Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-06-23 - Corpus Christi

2019-06-23 - Corpus Christi

June 23, 2019

23 June 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Luke 11B-17 + Homily

15 Minutes 32 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Jacques Pantaléon was an unlikely candidate for the papacy, being neither a cardinal nor Italian, since he was the son of a French cobbler. Nonetheless he became Pope Urban IV after having acquitted himself well as Patriarch of Jerusalem. His attentions also involved him in concerns from Constantinople to Germany and Denmark.

   Two months before his death in 1264, he commissioned Saint Thomas Aquinas to write hymns for a new feast honoring the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. There used to be many hymnodic “Sequences,” but over the years they were trimmed down to Easter and Pentecost and, later, Corpus Christi. Although Aquinas had written so sublimely about the Real Presence, Urban wanted song more than prose. Thus we have Pange LinguaTantum ErgoPanis Angelicus, and O Salutaris Hostia. As they have endured nearly nine centuries so far, they are likely to outlast the musical kitsch that guitar-strumming grey heads of a dying Woodstock generation persist in thinking are the heraldic sounds of a New Age. Unlike the works of those more recent composers, whose absent Latin and poor English only serve to express a low Eucharistic theology, the classical hymnody of Aquinas can best be sung in the original and, if sung in translation, needs translators who are accomplished Latinists and masters of English. Two Anglican converts of the nineteenth century, Edward Caswall and Gerard Manley Hopkins, qualified for that.

   The ineffable mystery of the Blessed Sacrament will always be prey to minds smaller than the Doctors of the Church, as they try to reduce mystery to mere human puzzle whose pieces can be arranged according to limited human intelligence. Even in Pope Urban’s age, which by many standards of architecture and scholarship was golden, confusion about the Real Presence in the Mass was spreading. One priest, Father Peter of Prague, while en route to Rome was granted what the Church considers a miracle: blood emanating from the Host. Pope Urban was in nearby Orvieto and sent delegates to inspect the phenomenon. The Feast of Corpus Christi soon followed.

   At the last Supper, our Lord did not subject his apostles to a lecture on how he could give them his Body to eat and Blood to drink. He simply commanded, “Do this.” This is not to deny the vocation of theologians ever since to describe the Heavenly Banquet, but the best of them have known the difference between apprehending and comprehending. “Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail.”

   A Baptist hymn writer in the nineteenth century, Robert Lowry, would certainly have been a bit uncomfortable in the presence of the Dominican master Thomas Aquinas, but one suspects that the Angelic Doctor would have fully empathized with the confidence of Lowry’s hymn:

      The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

      A fountain ever springing;

      All things are mine since I am his—

      How can I keep from singing?

2019-06-16 -Trinity Sunday

2019-06-16 -Trinity Sunday

June 16, 2019

16 June 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 16:12-15 + Homily

16 Minutes 30 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  An epitaph on the tomb of Bishop Miler Magrath of Cashel in Ireland (d. 1622) reads: “Here where I am placed I am not. I am not where I am not. Nor am I in both places, but I am in each.” His problem was that he had called himself a Catholic bishop as well as a Protestant bishop. Bishop Magrath’s ingenuity for rationalizing brings to mind his contemporary in England, Simon Aleyn, who was unable to maintain the duplicity of practicing two religions at the same time. To retain his position as vicar of an affluent parish in Berkshire, whatever might be the religion of the reigning monarch, he declared himself consecutively Protestant, Catholic, Protestant, and Catholic again, inspiring a caustic ballad: 


      And this is law, I will maintain

      Unto my Dying Day, Sir.

      That whatsoever King may reign,

      I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!


   There is a political parallel to this malleability in a former Vice President who has decided to run for the actual Presidency as a Catholic independent of the strictures of Catholicism. As Vice President, he officiated at the civil “marriage” of two men in 2016, although he had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. In 2006 he threatened that if anyone said he was not Catholic, “I’m gonna shove my rosary beads down their throat.” The Bishop of Cashel and the Vicar of Bray could not have said it more eloquently.

   Recently, this candidate reversed overnight his longstanding support of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal subsidies for abortions. We remember the United States senator who said in 2004 that he voted for a bill before he voted against it, and the Australian senator who explained her position on a tax-cut proposal in 2018: “I said no originally, then I said yes. Then I have said no, and I've stuck to it."

   For Bismarck, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” I was fortunate to know Congressman Henry Hyde, who counted his amendment his greatest achievement, and I also knew Judge Robert Bork who was slandered by the rancorous attacks of the aforementioned vice president. Both were aware that no one can survive in public life if he naively denies that situations can require compromise and even reversals. But they also knew that when the flip-flop is a matter of life or death, accommodation takes on an ominous character.

   The Bourbon King Henry IV, baptized Catholic but reared Protestant and the champion of a Protestant army, became king of France by cutting a deal: he would declare himself Catholic. “Paris vaut bien une messe.” He decided that Paris was well worth a Mass, but the Church does not consider him worthy of sainthood. Less saintly is anyone who calculates that Washington, D.C. is worth more than a Mass.


   A fuller version of this topic may be found by clicking the attached link to Crisis Magazine: https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/the-strange-case-of-dr-biden-and-mr-hyde

2019-06-09 - Pentecost

2019-06-09 - Pentecost

June 9, 2019

9 June 2019

The Day of Pentecost

John 20:19-23 + Homily

17 Minutes 14 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  While experience cautions theologians against the quicksand of politics, politicians not infrequently rush in to theological matters where angels fear to tread. So it was on May 29 when our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, announced on National Public Radio that the Church is wrong about abortion, homosexuality, and the male priesthood. This puts her at odds with all the saints and doctors of the Church, and with Jesus Christ. The latter sent his Holy Spirit on Pentecost to lead the Church into all truth, and it is hard to believe that he has reversed himself in our Republic’s recent years. Since it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18), he would be at a disadvantage were he to run for the Senate from New York. This would be a trifling matter were it not for the fact that Senator Gillibrand tells Catholics that she is a Catholic.

   On various issues, Gillibrand has boasted about her “flexibility.” This was evident when, as a Congresswoman representing a district populated by hunters, she enjoyed a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association, but when she became a senator, she got an “F” rating from that same NRA, which she has since theatrically described as “the worst organization in this country.” Such flexibility reminds one of Ramsay MacDonald, whom Churchill likened to the Boneless Wonder of Barnum’s circus, a spectacle that his parents judged “would be too revolting and demoralising for my youthful eyes.”

   This mendacity became more egregious in a Fox News town hall televised on June 2 when she said that “infanticide doesn’t exist.” The senator’s comments, aired by numerous media outlets across the political spectrum, ignored the “late-term” abortion bill signed by Governor Cuomo on January 22, as he sat next to Sarah Weddington, the attorney who lied before the Supreme Court during the Roe v Wade case. Gillibrand then defended the “right to make a life and death decision.” But if there is no infanticide, there is no death. This is not a mistake the Holy Spirit would have made, but it does reek of the Father of Lies. The senator’s rant was the rhetorical equivalent of a clumsy saboteur, like Claudius in Hamlet, fatally “hoist with his own petard.”

   Last Sunday in Romania, Pope Francis beatified seven bishops who were martyred after unspeakable tortures during the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu. They died in defense of the same Faith that Senator Gillibrand has said is flawed. During the beatification ceremony, the Pope warned against “new ideologies” that threaten to uproot people from their “richest cultural and religious traditions.” He said that there are “forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage and the family” and the faithful must “resist these new ideologies now springing up.” Because of their obedience to the Spirit of Truth, those beatified martyrs will never be known in history as Boneless Wonders.

2019-06-02 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

2019-06-02 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 2, 2019

2 June 2019

Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:20-26 + Homily

17 Minutes 11 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  To have known Father Stanley Jaki for more than twenty years was a privilege and a challenge. The privilege was to count as friend and mentor this Benedictine cited by many as one of the five priests whose science has most shaped our understanding of the world. The others are Copernicus in astronomy, Mendel in genetics, Mercalli in seismology, and Lemaitre in physics. The challenge was in being corrected often by this fiery Hungarian whose zeal in debate took no prisoners. 

   In my book Cloud of Witnesses, I mentioned how Jaki cautioned me against making the Big Bang theory into a theological statement. That was similar to the polite correction Georges Lemaitre made, on a higher plane, in 1951when Pope Pius XII had implied that Lemaitre’s Big Bang proposition proved a Creator as well as Creation.

   Einstein admired Lemaitre, and you might say that he was agnostic about agnosticism, observing cryptically: “If God created the world, his primary concern was certainly not to make its understanding easy for us.” Einstein could be impatient with outright atheists: “The eternal mystery of the world is its  comprehensibility.” He could not say more without compromising the limits of his own science. Saint Augustine wrote: “We do not read in the Gospel that the Lord said, ‘I will send the Paraclete to teach you the course of the sun and the moon;’ in fact, He wanted to create Christians, not mathematicians.” Later, Cardinal Baronio, a spiritual disciple of Saint Philip Neri, epigrammed: “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

   This applies to the enigmatic Shekhinah, or Glory of God, in the form of a cloud that accompanied the wandering Jews (Exodus 13:21) and appeared on Sinai (Exodus 24:16) and on Tabor (Matthew 17:5). Finally, it was seen at the Ascension. While this cloud could be perceived by human senses, it was beyond physical analysis. Here meteorology yields to another dimension for which there is no human definition other than acknowledgement of its existence. The Christian response moves beyond analysis to rejoicing. When Saint Paul spoke of a man who had experienced a “Third Heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) he could say no more than that.

   I knew a woman who, Christmas caroling as a child, sang “Silent Night” outside Einstein’s house at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton. The Professor appeared on the porch with his violin and, while not singing the words, played the music.

   In a sermon of 388, Gregory of Nyssa mentioned a special Feast of the Ascension to celebrate the Phos tou kosmou, the Light of the World. At the Ascension, the angel told the people not to gaze into the heavens, but to pray. Saint Paul would say: “When the Lord comes again, the living and the dead will be gathered in the clouds” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

2019-05-30 - The Ascension of the Lord

2019-05-30 - The Ascension of the Lord

May 31, 2019

30 May 2019

The Ascension of the Lord

Luke 24:46-53 + Homily

14 Minutes 45 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-05-06 - Sixth Sunday of Easter

2019-05-06 - Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 26, 2019

26 May 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14:23-29 + Homily

18 Minutes 5 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  A chronic temptation of the historian is to play the “Monday morning quarterback” who assumes that he would have made a correct decision in a past crisis. But the players at the time could only postulate consequences. The appeasers who signed the Munich Agreement in 1938 do not enjoy a happy legacy, but then the thought of repeating the carnage of the Great War was unspeakable. In his first use of the term, back in 1911, Churchill described “une politique d’apaisement” as a wise strategy.

   A magnanimous Churchill wept at the coffin of Neville Chamberlain and eulogized: “The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions.” But if blundering by innocence is forgivable, not learning from mistakes is unconscionable. That distinguishes innocence from naiveté. Experience has crafted the adage: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

   Some future historian may impute a lack of probity to the Vatican agreement with Beijing in 2018, which conceded civil interference in the appointment of bishops. Though difficult to assess since the full text has not been published, this clearly contravenes the canonical stricture that “In the future, no rights and privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation of bishops are granted to civil authorities.” (Code of Canon Law c. 377.5)

   After Pope Pius XI realized that the Reichskonkordat of 1933 had been abused by Nazi Germany, he issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge—“with burning indignation.” Damage had been done, just as the Yalta Agreement of 1945 put Poland on the chopping block, a betrayal never forgotten by a Polish pope (Centesimus Annus, n. 24). He denounced the fallacy of communism in Warsaw in 1979, and Reagan did the same in his Westminster speech in 1982. The New York Times displayed its propensity to be fooled more than twice, by editorializing that John Paul II “does not threaten the political order of the nation or of Eastern Europe” and that Reagan was “bordering on delusional.”

   While the Holy See invokes two thousand years of diplomatic experience, China beats that by more than twice, and has treated the 2018 agreement as tissue, tearing down churches and persecuting faithful Catholics, not to mention banishing over a million Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong cultists to concentration camps. The issue is not theology but control. The Vatican Secretary of State said that “an act of faith is needed” for the agreement to work, but the heroic Cardinal Zen replied that a “miracle” is needed, and miracles are rare in Rome and Beijing. 

   Diplomacy is a delicate art, and there have been saints among Catholic emissaries, though few remember Eusebius of Murano, Conrad of Ascoli, Anastasius Apocrisarius, and Fulrad of Saint Denis. There remains the haunting specter of the only diplomat among the Twelve Apostles, “who by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:25).

2019-05-19 - Fifth Sunday of Easter

2019-05-19 - Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

19 May 2019

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 13:31-33A, 34-35 + Homily

15 Minutes 30 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  In recent weeks, long lines streamed into the Morgan Library to see a display of J.R.R. Tolkien’s memorabilia and his art, mostly drawings and watercolors. Other authors like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor sketched as an avocation, but these pictures were very much an integral part of Tolkien’s symbolic world in The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

   Here on display was an example of the words inscribed as John Henry Newman’s epitaph: “Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” – “Into the truth through shadows and images.” When Tolkien’s widowed mother converted to Catholicism in 1900, she was disinherited by her Baptist family. She died at the age of 34, before the invention of insulin, when Tolkien was twelve and his brother ten. He would write that his mother “killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith.” The devout Oratorian priest to whom Mabel entrusted her boys, Father Francis Xavier Morgan, had been a schoolboy under the tutelage of Newman, soon to be canonized.

   To his dying day, Tolkien was a daily communicant and venerated the memory of Father Morgan (no relation to J.P.), whom he had served as an altar boy, leading many others to the Faith, and he married only after persuading his future wife to convert. His grandson Simon has recalled that during the liturgical changes following Vatican II, his grandfather “didn't agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right.”

   A new “biopic” about Tolkien’s early years features Father Morgan at the start, near the middle, and at the end, but practically omits any other mention of the Catholicism that was at the heart of the author’s life as an Oxford don and writer. The film originally had a scene showing Tolkien receiving Communion in the trenches during the First World War, but it was cut because “people felt it was boring.” 

   Last year’s film of the children’s book A Wrinkle in Time, produced with Disney Corporation money (like Tolkien, which was made through the Disney-owned Fox Searchlight), eliminated the Christian imagery of its author, Madeleine L’Engle. Perhaps if it had been faithful to the text, it would not have lost nearly one hundred million dollars.

   Madeleine was a good friend, and I knew to a lesser degree Tolkien’s eldest son John, who was a priest. Both would have found the film producers’ airbrushing of religion utterly incomprehensible. Tolkien wrote to the daughter of his publisher: “. . . the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks."

2019-05-12 - Fourth Sunday of Easter

2019-05-12 - Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 12, 2019

12 May 2019

Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:27-30 + Homily

16 Minutes 17 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  The English priest John Colet was influenced by his friends Erasmus and Saint Thomas More. As Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, he founded Saint Paul’s School for boys in 1509 on humanist principles. Graduates have included John Milton, Samuel Pepys, John Churchill, G.K. Chesterton, three recipients of the Victoria Cross and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who planned the D-Day invasion in one of its classrooms. Colet provided that the school have 153 young scholars, in recollection of the 153 fish that the disciples hauled ashore the third time the Risen Lord appeared to them.

   There is endless speculation about what 153 means, but saints including Jerome and Louis de Montfort have been transfixed in observing that the Tetragrammaton, the unutterable name of God, appears 153 times in the first book of the Bible.

   It would be a mistake to suppose that the apostles went back to fishing in disobedience to the Master’s command years before that they drop their nets and follow him. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, meaning that He is able to know everything from start to finish at the same time. So He was able to “set up” His men, ordering them to go to the Sea of Tiberius, knowing their thoughts in order to instruct them.

   In His humanity He did a human thing in cooking breakfast. In His divinity He predicted what the apostles would become. By an intricate symmetry, He prepared a charcoal fire on the shore and asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter got the message, and he wept because he had denied knowing Christ three times sitting by another charcoal fire. Whatever else may been encoded in the number 153, the point is that this event happened, a detail never to be forgotten.

   Contemplation of the unity of the True God and True Man encounters layers of reality beyond the limitations of human intelligence. Nonetheless, we can perceive the existence of those dimensions. A “Participatory Anthropic Principle” among some quantum physicists suggests that the universe is structured with a set of physical constants without which there would be no intelligent life on Earth, and that it is only by participating in that structure by observation that humans can sense this. So there may be in those 153 fish the Voice saying: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

   But one thing we know, and it is what prevents miniaturizing Christ as the best of men, but nothing but a man: “For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).


2019-05-05 - Third Sunday of Easter

2019-05-05 - Third Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

5 May 2019

Third Sunday of Easter

John 21:1-19 + Homily

19 Minutes 12 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Every writer is familiar with the word “obelism,” which refers to an editor’s abbreviations in the margins indicating corrections to be made. An author in a passive-aggressive mood may counter by writing the Latin “stet,” which means to let the text remain as is. When the Temple authorities were scandalized that Pontius Pilate had ordered a placard for the Cross to read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” they asked him to edit it to read that Jesus only claimed to be King of the Jews. As his own stet, the governor said “Quod scripsi, scripsi—What I have written, I have written.”

   Who knows if he was being cruelly sarcastic, or perhaps was haunted, as was his wife? Either way, he showed some courage, albeit with the might of Rome behind him and an army around him, because his job was to keep order among a volatile demographic.

   On page proofs of one of my books, an editor marked in red ink, “Do you really mean this?” What surprised me was that he thought it was possible that I had written something I did not really mean—not as a grammatical error but as ill-advised audacity. Prudence is a virtue to be used in expressing thoughts, but it is overused as timidity when it thwarts courage.

   Courage, or fortitude, is one of the four cardinal virtues. Citing the Aristotelian philosophers, Cicero wrote: "Each man should so conduct himself that fortitude appear in labors and dangers: temperance in foregoing pleasures: prudence in the choice between good and evil: justice in giving every man his due.” Cicero quite literally was a man of his word, and was dismembered for speaking out against Mark Antony. When his head and hands were displayed in the Roman Forum, Anthony’s wife Fulvia tried to take revenge on Cicero’s eloquent outspokenness by piercing his tongue with a hairpin. But today, that unlovely couple are historical curiosities, while Cicero’s speeches still animate civilized consciences.

   After the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles with heroic courage. This was a marked change from when they fled from the sight of the Cross, proving the adage ascribed to the Duke of Wellington: “All soldiers run away. The good ones come back.” Hauled before the High Priest and Sanhedrin, and at risk to their own lives, Peter and the apostles said: “‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had Him executed by hanging on a tree. By His own right hand God has now raised Him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through Him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” STET.

2019-04-28 - Second Sunday of Easter

2019-04-28 - Second Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2019

28 April 2019

Second Sunday of Easter

John 20:19-31 + Homily

15 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   In the radiance of the Resurrection, the Church relates to the emotions of the first witnesses: grief, fear, bewilderment, and then exultation. In each generation, believers experience all of these in various ways. On Good Friday our local custom is to meditate on the Seven Last Words, using meditations written by Blessed John Henry Newman. Because the reflections he wrote in the nineteenth century are so apposite to the history of the Church’s trials and triumphs, listeners often think they were written just yesterday. The same is true of the Paschal Sequence: “Death and Life have contended / In that combat stupendous.”

   On Good Friday a faithful young priest I knew when he was a boy, died after a long illness, and at the same time, a girl was born to one of our families. Early on Easter morning one of our Sri Lankan worshipers told me of the massacre in Colombo. It is estimated that around our world a Christian is martyred every five minutes “in odium fidei” by those who hate Christ. During the cathedral fire in Paris, the rescue of the Blessed Sacrament (which the frail ecclesiology of The New York Times called “a statue of Jesus”) was a triumph of life over death. 

   Over many years I have had recourse to an epitaph in an English church inscribed during the dark Puritan days of Cromwell’s Protectorate: “In the year 1653 when all thinges Sacred were throughout ye nation Either demolisht or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, Founded this church; Whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in ye worst times, and hoped them in the most callamitous.”

   On Easter Day in that spirit, and at a time of no little tribulation in the Church and culture in general, we dedicated a new baldacchino to enhance our central altar. This was part of an ongoing project to furnish our church with art and craftsmanship representative of the unsurpassed aesthetic patrimony of Catholicism. Our funds are limited, so this was a work of devotion by the carpenters who attended the dedication, and our own parishioners, including the architect and sculptor. If friends of the parish continue to be generous, we can put our local talent to further use. 

   The High Priests and Pharisees told the Roman governor Pontius Pilate that Jesus had said that He would rise from the dead. They certainly did not believe that, but it made them edgy enough that they asked permission to seal the Tomb. The Living Word, however, always has the last word. Recall the admonition of one of Hannibal’s soldiers after his victory at the battle of Cannae, when he hesitated to march on to Rome: “Vincere scis, victoria uti nescis.” —"You know how to win but you do not know what to do with the victory.” May the Victorious Christ never have to say that about us.