The Archdiocese of Chicago brought the final diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) to a close on September 29, 2014. This ceremony took place during midday prayer that was sung for the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. It was celebrated before a filled chapel of people and church officials from the Dioceses of Springfield in Illinois and Jefferson City, Missouri, as well as the Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal Francis George led the postrema sessio with his remarks on the significance of the pursuit of the cause for sainthood of Tolton. Bishop Joseph Perry gave a report on the progress of the four-year study that involved the assistance of canon lawyers, archivists, theologians, historians and testimony of a number of bishops, priests and laity about the reputation of Tolton’s holiness in the community over the last century and beyond. The dossier was bound with red-ribbon and officially stamped with the seal of the Archdiocese in melted wax, to be dispatched to the Congregation for Causes of Saints at the Vatican.
You may not want to post this because of its personal nature, but I thought you might appreiciate it, Mr. Dreher, for what it reveals about Dr. Lawler’s Christianity. A few years ago I happened to be browsing at his Postmodern Conservative, where on this particular day he happened to make some uncharitable remarks about the number of your conversions. I took him to task for that, and as often happens in such situations on blogs, I subsequently allowed a comment to slip for which I later apologized. Lawler was very generous, responding in effect that cyberspace means never having to say your sorry. More significantly though, I can’t help thinking that he eventually realized that he had been offbase in what he wrote about you. Or to again simply speculate, perhaps he contemplated that when his faith and and his southern stoicism clashed, the latter needed to go.
It is difficult to capture the essence of a man in a short essay—and impossible to cover every nuance of his life—but the Peter Augustine Lawler I knew was what conservative intellectuals should strive to be: an amiable family man, a deadpan jokester, and a thoughtful social commentator with a deep concern for the humanities and how the academy could create more virtuous individuals. Ultimately, the conservative project for which he advocated and theorized is one that should have broad appeal: a more virtuous community where human beings can live with a greater level of dignity and serve a higher purpose.