One of the marks of a virtuous character, according to Aristotle, is the performance of virtuous acts with ease and delight. On that basis, as well as others, Ralph McInerny was a remarkably virtuous man. One of Ralph’s most beautiful books is entitled The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life, the premise of which is that “we can find in the person of Jacques Maritain a model of the intellectual life in the pursuit of sanctity.” Those words certainly apply to Ralph, one of the great Catholic intellectuals of our time. What distinguished Ralph was not just his fidelity, his intelligence, and his astonishing productivity, but his gracious and ready wit. He possessed a knack for conversation with everyone—from philosophers and politicians, to the elderly and children. Unlike most gifted individuals, Ralph was never burdened by his gifts. He engaged in serious pursuits joyfully, almost playfully. (Read the rest of the First Things article.)
I had the privileged of attending a conference organized by Dr. McInerny on the Notre Dame campus in the summer of 1988. He was a brilliant, witty, and faith-filled man. The Church Militant is poorer for his passing.