Kennedy’s funeral was ten days before Sacrosanctum Concilium was even voted on. The reforms hadn’t yet *begun* to be codified.

          • Dennis_Moore

            Chris, the reforms were known to be coming before the funeral mass, I would cite for one Evelyn Waugh’s letter to the Tablet a year before the funeral mass in question. But if your point is that liturgical reforms and the problems cited by Fr Pilon are completely unrelated, then fine, but I respectfully disagree. I personally don’t see how one can decouple the reforms, such as the loss of the Dies Irae, and these problems. I hope I’m wrong.

        • William Beckman

          Please allow me to reiterate: “Justice Scalia’s Mass of Christian Burial was in the Novus Ordo (ordinary form) and is here praised by Fr. Pilon as being a model and corrective.” Please notice, the point of the article is that the error was resolved in that very Mass. It did not require a return to the Extraordinary Form to resolve the problem. There may be many reasons to praise the Extraordinary Form and, for some, to hold it in higher esteem than the Ordinary Form, but that is not the thrust of Fr. Pilon’s essay. The beautiful and solemn funeral liturgy celebrated and televised on Saturday addressed the problem very well, thank you.

          • Dennis_Moore

            William, my point was that although the Scalia funeral mass was what we need in the Church, it is doubtful that it will repair all of the damage of the last 50 years. That is just my opinion — again, that the best way to repair damage would be the Traditions of the Old mass – where discretion of music and prayers is much more limited. Of note I should add Justice Scalia himself only attended the Traditional mass. thanks to the Catholic Thing for allowing such good articles and dialogue.

  • Jen

    Great homily, great article. (I think Father Scalia, though, was born in 1970.)

  • Twinkle5

    I can only imagine how the hearts of so many in attendance were stirring with love because of the beauty of the mass. Whenever we put Jesus first, there is always fruit to be had, and in this case, many souls converted or reverted to Christ and His church. Rest in peace Judge Scalia, and may God bless your family in their time of sadness.

  • lady2bug

    You know what? This is so very true. As a Sacristan, many times I have witnessed where the focus of the Funeral Mass has shifted to the Eulogy and if I heard a 100 eulogies or more to date, MAYBE a dozen mentioned anything about faith in Jesus Christ and the spiritual life of the deceased. Having said that, I will say that most of these eulogies have been touching, heartbreakingly beautiful and helped those of us who were listening to better appreciate the life of the deceased and the true loss to us who remain living. What a gift these souls were to us, walking amongst us unknown! I must admit, I look forward to listening about their lives. I am most certainly for curtailing the length of the eulogy so Jesus may remain front and center but certainly not for abolishing them.

  • Mary C-J

    Like father, like son. Thank you Fr. Scalia for addressing something that irked his father (based on recent letters that have published). We all should thank God again for the wonderful servant(s) that he has sent us and pray for more inspired to come.

  • kathleen

    I watched the Funeral Mass on CNN and was pleased to see how respectful the CNN commentators were. They didn’t speak at all during Mass and saved their comments for later. All of them seemed to be very moved by the Mass, and the beautiful homily. I was delighted to see Fr. Scalia offer the Funeral Liturgy so reverently, and so faithful to the teachings of the Church. His homily was truly inspiring and instructive. I thought as I was watching that surely hearts were changed and, hopefully, Lastly, if our priests would tell people – preach about it – what Jesus said about the narrow way to Heaven and how few there are who find it, how good that would be, and how merciful. Jesus told St. Faustina that the prayer that pleased Him most, and the prayer that is always heard, was the prayer for the conversion of sinners. As a sinner myself, that is very comforting.

  • Shaune Scott

    A beautiful Mass, everything that Mass should be, including worship music. My husband, a convert to the faith, wept as he watched. When it was over, he said, “Now I know what you mean when you talk about REAL church music.”

    • Bobo Fett

      Justice Scalia loved the traditional Catholic Latin Mass, so the family knows what real music is. I wish we had more Christ-centered priests like Fr. Scalia. I have noticed however that the younger priests coming out now do seem to be much more serious and far more theologically grounded than what they have sent us the last 40 years of more. Hope springs eternal.

  • KSJ

    Thank you for this! I saw the Fox news alert about the funeral on my cell phone and opened it for a brief check! It didn’t take long to be riveted once I gratefully realized the celebrant was not going to be Cdnl Wherl but Scalia’s son. His homily was awesome and his celebration of the Mass soothed the constant ache in my heart for return to beautiful and worshipful liturgy! It’s often hard to be proudly and blatantly Catholic in today’s world, but the Scalia’s love for each other, for this country, and most strongly for the Church will strengthen me for many days to come.

  • Ellen Fielding

    I was so grateful to Fr. Scalia for doing this and felt almost awed at being (remotely) present at what I hope was a moment of conversion on this issue for priests who face the difficult task of saying funerals. In addition to being a corrective for Catholics, this was also a beautiful teaching moment for those listening who are non-Catholics. Fr. Scalia so deftly wove in the explanations for why we pray for the dead, etc. It was outstanding evangelization.

    The first 3 Kennedy brothers (counting here Joe Jr. who died during a WWII bombing expedition) died very suddenly, so for Jack and Bobby it would have been especially helpful to have had a true homily that would turn people’s minds to praying for the deceased. Ted at least got time to prepare. I do once recall, some years before Ted’s death, seeing him at a regular weekday Mass at St. Joe’s on Capitol Hill and wondering why he was there (I saw him at a holy day Mass there once too, but definitely didn’t peg him for a daily Mass-goer!). Then it hit me that it was the anniversary of Bobby’s death. So despite all of Ted’s very public failings and championship of abortion etc., I was edified by seeing him there on that occasion, and hope he prayed for his brother’s soul, as I did upon the reminder!

  • Bill

    I can’t tell you how lucky I was. I just happened to turn the TV on when Father Scalia began his homily. It was the best I have heard in my 66 years. It brought tears to my eyes and my priest said the same today in his homily.

  • Milke Alston

    Well said Father Pilon..

  • Billy

    Mother Angelica mentioned on one of programs, that as she sat through a eulogy, she would begin to wonder, who was in the casket……lol

    As I watched the liturgical celebration yesterday I was immediately drawn into a deep presence of God. I too, was extra proud of our Church, on display for so many to witness. I have heard, from a protestant friend of mine, that she was moved and so impressed by the liturgy. I have no doubt that there will be good fruit from this awesome example of our Faith+++

    Fortunately I am in the Arlington Diocese, so aside from a couple parishes the majority of the liturgies are Christ centered.

  • Deb Daily

    It was beautiful, especially when Father Scalia explained what the Mass truly was in form of prayer, while millions watched. I loved the reverence that is so lacking today’s sanctuaries. The Judge should be pleased.

  • Richard Bucci

    PLEASE – Do Not Forget the MUSIC. Not an eagle’s talon or desert in sight! What a joy !

  • Kate

    I am getting older, and so my calendar now includes more funerals than weddings, but I have never been to a Catholic funeral that was focused on eulogies as stated in this article. There was one in our parish that had one scheduled eulogist who invited friend after friend of the deceased up to the ambo to speak…and they, to a man, spoke about how knowing the deceased had brought them deeper into their faith!

    • Romulus

      Consider yourself fortunate. It is depressingly common in my experience.

  • Lee Gilbert

    How much love and Catholic truth Fr. Scalia packed into that sermon! For me one very notable thing was his celebration of large families, his saying that one of the best things parents can do for their children is to give them siblings. Surely from his words will spring not only conversions but children. Well done, Fr. Scalia, very well done.

  • Fr. Kloster

    Thank you Fr. Pilon for the article. Very well stated.

    It does surprise me that no one mentions nor seems to notice the liturgical color used. The Roman Missal still prefers Black and Violet to White. Black is the color of death and violet is the color of penance. White, a color for saints and high feasts, seems to canonize the deceased as though we are the judge and jury.

    Farther down, Mr. William Beckman seems to forget that eulogies were not the norm in the Traditional Latin Mass. That some were introduced before the Council does not thereby prove that a return to the Traditional Latin Mass would include eulogies in the same number as the Novus Order…quite the contrary. I have had the privilege of attending many Requiem Masses (1962 Missal). At not one was there a eulogy.

    In my will, I have asked specifically for the Traditional Latin Requiem Mass. I have further asked my executor not to allow any eulogies at my funeral. I would prefer that the faithful at the said Requiem Mass pray for all the faithful departed. I have also asked the funeral celebrant to please give a sermon (not a homily) on the four last things.

    • Brad Miner

      It’s in my will as well. Ashes to ashes would be a dismal outcome were it not for the saving power of Jesus Christ, so if my sons want to eulogize me they can organize a memorial gathering or a drunken brawl, for all I care, but my funeral will be about commending me to our creator and nothing else.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        I’m not sure the final prayers of commendation were omitted. I thought Fr Paul gave them at the time he incensed the casket at the end of the Mass.

        • Romulus

          I heard the In Paradisum, but not the Non Intres or Libera me. As far as the o-form goes, it was well above average, but sadly still a paltry thing next to the awesome grandeur and consolation of the X-form. The sermon was certainly very well done. Most moving to me was the (spontaneous?) Salve Regina as the body was conveyed through ranks of clergy. I was deeply moved.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Thanks Romulus for the info.

          • Fr. Kloster

            The Salve Regina at a funeral is not spontaneous. It is commonly sung by priests at the funeral of a priest or some other dignitary where many priests attend the funeral. During the Lenten Season, however, the Ave Regina Caelorum is the traditional hymn sung at Compline or a funeral. Since most every priest now was ordained after Vatican II (including me), I’m not sure how many priests would even have been taught that fact.

            My above post should have read Novus Ordo (not Novus Order). The auto correct spelling is, at times, a monster.

          • Romulus

            Thanks father, very interesting. FYI, at my parish we do sing the proper Marian anthems according to season, after solemn mass on Sunday.

    • Manfred

      I must commend you, Fr. Kloster, for each of your excellent points.

    • CR

      My dad died 3 years ago (age 91) and loved the Tridentine mass. He and mom attended a Latin mass every Sunday in St. Louis. During the week, he served daily mass at the Poor Clare Monastery in his neighborhood from retirement at age 65 until he was 89 years old. Before he died, he mentioned (to his wife and 9 children) that he wanted a Latin mass for his funeral. He got it — and the priest wore black vestments.

    • William Beckman

      Actually, I did not forget that “eulogies were not the norm in the Traditional Latin Mass.” I served enough of them to observe that fact. Once again, my point is that the Novus Ordo Mass of Christian Burial for Antonin Scalia answered the eulogistic problem quite well. The problem was addressed effectively in a beautiful celebration of the Novus Ordo liturgy. Moreover, I did not suggest that a return to the Extraordinary Form would not reduce the number of eulogies. We learned from Saturday’s funeral, that it is not necessary to return to the Traditional Latin Mass in order to solve the problem. Let’s return to the Novus Ordo Mass of Christian Burial as it was celebrated by Fr. Scalia.

      • Fr. Kloster

        Your further comment begs a further answer. If the Novus Ordo has the answer of funerals without eulogies, they why is the eulogy so prevalent within the Novus Ordo? Eulogies are a very Protestant inclination. Why? Because almost all Protestants believe that the deceased is already in heaven….no need for prayers nor penance. The problems with the Novus Ordo go much deeper than just eulogies; they are one tip of the ice berg. The Novus Ordo is much more like an Anglican or Lutheran service than it is like the Traditional Latin Mass. We know things by their fruits, so where have all the vocations gone? The 1962 Missal groups have far more vocations. There is no mystery, to me, as to why.

        The now famous exorcist, Fr. Gary Thomas, made a comment not long ago in passing about exorcisms. He said that the demons hate and fear Latin. He only says the Rite of Exorcism in Latin for that reason. I think many in the clergy and laity, with regards to the sacramental life of the Church, could be included the above observation about hating and/or fearing Latin.

        • William Beckman

          It seems you suggest that the Novus Ordo is inherently the problem. Likely, you and I disagree about that. My point simply is that Fr. Scalia celebrated a rubrically sound and beautiful Mass of Christian Burial. His homily was not a eulogy. It can be done. Bishops can learn from that experience and caution against the practice of eulogizing the deceased. We don’t have to abandon the Novus Ordo to solve the problem, which, once again, was my point from the beginning. Other than that, I’m not interested in spending any more time on the interminable liturgical wars.

  • ForChristAlone

    I thought the homily by Fr. Scalia a needed corrective as well. This became clear when Fr. Scalia alluded to the “Memorial Service” that would be held a few weeks hence and that he hoped many of those there for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would also attend the Memorial Service.

    By referring to the Memorial Service, it seemed to me that Fr. Scalia was clearly stating that this funeral Mass is about Christ, as all Masses are about Christ i.e. a re-presentation of the salvific event of Calvary – Christ made present here and now. And, contrariwise, the Memorial Service will be about my father and eulogizing his life here on earth.

    See? All we need is a clear and unadulterated expression of the Catholic faith as it is supposed to be. No eulogies, no interpretive dance, not a lot of hoopla…just the sacred liturgy presented with respect and dignity. That is our patrimony.

  • ThePiousStatesman

    Sorry to correct you, but if my memory serves well, Fr. Scalia was born December, 1970.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Right Fr Pilon. Fr Paul Scalia’s homiletic design that integrated his father’s life with the teachings of Christ, honest, explicating the faith in living examples, and most of all witnessing to salvation in Christ in a Mass for the Dead instead of the dreadful practice of paying endless maudlin homage to the deceased from the pulpit should give all priests example for funerals. Dioceses should offer it as seminary training for how to do it right in like occasions. And the liturgy was exceptional, beautiful, moving. Some of the critics regarding texts miss the point.

    • Lynn McCrann

      As a Catholic myself I loved the mass for judge Scalia and especially how much his son, Father Paul, kept it more in keeping with a connection to Jesus Christ and not so much on homage to the deceased. I think that when my time comes the funeral mass will represent a simple change from the end of my mortal life to my soul being greeted and taken in hand by Jesus Christ. At least I pray so.

  • Jon S.

    Amen, Father Pilon. Thank you.

  • Joe LaCour

    Minor correction – JFK’s funeral was at St. Matthews Cathederal – the seat of the Archdiocese.

  • Basil Damukaitis

    The Cathedral of DC (next to the D of Arlington, the author’s home diocese), is St. Matthew’s Cathedral

  • Father Anthony May

    Perhaps a minor correction: if I am not mistaken the Cathedral of Washington, D.C. is St Matthew, not St Mark. The Funeral Liturgy for Justice Scalia was magnificent! It was so easy to enter into it in a prayerful way. Father Paul Scalia’s Homily helped to know Christ, the Man who is God and to know the man, Justice Scalia and his faith. It was emotional and appropriate. Every aspect was up-lifting! I thank Father Morello for his comment: his words are very good, I congratulate CNN for televising the full Liturgy without interruption.

  • John

    Thank you, Fr. Pilon, for your profound perspective on Fr. Scalia’s sermon at the funeral Mass for his father.

  • SSC

    I am an Anglo-Catholic. We do not have eulogies in our funeral masses; all of our liturgies are Christ- centered, Christ-focused, just as they should be! Unfortunately, I missed Judge Scalia’s service. It sounds like it was wonderful!

  • Omnia Vincit Veritas

    Just a brief corrective to the very fine article by Fr. Pilon. According to a few sources, Fr. Paul Scalia was born on 12/26/70, and so it would have been quite a miracle to be a few years old when President Kennedy died in 1963…as claimed in the article. 🙂

  • DoverEveryman

    Fr. Pilon, a thoughtful, inspiring and on-point piece by you. Thank you! Just one small correction of detail. President Kennedy’s funeral was held, I believe, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in D.C. Still, one of the Four Evangelists!

    Fully agree with you that Fr. Scalia’s liturgy and homily for his Dad was impeccably beautiful, faithful and even instructional (for Catholic and non-Catholic alike). No surprise, since Justice Scalia loved the traditional Latin liturgy and held fast to the eternal truths of the Church and our faith.

    It was so inspiring to watch and listen as Fr. Scalia used the occasion of his father’s funeral to catechise and focus all of us on the person of Jesus as the center of all we believe. All of that is so often lost in today’s culture. In the end, he paid a more fitting tribute to his Dad, because Christ was at the very core of Antonin’s life.

    I must admit that I probably abused the funeral liturgy a bit myself (with the assent of my parish priest) when I planned my own mother’s funeral. We certainly were faithful to the liturgy for the Mass, but I wrote and a clerical friend delivered a eulogy that came from my heart. My mother was a woman with lots of loving relatives and friends, and they wanted to hear what I prepared for that day. While it cannot compare with Fr. Scalia’s magnificent eulogy/homily for his father, it did contain many references to Christ, Our Lady and the saints. In his actual homily, our priest put the truths of our faith squarely in focus as he should have done.

    In any case, you remind all of us that faithfulness to the Eucharistic liturgy as the apex of our worship is paramount, and that is welcome, indeed.

  • DoverEveryman

    Fr. Pilon,

    Just a brief postscript comment, if I may ….

    I felt that one of the most impactful and “instructional” portions of Fr. Scalia’s homily yesterday was when he talked about the consecration of bread and wine into the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus. He declared that Jesus was to be truly present on the altar in the basilica …. with utter certainty and no uncomfortable apology for what we believe! In this world that turns every truth we hold into a matter of cynical debate and skepticism, it was striking and gratifying to hear this central truth of our faith held up for unabashed witness!

  • sanfordandsons

    As a teenager during the Kennedy Assassination time frame, I still barely remember the Mass of JFK’s funeral, enjoying instead another day off from school. For RFK, I was in the armed services and stationed 120 miles south of the assassination location in San Diego, so I missed that as well. I have seen outtakes of the Teddy speech, not knowing at the time that it was the actual homily. Yesterday’s homily was the best funeral homily I have ever heard. I loved it that Fr. Scalia made a point that we are all at the Mercy of God, even if we lived an exemplary life. In other words, non of us deserve an eternal reward of being with Christ. Fr. Scalia made a point, which I think about each time I attend any funeral, not just a Catholic Funeral Mass, and that is: how many people will see the finality of this event and change their lives? I doubt very many do, I try, and fail most times hoping that God’s Mercy will triumph over my sins. Fr. Scalia’s homily illustrated that even greatness is not a guarantee, and that God’s love will triumph over all.

  • Padre


  • Karen

    As a simple layperson I have had an uneasy feeling about eulogies during the homily at funeral masses for a long time. I now am now sure by Father Scalia’s example what a funeral mass should be. The Holy sacrifice of the mass is PRAYER for the deceased!

  • Marsha Beach

    For those who missed this beautiful funeral mass, you may catch it on YouTube. PBS put out a beautiful three hour version. I was totally drawn in. This is Catholicism powerful, beautiful, and compelling.

  • A good article by Fr. Pilon. Once when I was a cantor at a funeral mass a brother of the deceased spoke aloud from his pew during the eulogy/homily. “Enough. We loved our brother but he wasn’t a saint.” That was the end of the homily. Some priests in our diocese don’t allow any family members or friends to speak at a funeral mass, only the priest speaks. Other priests are more open to allowing eulogies from other people. I sometimes cringe when people go on and on or even say inappropriate things during the eulogy. Then again some priests are new to a parish and do not know the deceased and are obviously quite uncomfortable during the homily. It might be more suitable then to allow someone to give the eulogy with some guidelines from the priest.

  • MEY

    Random but relevant question: why was there no Penetential right at Justice Scalia’s funeral Mass?

    • ChrisMcC1

      In the funeral Mass, it’s replaced by the reception of the body.

  • Robert A Rowland

    Thank you so much for praising Father Paul Scalia for bringing back meaningful funeral liturgy.

    • gubllod


  • nancyveronica

    I know, right?!!
    I am thinking this “funeral homily” should be re-played in every parish this Sunday.

  • Ellen Giangiordano

    The remark Fr. Paul Scalia made that really struck me is this:

    “God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run 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 form the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant because he was God’s first.”

    As there are no coincidences in matters of Divine Providence, that Father Paul Scalia uttered the above words during Black History Month and only five days after Presidents’ Day indicates that God wanted His people to hear those words at a time when other great American leaders where still fresh in the public mind. Why? Because while we routinely celebrate Washington and Lincoln on Presidents’ Day and Martin Luther King and Fredrick Douglass in Black History Month, we fail to appreciate that what truly made them great was their intimate knowledge of scripture, which in turn gave them an intimate knowledge of Christ. Washington, Lincoln, Douglas, and King, all of whom we honor with numerous monuments and statues in our Nation’s Capital were, to borrow Fr. Scalia’s words “good servants because they were God’s first.” This allowed them to become not just great men, but “blessed” among men.

    Beginning today, let us take to heart the lesson Fr. Scalia taught us in his homily and celebrate in our greatest leaders what really mattered: their intimate knowledge of God and God’s abundant blessings upon them. In turning our celebratory attentions back to God and His blessings, we will do much to ensure the continued “propitious smiles of Heaven” that Washington unabashedly acknowledged at his first inauguration.

    • Robert A Rowland

      Be careful whose words you would put into the mouth of of Father Paul.

  • TLMjpv

    I was tuning in and out of the funeral Mass thanks to some JW’s arguing with me on my porch about the Bible or the Church being the foundation and pillar of the Truth, so I can only speak to what I saw. And I’m glad Fr’s homily was so Catholic.

    Cardinal laughing at the beginning. A white funeral pall and white vestments. The choir “performing” in the sanctuary, right in front of the tabernacle. Communion in the hand.

    These issues are not Catholic. They are antithesis to our Faith. The soul of Nino Scalia was at his particular judgment. Let us not laugh. We do not know if the deceased is in heaven. Let us not veil his remains in white. The choir has no place in front of the tabernacle. That whole area is reserved for the sacrifice, not a performance. And even Mother Theresa knew that Communion in the hand is about the most disgusting practice there could be. It’s not hard to figure out, folks.

    If “the most powerful example of [the liturgy’s focus on Jesus Christ]” was, as this author has said, to be found in the homily, then God help us!

    I know where the focus is all the time with Introibo ad altare Dei.