God, Politics and the Making of a Joyful Warrior
There were crosses above the Russert kids' beds, a portrait of Jesus and his Sacred Heart on the wall and a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the backyard; in May, the month of Mary, the family lit a candle every day. There was no meat on Fridays, and if someone lost something, Mrs. Russert prayed to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron of lost things. On Good Friday they re-enacted the Stations of the Cross. ("I remember, in seventh grade, kneeling in church from noon to three as a form of sacrifice," Russert recalled in his memoir, "Big Russ & Me." "It wasn't easy.") In second grade came first communion and the perils of the confessional. The priest's face was hidden by a screen, and Russert did his homework even then. "We always prepared for confession by thinking of various sins we might have committed," he recalled, "such as being mean to your sister or the always available wildcard sin of 'impure thoughts'." The rhythms and rituals of the church—communion, confession, absolution, catechism—were not exotic to Russert; they were givens, part of the air he breathed.