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Funeral Homily for Stan Evans

Stan Evans has gone home to God. It is truly the end of an era. We have bid farewell to giants like Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley. Now we commend to God a great journalist, a great thinker, a wonderful raconteur, and our good friend: M. Stanton Evans.

Everyone in this church has a story or many of them about Stan Evans. Since I’ve got the pulpit, I will tell you how we met:

It was at Columbia University in New York City during one of our periodic upheavals. Stan showed up to report the story. He wanted to get in touch with campus conservatives, and I was the Chairman of Columbia Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). He ended up staying with my good friend Michael Kogan. A graduate student in Philosophy, he was our elder statesman. Stan not only reported, he gave us encouragement and hope. We felt that we were part of something greater, and it was clear that Stan Evans truly was a mentor and guide.

Stan was only twenty-six when he wrote the Sharon Statement, the foundational document of YAF. The first clause would seem to sum up the driving force of his philosophy: THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.

More than thirty years later, Stan would write his magnum opus, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition. It is well worth rereading. In a sense, it is the reason that we find ourselves here, in a Catholic church in Leesburg, Virginia attending his final farewell.

In this book, Stan makes a basic point. In fact, he summed this up in a C-SPAN interview in 1994: “The pedigree of our freedom is not hostile to our religious faith, but a product of our religious faith.” There is, of course, a lot more to his 366 page book. I recommend it to you — the C-SPAN interview can easily be found online, and can serve as something of a “CliffsNotes.” Researching for this homily, I viewed the interview, and I’m glad I did.

Stan answers some interesting and probing questions in the interview.

Question: “Are you religious?”

Stan: “I certainly am a believer. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a particularly pious person, and I don’t consider myself to be a particularly good Christian. I’m a believing Christian. But the book is not a book about piety or theology; it’s a book about politics.”

Question: “How much of your own religious beliefs led you to write the book?”

Stan: “I guess my religious beliefs led me to ask a lot of questions.”… He mentions the great influence that his mother and father had on him, and then he mentions that his grandfather was a Methodist minister. I never knew that; I’m glad to learn that.

This was typical Stan Evans: even and straightforward even when asked probing questions. The interview continues with Stan talking about the National Journalism Center and his work with it. He stressed that his goal was not to turn out Conservativejournalists, but honest journalists. Men and women like himself.

Stan Evans lived a life of many virtues; among them was piety, in its original, Roman, sense: veneration for one’s forbears. In the same interview just mentioned, he began by speaking admiringly of his parents: his father, Medford Evans, who had been a professor, a writer, and a great inspiration to him, and his mother, Josephine, a classical scholar, who helped him with information for The Theme Is Freedom. Later this afternoon, he will be buried with both of them at Hamilton, Virginia.

Stan was a man of many interests. Even though he was not a member, he would often hear the music of the nearby Mount Zion United Methodist Church choir. He liked it so much that he left instructions that they be asked to sing at his funeral. I thank them so much for their faith-filled singing. He also left instructions in his will that I conduct his funeral. Of course, I am most honored and most grateful to him.

I will not give Stan’s full biography. I am sure that many eulogies will be given with many insights. Since this is not a Mass, we will have three at this service — and of course, there is the reception at Heritage tomorrow.

I had mentioned the National Journalism Center and the influence that Stan had on me as an undergraduate at Columbia. His whole life seemed to have a lot to do with mentoring the younger generation. I do not doubt that a lot of folks in this congregation are formerly young people who were touched and inspired by him. Each has a story to tell. I have told you mine; I will tell you just one more.

In the late 1990s, there was a young man, an undergraduate at Bonaventure University named Mario Calabrese. He was a Conservative and had first seen The Theme Is Freedom back in high school. He found himself heading up the Conservative student group at Bonaventure. The group was looking for a prominent speaker, who didn’t charge too much. This sound familiar?

Well, Stan Evans was the speaker, and came up to New York to give a presentation. As was his wont, he not only gave a talk, but went with his hosts to a local rathskeller to continue their education and his mentorship. (I remember this well from my own undergraduate experience some twenty years earlier.) Young Mr. Calabrese was impressed with this visiting speaker, and carefully read his recent book: The Theme is Freedom.

In fact, Stan’s talk was about his insights from his book, but he knew marketing: they needed a zippy title for his presentation. So he proposed one: “Why Liberals are wrong about everything.” That surely must have attracted a lot of interest on campus!

In reading the book, Mr. Calabrese discovered St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as they had not been presented before. This planted a seed of interest in the Philosophia Perennis. Life went on, things developed, and I was introduced to him just before he entered the seminary, studying for the Order of Preachers — the Dominicans. St. Thomas Aquinas’ own order.

I’m sure that not all of Stan’s student admirers became journalists, but I would say that becoming a priest is one of the less common developments. Mario Calabrese kept in touch with Stan off and on, sometimes going to one of his presentations and saying hello afterwards.

Then came Stan’s final illness. He received care not far from here in Leesburg. By this time, Fr. Calabrese was ordained and working in a parish in Charlottesville, about two hours from here. Notified by Fran Griffin that Stan was dying, he visited him not once but four times. On the last of those occasions, he asked Stan whether or not he had been baptized. Stan replied that he really did not know; he couldn’t remember. Fr. Mario offered Baptism, and Stan accepted. He offered him the Sacraments and Stan accepted. That is why we are having the funeral here, and why I am so honored. Fr. Mario Calabrese is here with us. God used him as his instrument. It was a wonderful repayment for the gift which Stan had given him some twenty years ago.

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