First Things

A Gaping Hole in the Public Square

by Benjamin Domenech on January 12, 2009

Good morning, friends. Today’s recommended reading is by Joseph Bottum, a remembrance of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus that is eloquent and powerful. You can read it in The Weekly Standard:

He was the greatest reader I ever met. The greatest reader, and a cigar smoker, and a walker, and a preacher, and a brewer of some of the worst coffee ever made. What odd items the mind latches onto in moments of grief: the tilt of a friend’s head, the way he used his hands when he spoke, an awful meal shared a decade back, a conversation about a book only a month ago.

Only a month ago–it was only a month ago that he was still whole, still sharp, still himself. Novels and movies always seem to me to get it wrong. Grief doesn’t conjure up ghosts. Grief renders the world itself ghostly. The absent thing alone is real, and in comparison, all present things are pale, gray, and indistinct: a vague background to the sharp-edged portrait of what is gone.

In New York City, a wake will be held tonight, and a funeral mass tomorrow morning.  Several contributors and editors of The City will be in attendance to honor a magnificent man of God.

You can see pictures of the late RJN here, and read other interviews and acknowledgements collected here.

Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

by Benjamin Domenech on January 8, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus passed away this morning in New York City. Joseph Bottum, the editor of First Things and a member of the advisory board of The City among many other things, writes:

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

Several months ago, Fr. Neuhaus saw fit to recommend The City in his collected thoughts printed in First Things under the title The Public Square as an “evangelical First Things.” It was a moment of enormous pride for us, and more – that passing mention alone accounted for more than 1,000 new subscribers to The City.

It is safe to say that this project would not exist without Fr. Neuhaus’s work at First Things, and his lifetime of work on behalf of the goal of bringing Catholics and Evangelicals together. His imprint on religious life in America cannot be underestimated, and we will miss him enormously. If you have prayers to say, say them not for him – Fr. Neuhaus knew his Creator – but say them for all who loved and knew him best, and mourn the loss of a truly great man today.

“To live is Christ, to die is gain.” R.I.P.