a year of morning thanks
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Not until this morning, not until just now did I discover that Father Richard John Neuhaus died almost a week ago. He dined with kings and presidents. Gifted with rapier wit, the man wrote voluminously. His random thoughts were the highlight of a magazine/journal he founded and I subscribed to for quite a long time, First Things. Much of that magazine's scholarship was over my head, but more than occasionally something within would be a real blessing. Consistent in its trenchant criticism of American society, First Things taught me a great deal.
I used to read First Things back to front, because the most delightful reading could be found in Father Neuhaus's own miscellany, a column he titled Naked Square, a running commentary on public and political issues that could be described as a blog before there was such.
I loved it. For awhile. Eventually, his neo-con positions got old, his rants much less of a delight because they became too predictable and pointed. Then again, maybe I changed. He seemed a joy when he was having fun, but he wasn't likely someone anyone wanted to cross.
He believed in the Catholic Church--literally. He believed that the Catholic way was the only way, and that's probably why the sex scandals were so hard on him. He just couldn't bring himself to believe that all that divine church heirarchy could be wrong. When the scandals surfaced, he went into full defense mode and lost some readers.
Oddly enough, he wasn't born and reared a Catholic. His father was a pastor, a Lutheran pastor, Missouri Synod, in fact, as was Rev. Richard John at one time. But he left the Lutherans for the Roman Catholic church. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King.
Someone will do a biography, I'm sure, and it'll be worth reading because Father Richard John Neuhaus fought the good fight on his own terms, lugging along his own humanity, just as all of us do.
I stopped reading First Things ten years ago or more, stopped gorging myself on a diet of Neuhaus's criticisms of American culture and the liberal media. Eventually all rants are alike.
But Christians in this country will miss him. The man tried his level best to make the faith something more than the panacea Marx claimed. If he'd had his way, he might have opted for Rome's ownership of the American experiment, but I never once doubted the immense character of his commitment to the Christian faith.
This morning thanks are easy. This morning I'm thankful for the witness of Father Richard John Neuhaus.