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RIP: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

August 12, 2009

Hat tip to Mirror of Justice for pointing out something that’s not well known about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the recently-deceased sister of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy: in addition to to being the founding sponsor of the Special Olympics, she was also a devout Catholic–and unlike other Kennedys, she remained a strong and lifelong advocate for the rights of the unborn. According to her pastor, she attended Mass daily until her husband fell ill, was often seen at church praying, and was well-admired in her community for her charitable works, all of which “were based on her faith in God.” She served on an advisory board for the Susan B. Anthony List (a PAC that works for the election of pro-life women), helped turn Feminists for Life from a fledgling operation into a vibrant organization, co-signed a letter with then-Governor Bob Casey, Sr. (D-PA) criticizing the Democratic Party’s stance on abortion before the 1992 convention, and advocated abortion prevention through the construction of maternity homes and the encouragement of adoption. In 2006, according to the Newsweek article, she was named a “Dame of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great” (awesome title!) by Pope Benedict XVI.

The life of this admirable woman should serve as a reminder to all Catholics of two crucial but often-forgotten principles. The first is that good works bear the most fruit when they are not only accompanied, but inspired, by a deep supernatural faith and an intense spiritual life. From personal experience, I know that it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because we are doing “the Lord’s work” with one worthy endeavor or another, the spiritual life–prayer, self-denial, belief and participation in the power of the Sacraments–is of secondary importance. But Ms. Shriver knew implicitly that all of the good works in the world are useless in the eyes of God unless they are sanctified by true Christian love, which can ultimately be attained and perfected only through if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit through prayer. In today’s mile-a-minute world, “piety” has almost become a dirty word, but for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, it was the key to her success and her joy in various worthy actions here on Earth.

The second lesson is complementary to the first–that just as good works are useless without faith, so too is faith worthless without good works. And, most importantly for those of us in the blogging “profession,” her life demonstrates that simply advocating a particular viewpoint in the political arena does not fulfill our obligation to serve others. Ms. Shriver did not simply write articles about the need to empower the disabled and protect the unborn–she worked hard to form an organization that has had a direct impact on the lives of thousands of disabled Americans, and then used the experience to assist an organization (Feminists for Life) that has had a direct impact on the lives of vulnerable pregnant women and their unborn children. If I, for example, criticize the Republican Party for not doing enough for the poor but do not get my hands dirty serving soup at a kitchen or making beds at a shelter, then I am nothing more than a hypocrite. Eunice Kennedy Shriver got her hands dirty, and reminded us that faith without work–real, hard, knuckle-grinding work–is, indeed, dead.

Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescat in pace.

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5 Comments
  1. August 12, 2009 12:10 am

    Amen.

  2. August 12, 2009 3:29 am

    I would also like to add:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2009/08/pope-prays-for-eunice-shriver.php

    Vatican City (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has prayed that Eunice Kennedy Shriver receive eternal reward for her service on behalf of the mentally and physically disabled, according to the Vatican.

    Shriver, the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy, as well as current Sen. Ted Kennedy, died Tuesday (Aug. 11) at age 88. Her family said she had been suffering from strokes.

    The Catholic woman helped found the Special Olympics, organizing the first games in 1968, having been personally touched by the plight of the mentally disabled after her experiences with her sister Rosemary Kennedy.

    “It is the Holy Father’s fervent prayer that the good Lord, who is never outdone in generosity, will grant this woman of ardent faith and generous public service the reward of her many labors,” read a letter from the Vatican to Shriver’s family, “particularly on behalf of those who are physically and mentally challenged.”

    The letter, which was released to the Associated Press, was written by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Holy See’s ambassador to the United States, and sent on Monday after reports that Shriver was critically ill.

    “His Holiness unites himself spiritually with each of you at this difficult time, holding close Eunice as she is called home to eternal life and trusting in the words of Sacred Scripture: What will separate us from the love of Christ?” the letter said.

  3. Kurt permalink
    August 12, 2009 9:11 am

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/07/AR2006070701126.html

    Colman McCarthy’s article from her 85th birthday.

  4. Liam permalink
    August 12, 2009 1:33 pm

    Santo Subito!

    Lest people think I am irreverant here, I remind you that what Mrs Shriver did in Christ on the inspiration of the example of her sister Rosemary was for many developmentally disabled people around the world no less a liberation than the falling of the Berlin Wall. People take much for granted that they ought never take for granted.

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  1. Liam on Eunice Kennedy Shriver « Catholic Sensibility

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