Justice Scalia's Son, Virginia Priest, Speaks About His Memory | NBC4 Washington

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Justice Scalia's Son, Virginia Priest, Speaks About His Memory

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    Father Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia, speaks about his late father, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and his new book. News4's David Culver reports

    (Published Monday, May 8, 2017)

    Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in February 2016, left the future of our country’s highest court uncertain for more than a year.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a close friend and called him “a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit.” Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer referred to him as a “legal titan.”

    But to Scalia’s nine children, he was simply dad.

    Father Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Arlington and the sixth of the Scalia children, told News4 his father’s guidance and mother’s strength influenced his own writing. He recently released his first book, “That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion.”

    Scalia said many of his memories go back to the dinner table.

    “I don’t know if that’s the same for all my siblings, but ... my mom and dad put a priority on that -- on having a family dinner and coming together and being together. And, you know, we learned a lot there -- hopefully etiquette and grammar and philosophy, theology. There would be discussions or instructions, depending,” he said with a smile. “And then there would be a lot of joking and, frankly, some goofing off as well.”

    Scalia was a junior at Langley High School in McLean when his father was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “It didn’t matter what was going on on the court and things like that,” he said. “When he came home he was, you know, he was there and we went through those regular things that fathers and sons go through.”

    Since Justice Scalia’s passing, the public has seen more of his wife, Maureen. Father Scalia said his mother is a strong person who always worked to maintain personal relationships with each of her nine children.

    “When I was in college, I think for all of us, she would write letters -- this is before internet, try to imagine that. But getting handwritten letters from mom, I think almost every week,” he said.

    The emphasis on writing started early for Scalia. While his book will be released this year, it consists of a collection of essays from the past several years, carrying a religious and spiritual message.

    “My hope is that people will find in it a way to grow in the faith and come to know Jesus Christ better, and his church and the teachings,” he said.

    Faith is what Scalia trusts has guided him and his family through the pain of the past year.

    “You lean on those who are around you,” he said. “Most of all, for us, it was leaning on our faith.”

    In the wake of Scalia's death, as many people asked who would replace the late justice, his son said he needed to disconnect from the noise. He craved a moment of stillness.

    “I went away for a couple of days. And, I think, my siblings did as well -- let’s just kind of decompress and unplug for a little bit,” he said.

    Over the past year, Scalia and his siblings have taken turns traveling with their mom across the country. They have attended countless memorials and tributes to Justice Scalia.

    In Arlington, George Mason University’s Law School now bears Justice Scalia’s name.

    “It’s bittersweet, obviously, because the occasion of all those things is his death,” his son said. “So, it’s been tough going through it, but it’s been a great blessing.”

    Some of the essays in Scalia's book were written before his father passed away. The Supreme Court justice read and weighed in on some of them.

    “He encouraged me, you know, [he] thought it was a good thing and sort of [joked], ‘Why didn’t you do this sooner?’ and sort of some good-natured ribbing in that way,” he said.

    At the start of the book, Scalia mentions another book, one his dad carried with him for more than a half a century: his Catholic missal.

    “It’s the prayer book, if you will, that he got in 1960, the year my parents were married,” he said. “It’s a wonderful sort of connection with him, with the family, with his faith.”