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, I remarked at how small the pope appeared. “That wasn’t him. He isn’t there,” I said. “No,” Father Neuhaus said. “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 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 yesterday at the age of 72, his words echoed in my memory. He was not only a great intellectual and an exemplary man of letters but, as his remark to me illustrates, he was a man who put his mind and his literary skill at the service of his church and the truths it protected. He was first and last a man animated by his faith.