Father George William Rutler Homilies
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.

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