I’m just back from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where a memorial mass was held for “the repose of the soul” of William F. Buckley Jr., who died last month at the age of 82. The grave majesty of the proceedings was a reminder that, as Fr. George Rutler said in his homily, Bill was, first and last, a man of deep and abiding faith, and whose faith was not his lodestar but his core and root. This was a quality often missed in the blizzard of tributes to him immediately following his passing. In the first of two eulogies, Henry Kissinger dwelled at beautifully eloquent length on the mysterious quality of Bill’s perpetual good cheer, which was twinned (especially in his final years) by a certain remoteness and remove — in all of which Kissinger, not known for a preoccupation with the divine, brilliantly discerned a state of grace. Finally, Christopher Buckley offered parting words in a portrait so supple that one hopes he will offer the portrait at full length in a memoir of what was clearly a complex and singular relationship. The words “we shall not see his like again” are often spoken in tribute to the dead, primarily to honor people whose like we will actually see again — people whose lives follow the same arc as most others. Those words were not spoken today, perhaps because they are so obvious that they are unnecessary.
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