“I could say a Hail Mary every day for the rest of my life and I’ll never say half the Hail Marys I did in high school.”
The former Speaker of the House gave a lengthy interview to America magazine’s Matt Malone that is by turns funny, heartfelt, nostalgic — and very Catholic.
He speaks, among other things, about the faith that grounded him:
His Catholic faith is one of those things Mr. Boehner has a hard time talking about. He does not like wearing it on his sleeve. I ask him if there is a devotion, a place or a saint that speaks to him.
“Nope. I’ve got two places I go,” he says, meaning sources of daily, spiritual reflection. “I don’t talk about this, but two places I go and get the message of the day, and then I go take my walk. I walk for about an hour every morning. It’s the serious start to the conversations.” By “conversations” Mr. Boehner appears to mean prayer, though he does not use that word. “Reading the devotionals and thinking about it is one thing, but taking my walk, there’s an hourlong conversation about whatever. It’s pretty good.”
His is a simple, though not simplistic, faith, born of the piety and devotions he was taught during a hardscrabble youth in working-class, southwest Ohio. Mr. Boehner was one of 12 children in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Reading, a suburb of Cincinnati.
“My parents were the most patient people God ever put on Earth,” he says, as he begins to tear up—the first of several times during my visit. “I got a healthy dose of that patience, somehow.” In his farewell address to Congress, Mr. Boehner would tell his colleagues that “patience is what makes all things real.”
“But [faith] was the foundation of how my parents lived,” he says, “and what they taught us. Simple as that.”
To make his point, Mr. Boehner tells me that, as a teenager, he played football at Moeller High School, where his coach was the legendary Gerry Faust, who would go on to be the head coach for the University of Notre Dame. “We said Hail Marys before football practice, during practice, after practice,” he recalls. “And my God, the day of a game, we went to Mass. We prayed before the game, we prayed on the bus. I could say a Hail Mary every day for the rest of my life and I’ll never say half the Hail Marys I did in high school.”
There’s much more. Read it all and learn about his warm feelings for the Jesuits, his friendship with Ted Kennedy, his dealings with Joe Biden and what he considers the fulfillment of a dream, the time the Pope addressed a joint session of Congress.