Father George William Rutler Homilies
2018-07-29 - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-07-29 - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 29, 2018

29 July 2018

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6:1-15 + Homily

17 Minutes 1 Second

(from the parish bulletin)

  While our weekly parish bulletin continues through the season, it is our custom to suspend my weekly column through the month of August until Labor Day. I do not take a vacation (for reasons I explained half a dozen years ago in an essay called “Vacation Trials and Tribulations,” available on the Crisis Magazine website.)

   Summer is supposed to be a time of repose, and that has bid me reflect on how our Lord himself “rested” on the Sabbath. That image intensifies the fact, corroborated in the totally separate sphere of physics, that he brought all things into existence from a “void,” the word for which we draw from Greek as “chaos.” God is not a God of chaos but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). The saints, in the most tumultuous times, have an inner serenity reflecting this.

   Our nation now boasts unprecedented material prosperity and thankworthy low unemployment, but these benefits can only be enjoyed if man’s true joy is found in God. Despite the many favorable indexes of our current material order, there seem to be unprecedented explosions of chaotic hatred and bitterness in daily discourse. These are polemical evidences of separation from the consolations of holiness. Atheists are the bitterest of people, and those who cloak their distance from God under the euphemisms of secular progress become most violent when the philosophical bubble in which they have been comfortable, is punctured by reality.

   Because the human life is meant for happiness, people will strive for peace of soul, unless they decide to make a bargain with Satan: “Evil, be thou my good.” For instance, the chaos unleashed by atheistic Communism in Russia was truly diabolic, and not merely a malfunction of socio-economic policy. It is recorded that Stalin, one of the world’s worst mass murders, died with a frightening look in his eyes, as he pointed an evil finger at those around his deathbed. And yet, his cooperator in evil, Georgy Malenkov, who succeeded him as Premier of the Soviet Union, escaped purges and died in 1988, a convert in the calm embrace of Russian Orthodoxy, singing in a choir at the Divine Liturgy.

   Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, understandably perplexed throughout life, became a Roman Catholic in 1982 on the Feast of Saint Lucy the Martyr, and after years in exile as a daily communicant, she died in Wisconsin in 2011. This is the peace “not as the world gives” (John 14:27), but as only Christ can convey it, and every Christian is commissioned by baptism to show it to others.

   I suppose this is prelude to mentioning that Ignatius Press has just published a collection of my essays entitled “Calm in Chaos.” I cannot claim that they will calm unsettled minds, perhaps the opposite, but they might offer some repose in these warm weeks, occasioning thanks that our God is not a God of chaos.

2018-07-25 - Feast of St. James

2018-07-25 - Feast of St. James

July 29, 2018

25 July 2018

Feast of St. James

Matthew 20:20-28 + Homily

21 Minutes 30 Seconds

2018-07-16 - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-07-16 - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 22, 2018

22 July 2018

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 6:30-34 + Homily

15 Minutes 5 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   Samuel Taylor Coleridge indulged his romantic naiveté in suggesting that culture should be governed by an educated elite, which he called a “clerisy.” The word had the same root as “cleric,” since the clergy had a pre-eminent role in erudition. Coleridge meant it to include all who were versed in higher thought. He was ignorant of the dictum that an intellectual is often someone educated beyond his intelligence. Knowledge is not wisdom. Common sense thrives best among those whom the clerisy caste tend to patronize as common.

   Along with professors and bureaucrats, the clergy have to be careful, since clerisy is a relentless illusion. The clergy are at their best when they proclaim the solid Gospel, and they can be at their weakest when they assume a prerogative to comment on problems outside their competence. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops published in 1983 a pastoral letter on disarmament, “The Challenge of Peace,” which, if taken seriously, might have prevented the fall of the Berlin Wall six years later. Their pastoral letter on economics in 1986, “Economic Justice for All,” prescribed a big-government solution that could have thwarted the economic boom that ensued despite them. The clerisy rejected a cogent critique of “Economic Justice” chaired by the former Secretary of the Treasury, William Simon, and supported by Secretary of State Alexander Haig and J. Peter Grace, among others. Opponents of the peace pastoral, Archbishop Philip Hannan and then-Bishop John J. O’Connor, were ignored even though Hannan was the only bishop who had served in World War II, and the future cardinal was auxiliary bishop for the Armed Forces.

   Recently, a bishop suggested that anyone who supported laws on illegal immigration might be subject to canonical penalties, a stricture he did not invoke against Catholic congressmen in his state who support abortion. The bishops have also disagreed with the Supreme Court’s defense of the right to work for federal employees. Clerisy often prefers gratuitous politics to doctrinal orthodoxy.

   Then there is the curious inconsistency of a cardinal who has said that priests “have no credibility” when it comes to marriage instruction because they have not been married themselves. Having prepared over eight hundred people for marriage, I might venture to enlist most of them in witness against his demurral from competence, and would also ask, if that cardinal is correct, why does he not see any inconsistency in declaring this as prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. Pope Francis has said that “no one better than [a priest] knows” the challenges that married couples face. Clerisy may be well-intentioned, but Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said that the road to Hell is full of good intentions.

   Clerisy does have its flaws, in witness to which one might conjure the ghost of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who, despite his erudition, died from recourse to opium.

2018-07-15 - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-07-15 - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2018

15 July 2018

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 6:7-13 + Homily

13 Minutes 45 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   It may be the seasonal heat that incubates revolutionary sentiments, since both Independence Day and Bastille Day occurred in the feverish days of July. One admires the temperance of our Founding Fathers meeting in Philadelphia in un-airconditioned rooms. The other revolution unleashed more violent passions against a devout monarch who, like Charles I and later Nicholas II, inherited the consequences of less benign forebears. There were excesses in the American colonies, but pulling down the statue of George III was unlike the French actually beheading their king and queen.

   Inasmuch as the “infamy” that excited the tarring and feathering by Americans was a matter of parliamentary representation and taxation, it was genteel compared to the “infâme” in Paris which meant destruction of the Christian social order. In Philadelphia, no Goddess of Reason was enthroned on the communion table of Christ Church, nor was George Washington drenched in blood when he prayed in Saint Paul’s Chapel before his inauguration. I say this not in a pejorative spirit, for I think many Frenchmen would agree with me, and I have been exhilarated by several Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, with their unsurpassed elegance, albeit absent the concomitant enormities of the Reign of Terror.

   What differentiates the two revolutions, is the invocation versus the rejection of God. In one sense, the American Revolution was not a revolution at all, for it asserted the historic claims of citizens as Englishmen mantled with the protestations of the Magna Carta, which had been neglected by more recent German occupiers of the throne. My prejudices are compromised by the fact that my French paternal antecedents were compatriots with Rochambeau and Lafayette, and my English maternal ancestors in their Cheshire regiment may even have taken aim at the Massachusetts militiaman who fired the shot heard round the world.

   In America, there were fanatics like Sam Adams, whose eponymous beer should be a caution to God-fearing men, and Tom Paine, who disdained religion. But many more thoughtful American patriots invoked John Locke and, with a few unmeasured exceptions, would have found zealots like the Jacobins ridiculous.

   French Revolutionaries tried to substitute the Catholic Church with a mockery of it, rather like what is going on in today’s China. The Constitutional Church would have no pope and its clergy would be compliant state agents, and so forth. The Devil knows how to choreograph religious anarchy. Because Washington did not contradict divine order, he did not end up on the chopping block like Robespierre.

   All of that pales in comparison with the only revolution that truly counts, for it changed the world permanently: when Christ rose from the dead, he set free vital germs of human rights, social progress, philanthropy, the philosophical matrix for science, universities, the consciousness of a Creator who made the world a channel of grace strengthened by moral order, and, finally—shown by a mercy divine—the prospect of life eternal.

2018-07-08 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-07-08 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 8, 2018

8 July 2018

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 6:1-6 + Homily

17 Minutes 8 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

  There is no limit to the excuses ideologues will make to promote theory over fact. Consider attempts to justify Aztec human sacrifice in the interest of “multiculturalism.” Archeological discoveries of massive numbers of victims are being explained away as not really significant. The estimable scholar, Victor Davis Hanson, has written: “For the useful idiot, multiculturalism is supposedly aimed at ecumenicalism and hopes to diminish difference by inclusiveness and non-judgmentalism. But mostly it is a narcissistic fit, in which the multiculturalist offers a cheap rationalization of non-Western pathologies . . .”
 

   Like hyperbole about the Spanish Inquisition, refuted by the latest scholarship, the “Black Legend” would have us believe that the Spaniards destroyed a benign and creative civilization in Mesoamerica. The Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, a missionary and pioneer anthropologist who translated the Gospel into the Aztec Nahuatl language, represents the best of a not unblemished Hispanic cultural imperative that led to the abolition of human sacrifice, though at a cost, for many Spaniards were cannibalized by the Acolhuas, Aztec allies. Similarly, it was the influence of Christian missionaries like William Carey that banned the Hindu practice of “sati,” the cremation of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres in the Indian principalities. Between 1815 and 1818, 839 widows were burnt alive in Bengal province alone. A general ban was enforced by Queen Victoria in 1861, the year her own husband died, but sati was still practiced in Nepal until 1920.
 

   One estimate has 80,400 Aztec captives sacrificed in 1487 at the re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlán. Although the actual figure may have been lower, the cutting out of hearts from victims still alive is an intolerable barbarity, graphically depicted in the film Apocalypto, which shows such rites among the earlier Mayan people. A mixed-race descendant of Cortez, Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxóchitl, calculated that 20% of the infants and children in the general “Mexica” area were sacrificed annually to appease rain deities, along with men and women sacrificed in honor of the serpentine god Quetzalcóatl, the jaguar god Tezcatlipoca and the aquiline warrior god Huitzilopochtli.
 

   In the sixteenth century, Montaigne, anticipating Dryden’s “noble savage,” sought to cut the primitive cultures a little slack because he saw barbaric acts among his own European peoples. Those who were scandalized by his analogy then are like those today who commit atrocities under the veneer of progressivism. In 1992, a writer in the leftist Die Zeit of Hamburg rhetorically bent over backwards to deny that the Mesoamericans had committed human sacrifice. We know what happened in his own country among the National Socialist eugenicists.
 

   Sacrifices on the altars of ancient temples cannot match the millions of infants aborted today in sterile clinics. Pope Francis has said, “Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.” Perhaps five centuries from now, revisionists will deny that abortion was ever legal.

2018-07-01 - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-07-01 - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

1 July 2018

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 5:21-43 + Homily

17 Minutes 46 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   Now that the Summer Solstice has passed, and amateur Druids have left their plastic litter at Stonehenge for another year, the human mind has the past six months to reflect upon and the rest of the year to anticipate.

   It is only because humans are in the image of God, which means we are able to think of him and reflect his love that made us, that we have the imaginative gift to picture past and future. Some scientists claim that certain animals have a reduced capacity for doing that, but only humans can say “I can’t imagine . . .” and "Can you imagine...?

   A professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Harari, has speculated that even if there is some minimal ability for other creatures to remember and anticipate, “Only Homo Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. One-on-one or ten-on-ten, chimpanzees may be better than us. But pit 1,000 Sapiens against 1,000 chimps, and the Sapiens will win easily, for the simple reason that 1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.” You also get the Holy Church.

   The Prince of Lies would twist the imagination so that we are haunted rather than hallowed by the past, and hesitant rather than hopeful about the future. The American Psychological Association surveyed 2,000 people and found that only one percent of them wanted to know about what is to come.
 
   Our Lord did not tell the apostles about the future, except to say, “Follow me.” So the doctors of the soul bid us say upon rising in the morning: “Serviam—I will serve.” Whether you are a Latinist or indulge the vernacular when half awake, that consecrates the day.

   Approximately 3,866 years after the completion of Stonehenge, New Yorkers can watch a similarly spectacular sight when Manhattan becomes a sundial here on our worst and best of streets, 34th Street, viewed from the East River right across to our parish along the Hudson. If you missed the Solstice, you can see this phenomenon on July 12 and 13. The sun becomes blinding as the east-west grid aligns with the sunset and creates a spectacle that has come to be called, in competition with the Druids, “Manhattanhenge.” The sun will sink below the skyscrapers at 8:20 pm on Thursday and on Friday at 8:21 pm.

   I have the selfish privilege of going into our church to pray after the doors are locked at sunset, with the noise of 34th Street shut outside. The mellow light filters through the nineteenth-century German glass windows. “And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23).