A great man has died.
While the millions who loved, respected and looked up to him mourn his loss and fear for our country’s future, others rejoice that an apparent victory for their wicked ways is near at hand. But no amount of hand-wringing or gloating will affect in any way the most important aspect of the whole ordeal: Antonin Scalia has met his maker, has been judged, and is now either a son of Mercy or a convict of Justice.
Because of who Justice Scalia was, the position he held, and the conviction of his work, it’s perfectly natural that questions as to whether or not some nefarious plot found fruition in Justice Scalia’s untimely demise should arise. Given the extremely perilous times in which we live, and the depraved moral character of the current administration, questions surrounding the circumstances, cause, and consequences of his death are being asked, and it is right to ask them.
But in asking these questions, there are two things that must be remembered:
- Questions are not accusations and nutty conspiracy theories.
- The answer to these questions will have no bearing on the eternal destination of his soul, or our own.
In Justice Scalia’s last public appearance, speaking to the graduating class of high school students at Stone Ridge high school in Bethesda, Maryland, he absolutely nailed the core error of our modern world. And in hitting upon this point, he pre-emptively warned against the kind of despair now sweeping conservative circles because of his death.
In his speech, Scalia said:
[A] platitude I want discuss comes in many flavors. It can be variously delivered as, ‘Follow your star,’ or ‘Never compromise your principles.’ Or, quoting Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ — who people forget was supposed to be an idiot — ‘To thine ownself be true.’ Now this can be very good or very bad advice. Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it’s the North Star. But if you want to head north and it’s Mars, you had better follow somebody else’s star.
It’s a belief that seems particularly to beset modern society, that believing deeply in something, and following that belief, is the most important thing a person could do. Get out there and picket, or boycott, or electioneer, or whatever. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction.
There is one truth which we all must face, and that is death and judgment. This judgment will not be collective, but unique, individual, and alone. It will be a one-on-one conversation with the King of Kings. This judgment will not be determined by how diligently we investigated political intrigues or how many online arguments we won, but on how faithfully we lived out the life God called us to.
As Justice Scalia pointed out, there is a strong temptation today to be “committed” to some social movement, and sadly, many place their hopes in salvation upon their work to those social goals. Do not be deceived: There is no such thing as collective salvation, wherein all marching under a single banner will be either saved or damned. The error of Socialism lies in its cowardice; it seeks to hide individual responsibility in the collective will of a crowd. As Justice Scalia noted, if you follow the North Star in order to head North, you will indeed go North. Similarly, if you want to head toward Heaven, and you follow the Cross, you will indeed find Heaven.
The moral state of this country, and indeed the whole world, is nothing short of Hellish. The unceasing and violent attacks on innocence, the family, human sexuality, chastity, human dignity, and preborn life are strong enough to shake the faith of even the most pious among us, so when a champion for Truth falls, we all feel it. But Justice Scalia was not a great man because he was pro-life, or because he was intelligent, or because he stood up for the integrity of marriage. His greatness is found in his fidelity to Christ and his willingness to suffer in witness to the Truth. The world may crumble around us all and the fury of Hell may try to consume us, but what happens to the world is of no consequence when it comes to the state of our own souls.
While it is right, good and just to work toward defending Truth and the integrity of souls, it must be remembered that salvation cannot be found in the movement itself. A pro-life leader may do many great things to save the lives of children, but if he or she is engaged in an illicit sexual affair, their pro-life work will not save them. A priest may write and speak in defense of the most beautiful teachings of the Church, but if he is embezzling from the diocese, he will have to account for every penny before the Court of the Heavenly Father. Just remember that Henry VIII was once given the title “Fidei defensor,” Defender of the Faith.
Justice Scalia could not save our country, nor could he save himself. Neither can we. Salvation is found in the Sacrifice of Our Lord upon the Cross and the Ark of His Bride, the Church. We mourn the death of a great man. We fear for the future we and our children face. The sting of these emotions are wasted if we wallow in them and forget to pray for his soul. More importantly, this shock should remind us to seek and follow Our Blessed Lord at all times, trusting in His Providence. As King David wrote in his 146th Psalm, “Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save.”