I Went to Church with Judge Scalia

{2016 update: Yesterday, Justice Scalia died. He may in retrospect be seen as the Cicero of our time. I visited his parish in 2006 and wrote about it.}

Since we are in between churches as we prepare to move, I used today to do something I’ve wanted to do since we arrived in Virginia: I visited St. Catherine of Sienna, a Catholic parish in Great Falls. St. Catherine has a Solemn High Latin Mass on Sunday, which I had never experienced. And Justices Thomas and Scalia attend there. Louis Freeh (former FBI head) either goes there now or used to, and the FBI spy for Russia, Robert Hanssen I think used to go there 1)So does Rick Santorum. It is a parish that supposedly is heavily Opus Dei, although I have no way of knowing.

So I shot over on the Dulles Toll Road and into Reston, then over to Great Falls and St. Catherine. The area is heavily wooded with large older homes that reek of money in this inflated area of the nation. St. Catherine (which also houses a school) is the kind of semi-secluded stone parish that I have come to expect here in Virginia. The parking lot was full of Mercedes so I could tell that this was something of an elite crowd, but of course it would be given that it is where it is. I think that elites don’t realize that they ARE elites, they are just living their life like everyone else, just in a much more expensive location.

We got there as Mass was underway. The place was full, but not packed. This was one of 3 or 4 Masses that occur from Saturday night to Sunday morning. The sanctuary was full of incense. My only previous exposure to incense has been at Eastern Orthodox parishes, so this was the first time on a big scale. There were clouds of it floating around which was very otherworldly – as I reflect on it I think of the book of Revelation. Anyway, many of the ladies had their heads covered reflecting the ancient piety of the church. Far more were uncovered however (including Mrs. Scalia). The service itself was very beautiful. St. Catherine’s has a choir and an organ, and there was no modern fluff in this liturgy.

I was scanning the crowd the entire time trying to see Scalia or Thomas. I never did see Thomas, so either he wasn’t there or he goes to another service. I had just about given up on Scalia too when I spotted him 7 rows up to my left. His silhouette was unmistakable. ‘Mission accomplished’ I thought.

The liturgy was majestic, particularly the reading of the Gospel and the procession to do so. I was close to tears during some of the hymns. The majesty of God was transparent. Certainly I believe he is grieved by the un-Biblical stances of the RC on many issues, however, I also believe he is grieved with the pride, division, and lack of love that characterize most Protestant churches. All of these systems are dead limbs on a tree. Calvinism is a dead limb too. The limbs are dead, but the tree still has life.

Anyway, the music was gorgeous. The homily was pretty good, about pride and humility, and the power of sin. I’ve been to Mass about 4 times and most of the homilies I’ve heard have been terrible. This one was actually decent. It still seemed to just use the Scripture as a launching pad for the guy’s thoughts, but oh well. I would think these guys could dig into Patristics more for a really cool sermon, but they don’t.

As we left I was right behind Judge Scalia. The door to the Narthex was not staying open so he fumbled with it to try and keep it open. I slowed down out front to see him. His wife was talking to another lady about a sick relative. Scalia looks bad to me, he is overweight and kind of shuffles. I wouldn’t call it a limp. I was thinking crud, he better stay alive for the sake of the unborn. It was funny because they prayed for the unborn and also mentioned some marriage amendment in the service. There were right wing bumper stickers all over the place. This is ground zero for the Catholic right and the intellectual center of the Conservative movement. A very cool moment for me.

Random observations: Catholics don’t seem to ever have cry rooms or nurseries, all the babies and kids are in the service. The worship wars and youth church junk that infects Prots doesn’t seem to have touched them as much…a lot of their kids are unruly and noisy the whole time, which reflects the total breakdown of parental discipline in our culture, but I guess in Prot churches the noisy kids are in a class, so we don’t see the bad affects as much…the women were almost all dressed modestly, nothing provocative going on which is more than I can say for most Prot churches I’ve been to…the kids in the choir were very well behaved…Scalia has nine kids, one of whom is a hardcore orthodox priest in Arlington.

References   [ + ]

1. So does Rick Santorum

9 thoughts on “I Went to Church with Judge Scalia”

  1. Line that makes this a quality post:

    “It is a parish that supposedly is heavily Opus Dei, although I have no way of knowing.”

    But Joel, you *do* have a way of knowing, you just haven’t figured out the signs yet 😉

    Does the moving bit indicate (I’m hopeful here) that you’re not going back to the church that you’ve been attending? 🙂

  2. Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn’t expect the music of the worldwide church to reflect western European norms. Insisting that those modes of music are superior to say, African music strikes me as wrong. I’m against all music done poorly, but I think the church needs to figure out how to end the worship wars amiably.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Justice Scalia, a great American, saving and holding our country together with the US Constitution and moral courage.
    May he proceed directly to Heaven.

    The center of the Catholic church remains as Jesus Christ our savior.

    No church organization is perfect, but we all ultimately look to the Lord for salvation.

    We are all fallible and sometimes shoot ignorant remarks at what we fear. This does nothing. We should pay no more attention to such remarks ” than to a fly on the wall”
    As I try here to quote from St Theresa of Avilla.

    May God bless America.

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