James Finn, who served as a Commonweal editor from 1955 to 1961, died on March 20, 2002 in New York City. Jim remained a good friend as well as a steady contributor to these pages long after he left the staff. In his years at Commonweal, his editorials ranged from religion to literature to politics to foreign affairs. And it was in foreign affairs and issues of war and peace that Finn distinguished himself as editorial director first at the Council on Religion and Internal Affairs (CRIA) and then at Freedom House. He was the author of Protest: Pacifism and Politics, written during the war in Vietnam, the editor of several volumes on war, peace, and religion, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the New Republic, Commentary, First Things, Crisis, and the National Review. He was an infantryman in Europe during World War II. One of his most compelling contributions to this magazine was "Citizen Soldier: The How & Why of One Man’s War" (April 24, 1998), a reflection on both the personal and communal meaning of fighting against Hitler. Always willing to engage in serious, even fierce, political debate, Jim Finn was as well an irenic man and a hospitable one. At his funeral Mass, Commonweal board member Alice Mayhew observed in her eulogy that "I believe I have never known anyone so calmly happy, so content with his life. He had a fine education, and important, meaningful work. He had his books-his novels, his Dickens, and poetry. He had his garden. He had his table where there was always-as Bill Clancy said, in the understatement of the century-good chow....And he had, in Molly, his adored wife and best friend, a life’s companion." May he rest in peace.
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