Before us lies eternity: our souls
are love, and a continual farewell.
— “Ephemera,” W.B. Yeats
LAWRENCE AUSTER, traditionalist writer and culture critic, was buried by friends and family on Tuesday, April 2 in Pennsylvania.
His body was carried at 11:30 a.m. into the vestibule of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mount Airy in a simple oak coffin made by Trappist monks in Iowa, a fitting enclosure for a man who lived as austerely as a monk, without many of the basics of modern life, such as cell phone, car or cable television. The church was just two miles from the summer home of one of Mr. Auster’s fondest heroes, George Washington, a figure who always inspired him.
In the foyer, his remains were blessed for the first time. Accompanied by a quiet reverence — a decision was made to forgo music — the coffin was taken by his friends to the front of the stone Gothic church. Easter lilies decorated the main marble altar. Large baskets of snapdragons, white chrysanthemums and other flowers flanked the casket. Artificial illumination of the altar and the sunlight that filtered through the stained-glass windows evoked the significance of the great feast that gives the Church its meaning. The stone walls and wooden beams, dramatically carved with the faces of angels and their wings, enhanced the prayerful atmosphere.
The Mass was celebrated by the Rev. David Ousley, who read the account of the resurrection of Lazarus from the Gospel of St. John. In this story of one miracle, there is a line that stands out in the entire Bible: “Jesus wept.” God himself felt the torment of human grief. He loved a man so much that he cried.
Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
“Truth matters,” Father Ousley said in his homily. He said that it was his great fortune to have met Lawrence Auster and that he regretted that he had not been able to spend more time with him. He was taken by Mr. Auster’s intelligence and inquisitiveness and had looked forward to discussing various “contradictions” attendant to the pursuit of faith.
On March 20, 2013, Mr. Auster wrote the following to Father Ousley after a visit:
[A]fter you left, [we] spoke of what an excellent man you are, and how you are the perfect man to bring me into the Catholic Church – another proof of how I am being helped along by a higher power. We also talked about how you never say anything unnecessary. I said that you perfectly practice the counsel La Rochefoucauld presented in what to me is his most brilliant saying (I’ve discussed it several times at my site).
I’m writing this from memory and am sure I’m getting some of it some of it wrong:
La veritable éloquence est à dire tout-ce-quil faut, et à ne dire que ce’quil faut.
Which in English is:
True eloquence is to say all that is necessary and only what is necessary.
For example, in our get together today, after I spoke of what has been going on with me recently, which you attentively listened to and showed that you appreciated, you said, “Now what do you think of becoming a Catholic?” Without any unnecessary conversation or transitions, you moved our talk right into the essential and necessary topic of our meeting.
Faith is ultimately an act of the will, not the intellect, Father Ousley said at that time. The priest is rector of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, a parish housed at Holy Cross that belongs to the Anglican Ordinariate of the Catholic Church. He lost his former Episcopal parish, St. James the Less, and all its property as a result of conflict with the Episcopal diocese that began with the consecration of the first woman bishop, to which the parish objected on Scriptural grounds. [A previous version of this article misrepresented the reasons for the parish's departure from the Episcopal Church.] A friend at the funeral remarked that Lawrence Auster, raised a Jew and baptized an Anglican as an adult, had encompassed the three major strands of American religious life: Jew, Protestant and Catholic. Upon the ordination of practicing homosexuals, Mr. Auster, who was often searingly critical of post-Vatican II Catholic leadership, said the Episcopal Church “is no longer a Christian body by any reasonable definition of the word.”
In addition to Mr. Auster’s relatives, including his brother, James Auster, and nieces and nephews, longtime readers of View From the Right attended the funeral. One reader came from California. Another rose at 4:30 a.m. and drove with his father to Philadelphia from Columbus, Ohio. Others traveled from Virginia, Maryland, New York and Connecticut. A student at Bryn Mawr College came on behalf of her parents, who are VFR readers.
Mr. Auster’s body was taken in a procession to Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Springfield, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles from the church, where it was lowered into a grave in an open lawn next to an oak tree. In the spring sun, the scene evoked “The Song of the Happy Shepherd” by W.B. Yeats, one of the many poems by the Irish poet that Mr. Auster cherished and knew by heart:
I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
The casket was blessed a final time and strewn with flowers.
Friends and family gathered at a restaurant nearby, where they viewed photos of Mr. Auster in his various incarnations over the years and delivered moving remembrances of him. By the time everyone went their separate ways they took with them new appreciations of the man they loved and admired, and whom they had lost too soon.
—- Comments —-
Ed Hunter writes:
Thank you for the lovely recollection of Lawrence’s funeral and all that happened that day. I remember especially how splendid the day was at the gravesite: the crystal blue sky, the immense open space of that cemetery and the flags snapping in the cold breeze. There seemed nothing gloomy about it. It was just a brief parting from a dear friend. I was reminded of the Yeats passage from “Under Ben Bulben.” I wish I had thought to read it at the reception dinner afterwards, but here it is:
Many times a man lives and dies
Between his two eternities,
That of race and that of soul,
And ancient Ireland knew it all.
Whether a man die in his bed
Or the rifle knocks him dead,
A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst a man has to fear.
Though the grave-diggers toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong.
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.
That’s all we did that day when we buried Lawrence Auster. We thrust him back into the human mind again to be remembered every time we struggle with untruth, and the fashionable cant of the age.
Mike Berman writes:
To quote “the bard of our time,” they lowered him down as a king.
E. D., of the Sydney, Australia, writes:
I confess to feeling envious of those who were able to attend the Requiem Mass and funeral of Lawrence Auster. My thoughts were with him and the congregation at St. Michael Archangel, even as I sat here so many thousands of kilometers away in Sydney, Australia. I did not have the honour of knowing him personally, but if only I had the means, I would have paid my respects in person to the man who played no small part in shaping my political views over the last half decade. My sincere condolences to his family and the Traditionalist community of the United States of America.
Yes, it is depressing to think about his passing. An admirer of Dylan, he explained that The Times They Are a-Changin’. The song as performed by Dylan is like Mr. Auster speaking to us as tough and as clear as his writing does. Instead of in music, Auster expressed the song’s melancholy tone in his passing. Let’s work to see the changin’ Lawrence Auster wanted.
I will be here to support the Auster Society and your site.
I have the exact same tie that Mr. Auster is wearing in your latest photo. It is one of my top ten. I have had it for about twenty years. I also wear the same style and color topcoat. I expect it is because of our conservatism and its requirement that we devote a degree of attention to popular but elegant style.
As you so eloquently reminded us in your announcement of his death, Mr. Auster went through hell. No doubt I would have skipped the non-palliative treatment fairly early on and taken the morphine and other palliative treatments.
Karl D. writes:
That is a great photograph of Mr. Auster. I think it would make an excellent painting of him. Maybe to one day hang in the Lawrence Auster Society? It has an openness and warmth to it, with more than a hint of the brilliant and agile mind that lay behind those eyes. When I look at that photo I don’t see an ill man, but a man fully alive and wearing an expression of optimism.
At Lawrence Auster’s funeral, I was wearing my first new suit in the twenty six years since the one that I purchased to marry in that long ago. I found a new collared shirt that fit and a tie, and the same stiff black leather shoes from my wedding. I was painfully uncomfortable by the end of my drive up from near D.C., and had a blister by the time I got home. I followed the cemetery procession from the church, then went on my way back home.
From the time that I realized just how ill he was, I knew that I would attend his funeral, at least.
I knew only one person by sight and a couple by name. I didn’t speak to anyone and sat through the visitation and funeral mass by myself. I felt like a pilgrim on a personal sojourn. I didn’t think about what to expect and wasn’t surprised by anything. It was my first Catholic mass. My acute hearing syndrome and the acoustics of that beautiful, but cold, old stone church, prevented me from hearing most of what Rev. Ousley said. I am too tall for the small pews and could only kneel briefly. I’m guessing that I was not supposed to be comfortable.
I’m glad that I went. I wish that I had done, a couple of years ago, what I threatened Mr. Auster that I might do; venture to his neighborhood and have him join me over a bourbon and a well aged Cuban cigar, one that I told him that I earmarked for him. I’ll smoke it myself now.
Auster was the main reason that I turned on my computer. I never thought of myself as a sheep, and I’m not, but he was like a shepherd for me. I imagine now, a short time of wandering, though I have him to thank for helping me to develop and sharpen my own point of view. I’m not sure if I should rid myself of thoughts of what he might think about this or that, because I can’t do either. The idea of successfully dowsing the thoughts of Lawrence Auster is silly. He was one of a kind. I can’t imagine anyone filling his shoes.
Alan M. writes:
There were three words that came to mind that day – love, respect, effect.
I think reader’s experience of Lawrence was in reverse order. First, he effected us. Sometimes it was negatively, but eventually it grew to a positive effect. That lead to respecting him and his ability to get to the root of things and think clearly. Finally, we loved him in gratitude for he was a lover (one of the speakers at the reception mentioned this): a lover of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
That whole day could not have more perfectly fit Lawrence if anyone had tried and it was a blessing to be able to be there. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who put it all together.
I had written and sent this tribute to Lawrence but he likely never saw it:
I passed by a gentleman named Larry
whose views on traditionalism first scared me.
he had a most profound effect.
Now I see through the glass less darkly!
St. Thomas Aquinas defined faith perfectly, I think:
“Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”
It takes all three — grace, will, intellect.