Muggeridge, an editorial adviser to LifeSiteNews.com and senior editor at the New York-based Human Life Review, was the son of noted English author and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, the husband of Catholic author Anne Roche Muggeridge (author of The Desolate City), and father to former Interim editor Peter Muggeridge, as well as former Interim contributor Charles Muggeridge. He was himself an occasional contributor to The Interim, as well as Catholic Insight magazine and other religious publications.
John Muggeridge was not nearly as famous as his father, but his influence is arguably as great. He counted as friends some of the leading lights of Canadian journalism, including David Frum, George Jonas, Peter Worthington and David Warren, and Catholic leaders, such as Fr. Jonathan Robinson and Janet Smith. In a column for the Ottawa Citizen, Warren said that Muggeridge was a “man of national significance,” even though “he was nearly invisible as a public character, was aloof from conventional politics, had no ambitions in the media (and) sought no audience.”
Yet, Warren notes, “his influence was steady.” Warren continued: “John was a man who, simply in being what he was, helped to keep the old Canada alive. Men and women of good will came to him, spontaneously.” He no doubt influenced them during countless discussions in his home and at the pub. As Warren said, his teaching extended beyond the classroom and often merely by example.
Muggeridge was a member of the advisory board of LifeSite and penned several stories for them. The Interim reprinted his article on the politics of new Governor-General Michaelle Jean in September.
He also wrote one of the first scathing critiques of Pierre Elliot Trudeau for the now-defunct Northern Institute Quarterly. Yet, as his friend Warren said, he hated writing, it being an almost painful exercise. In a column remembering John Muggeridge, George Jonas wrote in the National Post: “It’s one of life’s ironies that the best writers often dislike the process of writing and the best people rarely put a premium on self-expression. The best are busy being spouses, parents and friends. They’re spouses, parents and friends first and writers second.”
It was a mark of the man that he didn’t need, nor want to write, to become famous and popular. He was busy raising his four sons and one daughter and being a grandfather to his 16 grandchildren and grandfatherly to other children. The Globe and Mail reported in its obituary that Muggeridge “subsumed his own ambitions” to raise and support his family, but that implies a sacrificial choice. By all accounts, he never thought of it that way. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather. A friend and a teacher. He taught through the written word only reluctantly.
But when he did write, he wrote masterfully and often scathingly in defence of truth and against the perpetrators, enablers and defenders of the culture of death. In a June 2004 eulogy for Ronald Reagan composed for LifeSite, Muggeridge recalled the stirring words of the former president in defence of the unborn and pondered: “Wouldn’t it be nice if our own Paul Martin could bring himself to use such language in public? Canadians still wait for such a defence of life in any of their leaders.”
The funeral for Muggeridge, who often battled with the Catholic hierarchy over liturgical disputes, was held at Toronto’s St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in the Traditional Latin funeral rite.
His friend, Catholic writer Hilary White, mused: “I thought that it was one of John’s great jokes, played on all his nice neo-Cath and non-Catholic friends, to force every one of them to attend the mighty traditional liturgy of the church and done at its best (in this country, anyway.) As though he was saying, ‘See? This is what Anne and I have been going on about all this time.’”
He continued to visit his wife Anne at Castlewood Wychwood, where she has been convalescing in recent years, battling an Alzheimer’s-like disease that sometimes has left family wondering if she remembers them.
Still, as Jonas recalled in his column: “He saw the best in the wife he loved so dearly and continued to see it even as she fell ill with an Alzheimer-type disease in her early 50s and failed to recognize him. Cancer should not be allowed to stop his caring. Every sort of medical indignity was embraced by him, if only it would yield the strength for one more month to visit her and the time to see his children. Those who did not know him might have thought, observing his grace in the face of so ferocious an illness, that he was putting on a brave performance. It was not performance, only the man himself.”
Friends and family will miss John Muggeridge, because as Hilary White said just days before he died, “The world needs more people like John Muggeridge, one of the most gentle, decent and intelligent men I’ve met and soon, it won’t have the one it has.”