About Me (Ben)


The name Ben Finiti is borrowed from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto 3, Line 73.  Both Anthony Esolen and W. S. Merwin translate it as “you who ended well”, addressed to the souls in Purgatory.  They had lived sinful lives, but were able to repent and be forgiven at some point before they died.

For anyone living, it is therefore an aspiration rather than a fact.  It is my aspiration.  If I die today, I will have failed.  But I am not giving up.


My real name is David Smith, so I guess I don’t actually need a pseudonym.  I use Ben Finiti because I think it is beautiful.   [For more on Dante, click here.]

I spent my life as a union organizer, negotiator, and staffer.  I worked in Montana, Florida (Palm Beach and Ocala), and New Hampshire, for affiliates of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and (in the dim past) the Service Employees International Union.   I am now retired.  Retirement is wonderful.

I am a lifelong JFK Democrat.  And since 2017, a Roman Catholic; not a particularly good one, but ardent.  It gives me a joy I have never known.

I volunteer with Hospice patients in Florida and Montana.  I also work with a group called No One Dies Alone, visiting terminal patients in Helena’s hospital.  All are wonderful, especially NODA.  A few hospitals nationwide have such a vigil program.

And, since my Catholic confirmation, I have served as an Extraordinary Lay Minister, bringing the Eucharist to shut-ins. (I don’t do it in church, because there usually seems to be a sufficient crowd of laymen at the altar.)

But enough about me.  What about YOU? What do YOU think of me? (My late father-in-law’s favorite joke.)


  • Russ Saltzman  On August 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Lutherans don’t have a doctrine of purgatory, but if we did I’ve always imagined it would be seven days on folding chairs at a church convention.

    Thanks for the post at First Things.

    Russ Saltzman

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