Just home yesterday from World Youth Days in Rio, with three million young people and Pope Francis, I am saddened to learn of the passing of one of the more gracious, influential people I’ve ever come to know, a woman at 97 still ever young, Lindy Boggs.
I came to know her when she served with such charm and effectiveness as the American ambassador to the Holy See. There she told me that she relished the appointment when offered it by President Clinton, as it gave her the chance to work for two of the towering loves of her life, her Church and her country.
Or, as she quoted her daughter, Cokie, as remarking, “This job is made for you, mom, because you’ll get to do every day the two things you most enjoy: going out for lunch, and Mass!”
I found her remarkably perceptive at the Vatican about issues of mutual concern to both the Holy See and the United States: world hunger, disarmament, the plight of refugees, religious freedom, the rights of women and unborn babies, healthcare, education, human trafficking, and world peace.
She had worked hard on these concerns during her celebrated years in Congress, so, she was a natural.
And she could get by with calling everybody, even the most formal and stuffy cardinal, “Honey.”
Never will I forget a dinner I shared with her and Lady Bird Johnson at the Villa Richardson, the residence of the American ambassador, on a sultry Roman July evening. I had just read an article about the heroic efforts of both women in working closely with their renowned husbands on civil rights in the mid-60’s, and about their courageous train tour through the South to encourage leaders to support civil rights legislation. Over a “mint julip” – - Lindy’s home was the only place in Rome you could find one – - they reminisced, to my delight, over their lobbying.
I never knew her age – - she told me once that it was “the fourth secret of Fatima” – - but her energy left many in the dust.
Although she told me she was “baptized a Catholic – - and a Democrat!” she did not hide her high disappointment over her party’s abandonment of the right to life of the innocent baby in the womb, and wondered if that’s what kept her from the vice-presidential nomination in 1984.
Ambassador Boggs – - even though she kept insisting, I could never call this great woman “Lindy” (although I loved it when she called me “honey,”) – - tonight I toast you with a mint julep, as I commend you to the Lord you so loved and served.
And I’ll remember January 26, 1998, when the man you so revered, Blessed John Paul II, arrived in my hometown, St. Louis, for a visit. You were there, the caboose in a lengthy line of people President Clinton was introducing to the Holy Father. When you stood before him, the President began, “Your Holiness, this is . . .,” but Pope John Paul II stopped him: “I know her! I love her!”
That’s infallible! We all loved her. Now, by God’s mercy, and the intercession of her friend, our blessed Mother, Mary, we trust God loves her forever!