Sargent Shriver, RIP

Shriver may have helped more people around the world than any twentieth century American who wasn’t a president, politician, or Martin Luther King. ~ Biographer Scott Stossel, The Atlantic

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HE ALWAYS WANTED a “touch of class,” as well, by which he meant a quotation from a theologian, philosopher, or classic figure–particularly something with the aura of the Catholic tradition. In this, he reminded me a bit of Eugene McCarthy…Both McCarthy and Shriver were Catholics not only by birth but intellectually and knowledgeably, in the way that the Kennedy brothers never were, and both thought the Catholic tradition shed an intellectual light on American perplexities that nothing else rivaled.

Shriver always hired someone–Colman McCarthy, Mark Shields, a legion of others–to play the role I held: someone to talk to about Teilhard de Chardin and Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa and Thérèse of Lisieux and Peter Maurin and G.K. Chesterton and Danilo Dolci and the Worker Priests of France and Cardinal Suhard. Shriver loved the vein of Catholic thought that wanted to “reconstruct the social order,” “put the yeast of the gospel in the world,” “feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted.” He thought of the Catholic faith as a culture-changing force, a shaper of civilizations, an inspirer of great works, a builder of great institutions that bring help of all kinds to the needy in all dimensions of need. ~ Former Shriver speechwriter Michael Novak, The Weekly Standard

* * *

When he was 90, Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library organized a forum in Shriver’s honor. He was frail in the winter of 2005. Alzheimer’s was stealing his memory, and his hair had turned snow white. Using a cane to help him walk, he entered with his wife beside him. The audience burst into cheers.

Onstage, his old friend, Kennedy advisor Harris Wofford, had been talking about Shriver’s days in Chicago but abruptly changed course, declaring, “Here’s the man who should have been president.”

Shriver raised his arms as if to encircle the crowd of 500. “Hooray!” he shouted. ~ Los Angeles Times

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A campaign-trail legend from 1972 places Sargent Shriver, the dashing Democratic candidate for the vice presidency and the former director of the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty, in Youngstown, Ohio, chatting up voters in a working-class tavern. Shriver is his usual genial self, and seems to be connecting with the assembled steelworkers, who will form part of a vital voting bloc in the general election. As the merrymakers call for another round, people shout out the names of their favorite beers. Not to be outdone, Shriver eagerly joins the chorus: “Make mine a Courvoisier!” ~ Scott Stossel, Atlantic Unbound, April 2004

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He and his wife founded the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics were important to Eunice, whose sister, Rosemary, was mentally handicapped. The Special Olympics has done much to educate Americans of the dignity that all persons have, regardless of any physical setback.

As the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, Sargent Shriver remains to this day the last pro-life candidate to run on the presidential ticket as a Democrat. Unlike other Kennedys, Shriver remained pro-life for the rest of his life. ~ Joshua Mercer, CatholicVote.org

* * *

About twelve years ago, I was at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C., on the feast of St. Therese. I remember there was a big painting of her on the side of the altar. After communion, an old man stood praying in front of it for a bit, long enough for me to take notice. At first, I didn’t know who it was; it was only later I realized it was Sargent Shriver. ~ Commenter Pat McNamara at The Deacon’s Bench

* * *

Stricken with Alzheimer’s, Shriver’s spirit of devotion endured even as his memory vanished. “At 93, my dad still goes to Mass every day,” Maria Shriver once said. “And believe it or not, he still remembers the Hail Mary. But he doesn’t remember me.”

Baptized by Gibbons, married by Spellman, his kids baptized by Cushing (and shown here in the Rose Garden with JFK), [Shriver will be buried tomorrow from] Holy Trinity in Georgetown — the same church where he joined the President-elect for early Mass on Inaugural Morning… fifty years ago today. ~ Whispers in the Loggia

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Above: Sargent Shriver and his daughter, Maria, eight, at their Maryland home in May 1964. Life Archive

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3 responses to “Sargent Shriver, RIP

  1. Thanks Mark. I remember praying the Rosary with my father in Norwood a dozen years ago, and being in a similar situtaion to the one described by Maria Shriver. May Sargent Shriver’s soul rest in peace.

  2. In some ways, I can’t help but feel that Shriver epitomized the best ideals of the Kennedy Administration, and the best ideals of Catholic Democrats, a lot better than the Kennedy’s did. And in staying true to them, he epitomized them more in his long life more than those who claim to be Catholic Democrats do today.

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