Richard John Neuhaus was one of my favorite writers. Who doesn’t open his copy of First Things immediately to the back to see what Neuhaus would have to say? That is, who didn’t open immediately to the back, since those days are now gone with the death of one of the most articulate thinkers of our age.
I had just corresponded with Neuhaus a few weeks ago and was looking forward to being with him next month at a conference honoring Robert George at Union University. Now he’s gone, and will be missed by everyone with a concern for a culture of life and a civilization of meaning.
This week’s Weekly Standard features a moving, personal eulogy of sorts by Neuhaus’s protege J. Bottum. It’s worth reading.
This morning, I’m thinking about a striking line in one of Neuhaus’s books, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Neuhaus, the Catholic convert, there wrote:
“When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers through my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my own. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of ‘justification by faith alone,’ although I will thank God that that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misundertood doctrine was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways…these and all other gifts I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will, with Dysmas, look to Christ and Christ alone.”