2018-10-21 - Twenty -Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 21, 2018

21 October 2018

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10:35-45 + Homily

20 Minutes 37 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102118.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

   There are those who would not let facts get in the way of theory, and such was the English philosopher Herbert Spencer who promoted the “survival of the fittest.” This “Social Darwinism” theorized that the weak and poor would gradually die out to make way for an inevitable social progress. He was idolized by Andrew Carnegie, even though that richest man in the world was generous in philanthropies that Spencer disdained. Carnegie prevailed upon his mentor to visit Pittsburgh, whose Bessemer mills were supposed to be a model of social progress. Spencer confessed: “Six months’ residence here would justify suicide.”

   Spencer’s theory that people are shaped by culture rather than shaping it, opposed the “great man” theory of the historian Thomas Carlyle, for whom culture is shaped by individuals of “Godly inspiration and personality.” But Carlyle did acknowledge the influence of cultural conditions and, moreover, warned that personal influence could be benign or evil.

   The greatest figures in history have been the saints, for their spiritual influence is more long-lasting than even their political impact. Consider two saints that the Church celebrates this week.

   Saint John of Capistrano was a skilled lawyer and diplomat in the fifteenth century. As governor of Perugia in Italy, his reforms were so radical that he was arrested by some who needed reformation. The imprisonment afforded him time to reflect on what really changes society, and he became a Franciscan. He did not relinquish his powerful mind and energy when he relinquished glamor, and he became a polyglot missionary throughout more than a dozen countries in Europe. His crowds were so huge that he had to preach outdoors, and he could be heard by 125,000 without a microphone. In 1456, at the age of 70, he joined the Hungarian general Hunyadi in lifting the siege of Budapest, riding on horseback into overwhelming numbers of Ottoman Turks, and saving western civilization.

   Another saint we celebrate this week is Pope John Paul II. On his return to Poland as Vicar of Christ, the nervous hands of the Communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski shook, and soon afterward the Marxist empire collapsed. As Karol Wojtyla, his Polish culture shaped him, with its legacy of heroism and suffering, and he in turned shaped much of our present world.

   If our secular schools and media are bewildered by the influence of saints, and do not mention them, it is because any recognition of their existence must acknowledge the existence of God who made them heroically virtuous beyond the abilities of the naturally great. Saint John Paul II wrote in the encyclical Centesimus Annus:

   “For an adequate formation of a culture, the involvement of the whole man is required, whereby he exercises his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people. Furthermore, he displays his capacity for self-control, personal sacrifice, solidarity and readiness to promote the common good.”

 

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2018-10-18 - Feast of St. Luke

October 21, 2018

18 October 2018

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Luke 10:1-9 + Homily

15 Minutes 50 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101818.cfm

 

 

 

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2018-10-14 - Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2018

14 October 2018

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10:17-30 + Homily

16 Minutes 57 Seconds

Link to Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101418.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

   Last Sunday was the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, a conflict that saved civilization on the seventh of October, 1571. The day after that anniversary marked the celebration of the life of Christopher Columbus, an observance that has become muted by polemicists who do not understand the significance of events. Were it not for the courage of the 41-year-old Columbus braving the uncharted ocean to the west to avoid the Mediterranean blockade by Islamic jihadists in 1492, and the valor of the 24-year-old Don Juan of Austria, who commanded the Holy League fleet in the Straits of Corinth in 1571, we would not exist today in what we still call a civilized form of nature.

   Columbus invoked the Blessed Virgin’s protection each day, ringing the Angelus bell. On his arrival in the West Indies, a grateful local populace thanked him for saving them from marauding Carib cannibals. The Franciscans who accompanied him proclaimed the Gospel, putting a stop to the Aztec sacrifices of about fifty thousand human victims annually. The spread of the Gospel was so rapid that Don Juan’s flagship in 1571 carried an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that had been touched to the original miraculous image imprinted on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma exactly forty years earlier.

   Columbus could not have made it to the New World without the astrolabe, whose design had been perfected four centuries before by a young Benedictine monk, Blessed Hermann of Reichenau. Blessed Hermann had been so crippled by congenital deformities, that many barbaric modern doctors acting on the results of amniocentesis would have aborted him. Countless are the discoveries that could have been made by recent generations of those whose right to life was erased by an autonomous decree of our Supreme Court.

   The Holy See has convened a Synod on Youth, with laudatory intent to form the next generation of Catholics. But its draft syllabus has been supine, expressing a desire to “accompany” and “learn” from youth rather than instruct them. The sailors with Columbus and Don Juan would have laughed at that. It is not the job of the Church to “accompany” the young in their ways of naiveté, but to commission youthful vigor to spread the joy of the Gospel. 

   Pope Saint Gregory did not pander to young people by flattering them: “Your prophets saw false and foolish visions and did not point out your wickedness, that you might repent of your sins. The name of prophet is sometimes given in the sacred writings to teachers who both declare the present to be fleeting and reveal what is to come. The word of God accuses them of seeing false visions because they are afraid to reproach men for their faults and they consequently lull the evildoer with an empty promise of safety. Because they fear reproach, they keep silent and fail to point out the sinner’s wrongdoing.”

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2018-10-07 - Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 7, 2018

7 October 2018

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10:2-16 + Homily

18 Minutes 40 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100718.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

   The opening line of a children’s poem by Mary Howitt in 1828 is a caution for growing up in a duplicitous world: “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” Christians must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) because we are sent as sheep into a world of wolves. So there we have a whole menagerie of metaphors, all making the same point about naiveté. 

   The best diplomacy secures amity, but at its worst it lets loose ministers who are innocent as serpents and wise as doves. Charles de Gaulle, who was not subtle, said, “Diplomats are useful only in fair weather. As soon as it rains, they drown in every drop.” Without succumbing to cynicism, it is possible to see a mixture of calculation and callowness in the provisional agreement between the Holy See and Communist China, recognizing the primacy of the Pope, but at the price of an unclear arrangement giving the government a role in the appointment of bishops. 

   Ever since Constantine, and certainly since Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne in 800, ecclesiastical and civil threads have been intertwined. The mediaeval Investiture Controversies were background for the sixteenth-century appointment privileges granted to the French crown and the Concordat between Pius VII with Napoleon. In the year that Mary Howitt wrote about the Spider, nearly five of every six bishops in Europe were appointed by the heads of state. Right into modern times, Spain and Portugal invoked the PatronatoReal and the Padroado, but these involved governments that were at least nominally Catholic. The 1933 Reichskonkordat with the Nazi government was not the proudest achievement of the Church. The Vatican’s accommodationist “Ostpolitik” in the 1960s, made Cardinal Mindszenty a living martyr.  The Second Vatican Council sought, largely successfully, to reserve the appointment of bishops to the Sovereign Pontiff (Christus Dominus, n. 20).

   It was my privilege to know Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei of Shanghai, who endured thirty years in prison, and Archbishop Dominic Tang Yee-Ming of Canton who was imprisoned for twenty-two years, seven of them in solitary confinement. The eighty-seven-year-old Cardinal Archbishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen, sees a betrayal of those who have suffered so much for Christ. Time will tell if the present diplomacy is wise. An architect of this agreement, Cardinal Parolin, said: “The Church in China does not want to replace the state, but wants to make a positive and serene contribution for the good of all.” His words are drowned out by the sound of bulldozers knocking down churches while countless Christians languish in “re-education camps.”

   A fourteenth-century maxim warned: “He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.” For spoon we might now say chopsticks. When it comes to cutting deals with governments, it is sobering to recall that of the Twelve Apostles only one was a diplomat, and he hanged himself.

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2018-09-30 - Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

September 30, 2018

30 September 2018

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

Patronal Feast of the Parish

(transferred from 29 September 2018)

John 1:47-51+ Homily

16 Minutes 32 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092918.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

   Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860 with only 39.8 percent of the popular vote and was so loathed that he had to take a night train secretly into Washington for his inauguration. The Salem Advocate in his own state of Illinois editorialized: “…he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. People now marvel how it came to pass that Mr. Lincoln should have been selected as the representative man of any party. His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world.” Two years later, the author Richard Henry Dana reported: "As to the politics of Washington, the most striking thing is the absence of personal loyalty to the President. It does not exist. He has no admirers, no enthusiastic supporters, none to bet on his head.”

   Against the rising tide of hate, Lincoln maintained his balance with quiet humor. And humor as the perception of imbalance is a strong defense against irrational people whose defining characteristic is a humorless lack of proportion. There is much hatred in our culture today, which has abandoned self-deprecation and has replaced humor with caustic vulgarity. It is not melodramatic to say that when people abandon Christ, they embrace the Anti-Christ who laughs not with us, but at us.

   The viciousness of current politics, perhaps even worse than Lincoln knew in his time, is a dance of despair that logically results from rejecting the logic of Christ who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” When people lose hope in eternal verities, they resort to slander instead of discourse, desperately shouting mockeries from Senate balconies and university platforms. The enemy becomes not the unjust, but the just: “The godless say to themselves: ‘Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us and opposed our way of life…’” (Wisdom 2:12).

   As human nature does not change, it is not surprising that Saint James accurately took the moral temperature of our generation back in his own: “Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something, and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force” (James 4:1-2).

   When people shout in hate and demonize their opponents, it is because hateful demons are at work. Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost realized that he could not match God’s creation of beautiful man and woman in his image, so he must deface that image by the seductive charm of evil in disguise: “So farewell hope, and with hope, farewell fear, / Farewell remorse! All good to me is lost; / Evil, be thou my good.”

 

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2018-09-23 - Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 23, 2018

23 September 2018

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 9:30-37 + Homily

15 Minutes 56 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092318.cfm

(From the parish bulletin)

   The selection of Saint Michael as our parish’s patron in 1857 certainly was inspired. Who could be a better champion in “Hell’s Kitchen” than that heavenly soldier wielding the sword, as the great statue in our church shows him? As angels are pure spirit and sublime intelligence, it is tempting for mortals of flesh and limited intelligence to pretend that they are fictions, but many times in meeting strangers we may “entertain angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

   Michael, whose name means “no one is like God,” leads a combat that is even more violent for being spiritual and not merely political. Spiritual combat is virulent now, when virtually every social institution is confused and angry, and harshly so in the Church, which is more than a human invention and is in fact the “Body of Christ”—that is, his living presence on earth. Our Lord predicted “… that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” (Mark 8:31).

   In 1776 Thomas Paine wrote contemptuously of “the summer soldier and sunshine patriot” who flees when the going gets rough. Such are those who claim to have been baptized as Soldiers of Christ but who flee from spiritual combat when they are scandalized by news of sin. There is a parallel here with what a recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind, describes as a young generation living in a cultural bubble protected from psychological discomfort. They are so cushioned from the hard facts of life that they flee into “safe spaces” when traumatized by reality.

   Saint Augustine said, “In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.” Church leaders who have been chortling glad-handers cannot give a good account because they have been summer solders and sunshine patriots. When the clouds gather, and battle lines are drawn, they are unable to confront what Belloc called Satan’s “comic inversion of our old certitudes.”

   It has actually been suggested that Satan is exposing the sins of men in order to discourage the faithful. But the Prince of Lies exposes nothing. He has long been the cover-up artist. The Holy Spirit does the revealing: “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17). 

   “Saint Michael the Archangel, protect me against the ruses and temptations of Satan. I consecrate to you all the faculties of my soul, my soul itself and all its potentials. Guard well the weaknesses of my poor nature, that the many battles that I may undergo will become as many victories and the eternal glory of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

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2018-09-20 - St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon

September 23, 2018

20 September 2018

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Luke 9:23-26 + Homily

20 Minutes 10 Seconds

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2018-09-16 - Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 16, 2018

16 September 2018

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 8:27-36 + Homily

16 Minutes 17 Seconds

Today's Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091618.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

On the ninth of October in 1845, Blessed John Henry Newman was received into the Catholic Church by the Passionist priest Blessed Dominica Barberi. On the 150th Anniversary of that meeting of saints, to the very hour, I had the privilege of offering Mass in the little room where it took place.   

   Newman’s decision was hard, as he had devoted his life to many souls whom he would have to leave. On September 25, 1843, he preached his sermon of farewell—“The Parting of Friends"—in the church he had built. This means that next week will be its 175th anniversary. His sermon ended with lines that belong to literature as well as to piety:

   And, O my brethren, O kind and affectionate hearts, O loving friends, should you know any one whose lot it has been, by writing or by word of mouth, in some degree to help you thus to act; if he has ever told you what you knew about yourselves, or what you did not know; has read to you your wants or feelings, and comforted you by the very reading; has made you feel that there was a higher life than this daily one, and a brighter world than that you see; or encouraged you, or sobered you, or opened a way to the inquiring, or soothed the perplexed; if what he has said or done has ever made you take interest in him and feel well inclined towards him; remember such a one in time to come, though you hear him not, and pray for him, that in all things he may know God's will, and at all times he may be ready to fulfil it.
   
   Some years before, Newman had traveled to Italy where he entered unfamiliar churches: “I neither understood nor tried to understand the Mass service—and I did not know, or did not observe, the tabernacle Lamp—but now after tasting of the awful delight of worshipping God in His Temple, how unspeakably cold is the idea of a Temple without that Divine Presence! One is tempted to say what is the meaning, what is the use of it?”

   Newman would later realize the effect of the Blessed Sacrament reserved for adoration, and what he said could describe our situation on 34th Street: “It is really most wonderful to see this Divine Presence looking out almost into the open streets from the various Churches . . . I never knew what worship was, as an objective fact, till I entered the Catholic Church.”

   Ours is a restless city, and no more serene these days is this earthly part of the Holy Catholic Church. Visitors stop by hourly to look at our building, and whether known or not, the axle on which our world turns, often shakily, is that Presence with the candle burning by it.

 

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2018-09-09 - Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 9, 2018

9 September 2018

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:31-37 + Homily

17 Minutes 21 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   A rare gift is to be the pastor of a parish, and one  of its greatest benefactions is a fatherly part in the lives of so many people.  One thinks of the film “Good bye Mr. Chips” when the venerable schoolmaster sees in his memory’s eye all the lads he had taught over generations.  That is why at each Mass there is a timeless family reunion, when all the departed of the parish are invoked at the altar.  I do not envy prelates and other officials who, albeit obedient to their vocation, have not had long experience as a pastor. 

   This struck me recently when I received a newly published four volume set of a collection of my pastoral letters going back many years, and elegantly bound in leather: “A Year with Father Rutler.”  Perhaps the bindings are superior to the content.  This was not my initiative, and  I had  little to with it.  Much of what is worthy in the pages is the work of the editor, Duncan Maxwell Anderson.  His family is a model of the blessings of a pastor, for I received Duncan into the Church, married him to his super wife, baptized all four daughter and son who serves often here as an altar boy, married the oldest daughter and recently baptized her first baby. So the generations move on, and these end of summer days I think lines from the “September Song” which was first performed on Broadway in 1938 with music by Kurt Weill:  "For it's a long, long time,/From May to December,/And the winds grow cold,/When they reach September,"   Even surpassing the beautiful wistful music are those lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, the distinguished playwright, novelist, and songwriter.  Our good parishioner  Duncan is named for his grandfather who wrote those words.

   Moving from May into September, it may be said without understatement that this has not been an uneventful summer.   What we may make of events in the Church as they unfold remains to be seen, but for the faithful, the consideration of corruption and dishonesty in its many forms, can only move one to thankfulness that the Lord who cleansed the Temple of thieves is now at work exposing and wiping away what has sullied the holiness of the Church for which our Lord died to give us.  Like resetting a broken limb, the process is not gentle but the result will be of inestimable good.  As no on is born without an assignment vouchsafed to God alone, it is a special honor to be chosen by our Creator to live in days of salvation history which by their critical nature require that those alive now be nothing less than what Saint Paul described: “… servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Here, furthermore, it is sought in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

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2018-09-02 - Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018

2 September 2018

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 + Homily

17 Minutes 57 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

As is our custom, the Pastor's Column does not appear in the weeks of August, and will be resumed after Labor Day. Fr. Rutler wishes to thank you for all your interest and support.

For summer reading,  Father Rutler's latest book, "Calm in Chaos," is now available through the publisher, Ignatius Press, and can also be ordered on Amazon

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