The Corner

Politics & Policy

Remembering Kate O’Beirne, on EWTN & More

I’m very grateful that Raymond Arroyo had Ramesh and I on his most recent show talking about our beloved friend Kate O’Beirne: 

By now you may have gotten the chance to read some of the 17,000 words friends and colleagues and fans wrote in tribute to her last week in our symposium on her life, in addition to some of the earlier pieces by Ramesh and many others. She is also the topic of my syndicated column this week. 

And if you didn’t see it, this is from Mary Eberstadt’s piece about Kate

She was married to James O’Beirne, an officer in the U.S. Army whose career likewise defies short summary; and mother of Philip O’Beirne and John O’Beirne, ditto. Nothing about her was common; everything about her was rare.

There was, for starters, her striking physical presence – the regal height, the lovely visage all but demanding portraiture, the effervescent fashion sense that made encounters with her into mini-adventures in elegance. Unforgettable though they were and are, though, these were mere outward and material symbols of what was immaterial and extraordinary within.

She was a wife and mother who was also a mentor to hundreds, and a sister to untold numbers, especially in the clergy. She was an unapologetic, happy daughter of Rome during years when apologies and unhappiness were thick on the cobblestones. Kate loved the Church, and the Church loved Kate. Her conviction of the truth of the faith tied her every bon mot to bedrock.

Irreverence in the service of reverence: as Chesterton could have explained, the paradox that was Kate’s work in the world was really no paradox at all.

As the multiplication of tributes since her death have illustrated, including this one at her former home, National Review. The lady could also be a scamp. She reveled in tweaking her many friends in religious life – as well as in life, period. And to great effect; Kate could make Cardinals laugh in church.

It’s all — on Kate and the glamour of good — worth reading, here

Mark Shields, one of her fellow Capitol Gang regulars, also wrote here.

And Jonathan Last’s words were quite beautiful, too. 

And Jeanne Allen on “The Enormously Important Lesson That Kate O’Beirne Taught Me.”

I was moved by Fr. Paul Scalia on Friday, comparing her role in the world to Martha’s, in his homily at her Mass — “a strong woman of humble faith.” She was “strong enough to speak candidly and fearlessly” and “Faithful enough to place her strength at the service of the most neglected in our culture: namely, the truth and the weak.” She ”was, as St. Paul would put, persistent whether…convenient or inconvenient.”  

Readers and other friends and colleagues have been sending e-mails, and I share a few here … 

From Grace-Marie Turner: 

Kate was always a towering figure, both in her statuesque physical presence as well as in her intellectual prowess. And it was therefore ever more striking to see how truly humble she was. 

I remember seeing her accompany her beloved mentor, William F. Buckley, Jr., to the National Review table at the annual AEI dinner when it was still being held at the Washington Hilton.  

Kate likely knew and was admired by virtually every one of the more than a thousand movers and shakers in the room who were buzzing around at the networking event of the year. But Kate stayed loyally by the side of the then-frail Bill Buckley, never leaving him, clearly saying to him he was indeed the most important person in that room. 

But isn’t that what Kate always did?  Who of us who knew her didn’t feel that WE were the most important person the room when we were with her? She saw the special and unique value in everyone she met, ever curious to know each person’s story and to learn what wisdom or insight she could glean. What a gift she had of always respecting the dignity of each person, even those with whom she fiercely disagreed politically. 

Ever humble, always courageous, consistently thoughtful, Kate lived the values of her beloved Catholic faith.

When nearly 20 priests proceeded down the aisle at her beautiful funeral on Friday, escorting Kate’s casket into the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More followed by nearly as many pall bearers, there was hardly a dry eye in the sanctuary. The love and respect that so many of her family, friends, and colleagues had for this wonderful woman were so clearly visible in that moment. 

We have lost Kate far too soon, but perhaps we can keep her with us by embracing those qualities we all so admired so much in her and try to be a little like Kate every day. The world would be a better place for it.  What a blessing you were, Kate. Your spirit lives on in all of us who loved you.

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a health policy think tank created 20 years ago with Kate’s inspiration.

And from Maureen Ferguson from the Catholic Association: 

I’ve now heard countless other similar stories, but when I came to DC as a 22 year old, I had not one connection and knew not a soul.  But Kate managed to find me, take me under her wing, and help me with my first job as a lobbyist at National Right to Life.  She was at Heritage at the time, and brought me to the orientation they ran for the newly elected Members of Congress so I could meet these new allies right off the bat.  It was a “Members Only” type of event, but Kate insisted I come and introduced me around.  I think I was the only lobbyist there and I could see some were curious about my presence, but Kate’s introduction gave me an authoritative imprimatur.   Many years later after I had spent 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, Kate helped again and conducted a weekend of media training for me and others through Catholic Voices.  Kate helped give me the confidence to overcome that rusty feeling common to moms on the “on-ramp” back into the professional world.   

Kate didn’t have daughters of her own (though she couldn’t have adored her sons more), but she had countless young women that she went out of her way to mentor.  I’m especially touched that donations in her name have been designated to the all-girls school Oakcrest, where her beloved granddaughter Charlotte will attend next year.  Through Oakcrest’s mission to educate young women of character, formed to change the culture, Kate will continue to help mentor many more young women.

God Rest her soul!

From Bryan Preston:

I only had the honor of meeting Kate O’Beirne once, but as anyone who ever met her can attest, she was unforgettable.

Several years ago, when I was freelancing and blogging toward a political career, I went to National Review’s offices in Washington to meet Ramesh Ponnuru for coffee. I’d been working on a story that I hoped NR would run, and I’d wanted to meet Ramesh as he was one of my favorite writers (still is). 

Before we stepped out for coffee, he invited me into NR’s inner offices to discuss the story. I couldn’t believe it. For a young conservative this was an invitation into a holy of holies, and there behind the desk was the great Kate O’Beirne. Suddenly I was pitching the story to her, one of the sharpest minds in the movement, someone I had seen go toe to toe with the left and win, and she was picking my brain and picking through the details of the story. She was delightful, tough, fair, extremely sharp and witty. And kind. This thrilling but all-too-brief conversation was the only time I ever met her, but she gave me confidence that I could do politics and policy on the national scene. Kate O’Beirne certainly left an impression and she will definitely be missed. RIP. 

Bryan Preston has written for NRO.com, Hotair.com and PJMedia.com, produced for Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham, and is currently Director of Communications at the Texas General Land Office in Austin.

And Leigh Snead: 

 

In 2001 at the Crisis Magazine Dinner at the St. Regis in DC, very soon after 9/11, during after dinner drinks and cigars I spotted Ms. O’Beirne on the terrace and I’m starstruck.  I was 26 years old and thrilled to be among so many luminaries. Lucky for me she was speaking to someone I knew and emboldened by brandy I sidle up beside them, smile, and wait for an introduction. It doesn’t take long before she reaches out her hand and says “Hi, I’m Kate.” In my mind’s eye theres some stardust around her! I was struck by her warmth and genuine friendliness immediately. I pretended to smoke just so I could keep hanging out with her. There’s a picture somewhere and I’m on a mission to find it. 

Requiescat in pace. 

From longtime reader John Vecchione:

To all those grieving Kate O’Beirne:

I was only a passing acquaintance of Kate, but at a couple of gatherings I said something she thought funny and gave me a finger point and an explosive “Ha!” and then would come over and talk (once saying as she did so “you I must talk to.”)  She then proceeded to make me feel like the cleverest guy in the room.  Kate leaves us too soon but as Father Scalia said, she died well.  When I told my wife I was going to the Mass she emailed me how sorry she was and how wonderful Kate was to her when we met at a Federalist Society event some years ago.  Unforgettable to everyone it seems.  She lived well and she died well (in the Christian sense) and we can’t ask much more than that.  And certainly most of the people at St. Thomas More’s who loved her believe they will see her again and I pray that extends a balm to her family.

Yours in Grief,

John Vecchione

President and CEO

Cause of Action Institute

And from Tom McArdle, formerly of Investor’s Business Daily (with whom I was once on pilgrimage with Kate in Rome):

We all know what a great New Yorker Kate was, but thinking back there were some remarkable things connected to the city … like running into her in the elevator in Lord & Taylor’s on Fifth Avenue seven or eight years ago.

Or — also on Fifth Avenue! — hearing her yell my name from the sidewalk as my father and I marched with Co. Armagh  in the St, Patrick’s Day Parade; it was the early 1990s, my Irish-born father’s last time marching since he was already suffering neurodegenerative dementia.

Kate’s husband Jim was in the same year as my sister at St. Luke’s elementary school on 138th Street in the south Bronx in the 1950s. And I was to discover that two of Kate and Jim’s Irish nieces were at Trinity College, Dublin with me in the 1980s. But I didn’t know Kate or Jim from Adam when I came to Washington to get into journalism in the late 1980s. Yet within weeks of meeting her, she made a beautiful dinner for me in her Northern Virginia home.

The year before Joe Biden inexcusably put Clarence Thomas and his family through hell on earth before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kate saw me in the lobby of the Heritage Foundation and ten minutes later I found myself smuggled into an intimate VIP luncheon in honor of Tom Sowell, sitting directly across from then-Judge Thomas. When I introduced myself to the room in my turn, with the requisite attempt at wit, as being with Evans & Novak, but adding, “Don’t worry. Everything’s off the record,” Thomas’s lovable baritone retorted, “So you say!” He would soon find out how appropriate it was not to trust what members of the press claim.

Attending a speech I drafted for President George W. Bush to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2005, there was Kate in the front row, wouldn’t you know it, offering me some comfort as I grimly began the rush with other staff back to the White House.

Five years ago, I was blessed to spend a wondrous week in Rome with Kate and a dozen or so other prominent writers of the Right, including a heavy NR contingent. Her Faith sparkled.

Going back to her days as an aide to Sen. James Buckley, Kate always understood what was the most lethal ammo possessed by the conservative movement, as well as her fellow Catholics. She knew that the way we win as we work together was by loving each other. And that the great advantage we have over our enemies on the Left is the way we make and keep friends, and live as cheerful warriors. She may have been the most cheerful.

Lux aeterna luceat ei, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. 

And one final note: 

I’m archiving Kate’s remembrances, in NRO and elsewhere, for future re-reading because I am so moved by the vision of the Good Life that folks who knew and loved her are painting, and have found myself taking a hard look at my own life and vowing to be better, because of Kate.  (Whom I met only a couple of times, briefly, at events with my dad years ago.)  Her profound generosity of spirit as described by so many of the writers has been particularly striking.  Thanks for putting together the memorial symposium.  I’m praying for her.

May she continue to be light to Washington, D.C., and beyond. It sure seems like she is. 

Send your tributes to rememberingKateOBeirne@gmail.com — I may continue to share in the Corner or in my weekly newsletter and definitely with her family. 

My newsletter last week was dedicated to her — happy to pass it along if you are not currently on the list and you’d like to see it (with no obligation to read it another week!) … it includes links to old videos and things. (E-mail me at klopez@nationalreview.com)

R.I.P., Kate. 

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