Charles Colson: Defender of the Weak, Hugger of Lepers, Friend of Sinners, Christian Intellectual
Image: Courtesy of Washington National Cathedral, Donovan Marks
Charles Colson: Defender of the Weak, Hugger of Lepers, Friend of Sinners, Christian Intellectual

Hundreds of mourners rode chartered buses Wednesday morning from Prison Fellowship headquarters in Lansdowne, Virginia, to Chuck Colson's memorial service at the parking impoverished National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Along the way, they crossed the Roosevelt Bridge and drove past the famous Watergate complex, which gave its name to the scandal that brought down the Nixon administration and sent Chuck Colson on the road to responsibility and repentance.

Though the mainstream press was full of Watergate references following Chuck's April 21 death, the scandal was mere backdrop to the more important and lasting parts of his life celebrated at Wednesday's memorial.

Daughter Emily Colson was the first to speak about Chuck. She was glad she was old enough, she said, to know her father before he became a Christian. "A softness came over him," she said, and after he became a new creation, "he loved his family differently." Though he was a very busy man, in their regular phone calls "he would be fully present" to her.  That, she said, was "the mark of a great father."

But perhaps the ultimate mark of his greatness was his relationship with Max, his autistic grandson. For Max, the busy Colson—always in hyperdrive—would clear his schedule and again be fully present.

Chuck was a defender of the weak, said Emily.

He was a friend of sinners, and like his Savior, ate with them, said prison chaplain Danny Croce. Every Easter Colson preached the Good News at some prison. And every Easter he made a point of eating with the prisoners as well.

That compulsion to be a friend of sinners was also illustrated in a St. Francis moment related by homilist Timothy George later in the memorial service. Like Francis, who broke taboos ...

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