Two men spoke movingly about their very different fathers over the weekend.
They were Father Paul Scalia, who preached the sermon at the funeral Mass of Justice Antonin Scalia, and Jeb Bush, who redeemed all the mistakes of his candidacy by the grace of his leave taking.
What these two men said about their fathers takes us back to an older America, where realism and virtue are prized. The remarks of both men seemed strangely at odds with our current political season of bombast.
Father Scalia clearly loved his father and recognized that he was the son of a great man. But he nevertheless said this:
[Justice Scalia] was a practicing Catholic, "practicing" in the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter 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.
But don't take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals and why he didn't like eulogies.
He wrote: "Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner."
Now he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here then, as he would want, to pray for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner. 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.
Jeb Bush openly praised his father in his announcement after the South Carolina vote was in, but there was also a marvelously allusive thing he said that was clearly about his father and his brother, both presidents of the United States:
I have seen fallible men rise up to the challenges of our time, with humility, and clarity of purpose… to make our nation safer, stronger, and freer.
Both Father Scalia and Jeb Bush expressed a mature and sophisticated view of politics and public life. It is an old American view, before our politics became so imbued with alarmingly messianic personalities.