Sargent Shriver wasn’t a “good man” because of his notable public achievements — which included being the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and helping his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, expand the Special Olympics worldwide — his son, Mark Shriver, told Religious Education Congress-goers during his Feb. 23 keynote address.No, the former ambassador to France and the 1972 Democratic vice-president candidate was a good man because of his profound Catholic faith that sustained him through his family’s loss of wealth during the Great Depression, the bloody battle of Guadalcanal (where he was wounded and received a purple heart), the assassinations of brothers-in-law John F. and Bobby Kennedy, and finally a 10-year-long bout with Alzheimer’s Disease before he died on Jan. 18, 2011. “After my father died, I wanted to figure out what it meant to be a ‘good man,’” said the 49-year-old father of three, who is senior vice-president of U.S. programs for the international charity Save the Children. “Some ‘great’ people stand up here and have the spotlight on them, and when the spotlights are off, they aren’t good people. And I wanted to dig in and try to figure out what [waitresses, airport workers and the garbage man] meant when they said he was a good man.“And how did Dad balance it all? Here was a guy that was married for 56 years to the woman of his dreams; who raised five kids, all of whom loved him; who went to Mass every day of his life, and I mean every day of his life; who could be eulogized by presidents and vice-presidents, yet still somehow touch the waitresses who served him, the folks at the airline counter or the guy picking up our trash.”So Mark studied his father’s speeches as well as the frequent letters he wrote to him in prep school and college. He also interviewed relatives and close friends, with the result being a book published in 2012, “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.” He distilled his research down to three principles that really defined his dad’s life: his profound Catholic faith, a faith that demands acts of hope and acts of love; a faith that meant savoring and being happy “in the moment”; and taking action to undo injustice and improve the lives of the poor and marginalized.Sargent Shriver persevered in creating the Peace Corps when many Washington insiders thought sending young people to far-off underdeveloped countries was crazy. He started Head Start and Legal Services, which served many poor African Americans in the mid-1960s when America was still segregated. “You talk about the ‘audacity of hope,’” Mark remarked.And his father’s love was exhibited by his long marriage, preceded by seven years of courtship. “Some guy said to me once, ‘Your father had a lot of faith and a lot of hope that your mother was going to fall in love with him,’” the son quipped, drawing laughs from the Anaheim Convention Center Arena crowd.The fourth child of the Shrivers talked about one time, when his elderly father seemed more lucid than normal towards the end of his life, for some reason he boldly asked, “Dad, you’re losing your mind. How does that make you feel?”And without missing a beat, Sarge, as he was known since childhood, replied, “I’m doing the best with what God has given me.”Toward the end of his half-hour address, Mark said his father was literally on his knees every day, “asking God for help, knocking on God’s door, seeking God’s guidance. He was tenacious and persistent in his relationship with God. And he didn’t give up on that relationship when he didn’t get what he prayed for. No, he went to Mass the next day, and he kept praying and he trusted that the answers God gave him were the answers that were best for him. “I think ultimately that’s why he could say with great confidence, ‘I’m doing the best I can with what God has given me.’”But the most important life lesson the son learned from his father was that faith is not just prayer and reflection. It’s what his Jesuit teachers at Holy Cross called “contemplative in action.” Prayer and action were inseparable. One without the other rendered a person incomplete.“Now only a few of us are able to translate our faith into active hope as an act of love on a national or international level,” Mark pointed out. “But each of us can put our faith into action, to show hope and love in our daily lives — with the waitresses at our local restaurant, with the bag checker at the airport, with our kids when they make mistakes, with our aging parents and in-laws.“Whatever we do, putting our faith into action, bringing hope and love to others will give us joy,” he stressed. “The same joy, the same energy that my dad experienced every day of his life.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0301/shriver/{/gallery}