Father George William Rutler Homilies
2018-11-25 - Christ the King

2018-11-25 - Christ the King

November 25, 2018

25 November 2018

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

King of the Universe

John 18:33B-37 + Homily

19 Minutes 35 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version


(from the parish bulletin)

   A mark of first-rate thinkers is their ability to make complex theories understandable. Conversely, muddled thinkers assume that obscurantism is profound. Consider, for instance, a comment made a few months ago by an Italian Jesuit and close advisor to Pope Francis, who wrote: “2 + 2 in theology can equal 5. Because it has to do with God and the real life of people. . .” It was the attempt of a confused mind to justify “situation ethics,” by which sentiment replaces reality. In the lives that people really live, as distinct from indulged lives lived in ivory towers, facts are facts.

   Saint Augustine was a realist: “No man can by force of will say that three times three is not nine.” By her commitment to reality, the Holy Church has been the greatest benefactor of civilization: in theology, philosophy, science, works of charity, and the arts. Étienne Gilson, of the same religion that gave us Pascal and Pasteur, wrote: "We are told that it is faith which constructed the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Without doubt, but faith would have constructed nothing at all if there had not also been architects; and if it is true that the façade of Notre Dame of Paris is a yearning of the soul toward God, that does not prevent its being also a geometrical work. It is necessary to know geometry in order to construct a façade which may be an act of love . . ."

   Perhaps the decline of classical reasoning explains the fuzzy and unsystematic thinking of many who portray themselves as theologians. It explains at least in part how Europe, and Rome itself, once the nursery of great sculpture and architecture, has been foisting on culture such pretentious mockeries of art, as often displayed in recent years in the Venice Biennale and scattered urban galleries. Happily, here at home the current nominee to head the National Endowment for the Arts, Mary Anne Carter, will be able to undo the waste of public monies on sham art, some of which has been blatantly anti-Catholic.

   Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King to celebrate the dominion of the Savior over all creation, sustaining and nurturing every aspect of human knowledge. As the Nazis began to disseminate pagan myths of racism and statism, he had the Vatican Radio broadcast in German: “Twice two makes four, whether you are a Japanese, a German or an Eskimo. There is a truth common to all mankind, and every nation is but a different incarnation of the same truth about man.”

   Saint Paul said that in his own clarion way: “For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

2018-11-18 - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-11-18 - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2018

18 November 2018

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 13:24-32 + Homily

20 Minutes 04 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version


(from the parish bulletin)

   On the day after Thanksgiving, the Church rejoices in the intercessions of Pope Saint Clement of Rome. New Yorkers have a special reason to think of him, two millennia later.
   Clement probably was made a bishop by Saint Peter himself and became the fourth Bishop of Rome after Linus and Cletus. He was the first after Saint Peter to leave a written record. Like Saint Paul, he wrote to the Christians in Corinth, leaving us a clear exposition of the early church structure of Holy Orders, with bishops and priests and deacons.

   The emperor Trajan exiled Clement and sentenced him to death. Tied to an anchor and tossed off a boat, his body was delivered to Rome several centuries later, still with its anchor, by Saint Cyril of Egypt. About a dozen years after Clement’s martyrdom, Trajan commiserated with the governor of Bithynia in northern Turkey, Pliny the Younger, about how to better control the Christians:

   "You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it—that is, by worshiping our gods—even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age."

   The foundations of the present church of Saint Clement in Rome are a timeline of the progress of the Faith. The lowest chamber was a second-century shrine for the dark and mysterious cult of Mithras, dear to soldiers. Above that is a secret fourth-century house church. The present upper church was completed before 1100. It contains the relics of Saint Cyril who, along with his brother Saint Methodius, evangelized the Slavs and created the Glagolitic alphabet, precedent to the Cyrillic script that Russians still use. 

   In the eighteenth century, the church and its friary were given to Irish Dominicans, one of whom, Father Richard Concanen became the first bishop of New York, but never left Italy because of a Napoleonic blockade. Another Dominican from Saint Clement’s, Father John Connolly, became the first resident bishop of New York, whose diocese covered all of the state and part of New Jersey, with just three churches and four priests. He traveled over one thousand miles on horseback, ministering to his flock.

   If the bones of Saint Clement could speak, they’d explain perfectly well why these New Yorkers were bishops and what they were doing in the name of Christ.


2018-11-11 - Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-11-11 - Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 11, 2018

11 November 2018

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12:38-44 + Homily

17 Minutes 7 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version


(from the parish bulletin)

   Pier 54 on the Hudson River is a short walk from our church. On display are pictures of the Titanic and the Lusitania, which is not encouraging for public relations. The Titanic was supposed to berth there, but instead the Carpathia arrived with surviving passengers. Seven years before, my grandmother had sailed on the Carpathia

   The sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat brought the United States into the Great War. Film footage shows passengers arriving at Pier 54 to embark on May 1, 1915. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew on the Lusitania’s manifest, 1,198 died. Toscanini had planned to be on board, but took an earlier ship after bad reviews of his performance of Carmen. Jerome Kern missed the ship when his alarm clock failed—otherwise, we’d not have “Ol’ Man River” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” The dancer Isadora Duncan cancelled her ticket to save money, and the actress Ellen Terry backed off because of war jitters. 

   One casualty of the Lusitania sinking was Father Basil Maturin, Catholic chaplain at Oxford University, returning from a lecture tour. He spurned a lifeboat and gave away his life jacket. That was reminiscent of Monsignor John Chadwick, later pastor of the Church of Saint Agnes here in Manhattan, who barely survived the sinking of the Maine which incited the Spanish-American War. The monsignor was hailed as a hero by the sailors he saved.

   If his chauffeur had not taken a wrong turn on the streets of Sarajevo in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand might not have been assassinated, and the domino effect of national alliances would have not brought on the collapse of empires. At the Somme, more than one million troops were killed or wounded, and the war’s total casualties were 37.5 million dead or wounded. One year after the war, there was only one man between the ages of 18 and 30 for every 15 women. Each town and school in Britain has memorials to those lost. Both of my own grandmother’s brothers were killed in Ypres, and that was considered the norm. The United States lost 116,000 men with over 200,000 wounded. Europe has never really recovered. Military strategists were not prepared for modernized combat, and it has been said that the armies were lions led by donkeys. In a macabre way, the chief winners of that cultural suicide were Lenin and Hitler.

   Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of the Armistice signaled by a bugle at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. The poet Siegfried Sassoon, decorated for bravery, was latterly put in a psychiatric ward for begging an end to the killing. He became a Catholic and is buried near the grave of Monsignor Ronald Knox whom he admired. In tribute to one of his fallen comrades, he wrote:

I know that he is lost among the stars, 
And may return no more but in their light.


2018-11-04 - Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018-11-04 - Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 4, 2018

4 November 2018

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12:28B-34 + Homily

17 Minutes 35 Seconds

Link to the Readings (USA Version):


(from the parish bulletin)

   Nostalgia is a selective editing of the past. For instance, there are those who wish we had today some of the architects of thirteenth-century cathedrals, but who avoid mentioning thirteenth-century dentists. In recent times, the general conceit has been the opposite of nostalgia. The philosopher Owen Barfield spoke of "chronological snobbery," defined as the belief that "intellectually, humanity languished for countless generations in the most childish errors on all sorts of crucial subjects, until it was redeemed by some scientific dictum of the last century."   

   That snobbery had its heyday in the past generation, which defined itself as mankind finally “come of age.” Were that true, we should now be in the stage of incipient senility. Catholics are suffering from that period’s destructive arrogance. Just look at the circular churches and ugly music that replaced venerable shrines and chants. Characteristic of that polyester period was the underestimation of evil, which Pope Benedict XVI noticed even in some assertions of the Second Vatican Council. Without explanation, the Prayer to Saint Michael was dropped from the liturgical books in 1964. But “Satan and all the evil spirits” have not politely gone away.

   That prayer was promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. Accounts variously claim that he was inspired by a vision of horrors to come in the twentieth century. Its use remained a private option after recitation of the prayer was dropped from the end of Mass, but in 1994 Pope Saint John Paul II, from his experience of travails in his native Poland, was not inclined to underestimate the power of the wickedness and snares of the devil: “I invite everyone not to forget it, but to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

   Far from having “come of age,” chronological snobs have learned the hard way that theirs has been a prolonged adolescence. In our present cultural chaos, faced with moral decadence all around, the pope and bishops have asked that the Prayer to Saint Michael be restored at the conclusion of each Mass. In our parish we have not had to reinstate it because we never ceased to offer that prayer after Mass, sometimes to the consternation of a few who thought it retrograde. When the Barque of Peter is tossed by storms, it is time to bring the life jackets out of the storage where some liturgists hid them.

   Our church is providentially dedicated to Saint Michael, and a month ago the Catholic News Service published a photograph of our own statue of him, based on the famous painting by Guido Reni. Generations ago, the people of “Hell’s Kitchen” knew that Michael and his sword would be a better defense in battle than liturgical dancers and the balloons of chronological snobs. They also knew, as Baudelaire said, that “The devil’s greatest trick is to persuade us that he does not exist.”


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