On April 11, 2005, I entered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with my friend Father Richard John Neuhaus to pay our respects to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. After kneeling before the pontiff’s body, as we left the basilica, I remarked at how small the pope appeared. “That wasn’t him. He isn’t there,” I said. “No,” Father Richard said pinching fresh tears from his eyes. “He is there. These are the remains, what is left behind of a life such as we are not likely to see again, waiting with all of us for the resurrection of the dead, the final vindication of the hope he proclaimed.”
As was his wont, Father Richard John Neuhaus was capable of delivering impromptu corrections with an eloquence and precision that would elude the best of us. When I learned of his passing today at the age of 72, his words echoed in my memory. He too lived a life we shall not likely see again. He was not only a renowned intellectual and an exemplary man of letters, but as his remark to me illustrates, he put his mind and his art at the service of Mother Church and the truths she protects. He was firstly and lastly a man animated by his faith. May God welcome him as he makes his final journey homeward. Godspeed my friend. RJN rest in peace.