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Last words from Father Neuhaus

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 13, 2009

 The February issue of First Things has just arrived in my mailbox, reminding me to say another quick prayer for the repose of the soul of the magazine's founder and guiding light, Father Richard John Neuhaus. 

In his reflections on the life of this great man, Father George Rutler remarks that he "was not the only one to start reading First Things at the back end," where the monthly comments by Father Neuhaus appeared. That is a considerable understatement; I know no one who started reading First Things at the front. As Father Rutler put it, "Father Neuhaus's ruminations were like the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box, which normal children have always opened upside down." What will First Things do now? Find another Neuhaus? Good luck!

The man's output was astonishing. Every month there would be page after page of commentary: on new books and old, on academic lectures and current events, on religion and politics and philosophy and music. In his range of interests Father Neuhaus surpassed even the breadth of his circle of acquaintances. But even after reading so many pages of his work, in First Things and in his books, I don't think I've ever found anything as moving as his last words in the back of this February issue. Writing after he had had been diagnosed with cancer, recognizing that this might be his valedictory, Father Neuhaus offers a Christian perspective that is eloquent and beautiful.

It isn't up yet on the First Things site, although you can find a number of wonderful pieces by and about Father Neuhaus there. But check back there; it will no doubt appear soon. Better yet, get a copy of that February issue. 

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