In this interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation, which was conducted by his wife, Ginni Thomas, the 27-term Supreme Court justice spoke candidly about his faith and family and the providence of God that intervened at key moments in his life.
“You know it’s always interesting to me and people say ‘Well I don’t believe in miracles.’ Well I have no other explanations. It doesn’t add up. You can say it’s Locke, you can say it’s good fortune. You know I prefer to just say well it’s just divine providence,” he said.
There’s just no other explanation for the sudden twists and turns in his early life such as how his house burned down which resulted in Clarence and his brother going to live in a tenement with their mother.
“Well then she can’t really handle two little boys and working for 10 to 15 dollars a week so she takes us to our grandparents. And then you wind up being raised by two of the greatest people you would ever know. Tell me that’s not miraculous,” he said.
“They then take you to a Catholic school where you have nuns who devote their lives to little black kids in the inner city of Savannah. So then that is another miracle. You then wind up going into the seminary and that’s another totally different experience.
“Now how do you explain all of that? I mean how does it all sort of make sense if you look at it as you go through it . . . to me looking at it retrospectively also suggests to me that it is certainly providential that this happened.”
Ginni then asks her husband about his frequent use of the Litany of Humility. “What does that do for you,” she asks.
“Oh it focuses you, because it tells you not to focus on whether you’re praised or criticized, to not worry about whether someone gets more than you, not to worry about whether someone is gonna say something hateful about you . . . . Don’t worry about whether or not they say good things about you, that it doesn’t matter. What really matters is whether or not you do what you are called to do.”
At one point in his life, in 1964, he believed he was being called to the priesthood, but later discerned that he did not have a vocation.
“But you’re always looking for the next calling, the next vocation, and so to live up to that vocation and that calling you have to discard these distractions of praise, of being afraid of being criticized, of wanting to be first, of wanting to be treated well, and feed it and all those sorts of things because none of that has anything to do with being called to do what you called to do,” he said.
He's the first to admit that he wasn’t always a stalwart Catholic. In fact, he was away from the church for 25 years.
“I left in a huff in 1968 and someone said ‘Why did you go back?’ And I said ‘life.’ Life happened. Things happen that you can’t explain and then you realize there’s only — there was only one place to go. And for me that was back before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.
Faith is what gives him the strength to do what he has to do every day, to take the beatings and the criticism and the unfairness that comes with proclaiming the Truth.
“It also gives you the wisdom, the insights, the capacity to do the work, to decide these things and discipline. It gives content and meaning to the oath I took. At the end of my oath . . . [I] say “So help me God . It’s an oath to God. So if you have a strong faith in God, then that oath gains in meaning and content. So when you violate that you’re not violating a contract or a mere promise but an oath to God,” he said.
“I go to Mass before I go to work and the reason for that is not just habit. It gives you, a sinner, it starts you in a way of doing this secular job the right way for the right reasons.”
Being taught from an early age that “we’re all the same in God’s eyes,” did much to help him see beyond the racial discrimination he faced in his life.
As a child who once prayed to God to help him not only learn how to read, but to love to read. “ . . . [A]nd when I finally got that gift, it’s sort of like wow! It’s like Christmas every day, every book.”
What an inspiration he is to us all! Not only for his accomplishments in life, but for the humility with which he views himself while giving all the credit to God.
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