“Chuck was not perfect,” said Timothy George this morning in his homily at Chuck Colson’s memorial service at the National Cathedral, “but he was forgiven. He never got over the wonder and surprise of having encountered Jesus Christ as a real person, a living reality; the one person in human history who passed through the gossamer veil of death and came back to tell us what was on the other side and how we should prepare for that journey by living every day in the light of eternity.”
Chuck, who was a friend of many of us here and of the magazine’s, and most notably of the magazine’s founder Richard John Neuhaus, lived an extraordinary life and was (this doesn’t always follow) an extraordinary man. I first met him after I’d heard people who knew him speak of him, and not very kindly either. These were Christians who sniffed at his conversion, his prison work, and his religious and cultural conservatism, as all a little dubious and maybe a little simple-minded.
Then I met him at some meeting and realized I’d just met the Real Thing. Chuck Colson had a personal coherence and a kind of transparent solidity that’s much less common in powerful people than you’d think. But him, he was It. Which Timothy’s homily captures.
One quote from the homily, which I found striking, and a little convicting:
Of all the tributes that have been written about Chuck in recent days, the one that touched me most deeply was by Mr. Lanny Davis, who served as Special Counsel to President Clinton, the same title Chuck Colson had in his work at the White House with President Nixon. Mr. Davis described his meeting with Chuck several years ago at a dinner before the National Prayer Breakfast. They greeted one another, and Chuck said to Mr. Davis, “I’ve wanted for a very long time to say something to you: I am sorry, may God forgive me.”
“I looked at him, stunned,” Mr. Davis wrote. Chuck continued, “You know, I’m the guy who put you on the enemies list – that was wrong, please forgive me.” Mr. Davis said, “I looked into his eyes and I felt a strange and deep peace. It was eerie. I also saw a profound goodness and spirituality. My eyes teared up. ‘Of course I forgive you, Mr. Colson.’”
Mr. Davis then asked for Chuck’s forgiveness, as years before he himself had spoken with hatred about Chuck. Immediately, Chuck hugged him. “I learned an important lesson that night,” Lanny Davis said. “I vowed that I would never use the word ‘hate’ about people in politics with whom I disagreed.”
Read the whole homily here.