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God’s “Scandal of Particularity,” by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
September 18, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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A certain kind of journalism thrives on scandals, but they are not what theologians or any kind of deep thinkers mean by a scandal. A “skandalon” is a stick in a trap that ensnares an animal that touches it and, intellectually, it is a mental trap on the path to truth. Saint Paul said that the concept of God becoming human in Christ was a kind of joke for the Greek philosophers who enjoyed playing with words, but for the Jews to whom God had revealed himself as singular and lofty, it was scandalous to the ultimate degree. The philosophers in Athens smirked, but the rabbis in Jerusalem beat their breasts in anguish.

The “Scandal of Particularity,” which has challenged theologians, is the fact that the immeasurable Creator of the Universe is concerned with the minutest details of his creation, to the extent that he both dwells in Eternity and also is born as a man in his own created time and space. But a related scandal is this: each human being is of huge value to God, so much so that he dies to unite each one of us to him.

Some serious theologians without the gift of faith might react to this with a shudder, like the ancient rabbis. Others who do not believe in God at all simply dismiss the idea with a flick of the hand. For them, the only value of a human is what he can produce for the benefit of others, be it scientific or artistic, or just cleaning windows and digging coal. In that calculus, an individual is worth a fraction of a crow and counts only as part of a mob. If an unborn baby is inconvenient to the mother, it may be aborted, and if an elderly lady finds it hard to climb stairs or remember who she is, she may be euthanized.

Unclear thinkers of our day who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” want a God who is an amorphous vapor, making no demands of them and merely justifying their animal passions and providing background music when they look at a sunset. That sorry misuse of the imagination will never understand why Jesus looks for the lost sheep and embraces the prodigal son who has tired of living like a pig.

How many people Josef Stalin killed is debated. Solzhenitsyn figured it was about 60 million, but a generally accepted figure according to one calculation is “only 20 million.” Jesus never spoke of “only one lost sheep.” Neither would he agree with Stalin that “one death is a tragedy; one thousand is a statistic.” In our culture, the proposition that each human life is of infinite value scandalizes, but it also is the substance of our faith in the Word made flesh. “You were bought at a price . . .” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
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A Son’s Prayer to the World: September 11, 2016

Finally! I found a YouTube video which captured the 9/11/16 remembrance. I downloaded it, edited it, and produced this 8 minute video for my Mom and all the other victims’ family and friends.

Can A Catholic Parish Pastor be Impeached? Seriously!

Can a Catholic Parish Pastor Be Impeached? Seriously!

I recognize that there are both good and bad priests. Here’s a quick, real story. Tell me what you think:

My Mom died on 9/11 at the age of 76. Each year I arrange for a Catholic Mass to be said each year for her on that day. For the past 7 years it has been standard to bring a photo of my Mom to display near the altar.

This year was no exception. I arranged for the Mass last November and I made arrangements for a family member to bring the photo to the designated Mass this 9/11. I could not be there as I was a reader of names at Ground Zero at the same time.

The night before as the clock was about to turn 9/11, the pastor wrote me to say he would NOT display her picture as he himself had done several times in the past. I wrote back to appeal and he dismissed me by saying, “This conversation is over” and said he would block my email if I wrote him again on the matter. He offered no justifiable reason.

This is the same pastor who last year blocked me from the parish Facebook Page after I refused to stop posting pro-life sentiments on that site.

And finally, this is the same man who threatened to remove me from my Lector, Committee, and other parish ministries if I didn’t stop asking for his support.
Not what I would consider a compassionate and merciful man of the cloth.

And please, don’t ask me to inform my Bishop in Trenton, NJ. I’ve tried in the past and they always pick up his tail.
So again I ask, can a “Catholic” pastor be impeached?

nic

P.S. I am usually the last to air the Church’s dirty laundry in public, but I just can’t let this one stand. I and my family have been grossly disrespected. In fairness, I have not mentioned his name.

 

“Deification” is a Grant by God’s Will by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 31, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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One of my parishioners, now gone to the Lord, taught himself at least eight languages. This served Vernon A. Walters well in various important diplomatic roles and as a translator for presidents. Charles de Gaulle said, “Nixon, you gave a magnificent speech, but your interpreter was eloquent.”

In a higher realm, something similar might be said of Sylvanus, sometimes called Silas (1 Peter 5:12). What Peter dictated was of the Holy Spirit, but Silvanus gave it a fine grammatical touch, and so we have some expressions as eloquent as they are immortal, like the “precious promises” by which “you might be partakers of the divine nature . . .” (2 Peter 1:4).

These words have to be understood carefully, lest they be twisted into some sort of Buddhist or Mormon confusion about humanity and divinity. “Deification” is a grant by God’s will. Saint Maximos (d. 662) said, “All that God is, except for an identity of being, one becomes when one is deified by grace.” Peter, along with James and John, was dozing as the Master prayed to his Father in his Agony: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23). Yet Peter had already seen this glory with the same sons of Zebedee on the mountain of the Transfiguration, which feast we celebrate this coming Saturday. Christ had to explain to Peter the meaning of the divine light that had bewildered him.

That glorious occasion was followed immediately by chaotic scenes at the base of the mountain: a sick boy thrashing about, and fierce words from Jesus about Satan. It is an instruction to us about life in the Church, for glimpses of glory are often followed if not overshadowed, by suffering and sin. In my book He Spoke to Us there is a chapter called “The Transfiguration of the Church” because the Transfiguration of Christ is a lesson in the drama of the Church throughout history: the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly are in tension, but they never blend into a mess. That is as true here in Hell’s Kitchen in New York and any neighborhood as it was in Galilee.

In the temporal life of the Church are some of the saddest disappointments precisely because the same Church is the home of the world’s hope; and scandals and human failings are made more lurid in contrast to the sublime radiance which is the Church’s bright gift to a dark world that otherwise would accept evil as the norm. No syntax of Silvanus could make more elegant the essence of the humble Fisherman’s astonishment: “We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:18).

With the opening of the new #7 Subway Line’s Hudson Yards station, it’s now easier to visit and attend Mass at St. Michael’s. Click for more details

Creation is Logical in Christ the Logos by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 24, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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The city during summer has a different tone, with many people away but also with all sorts of tourists. In these weeks we are deep into “Ordinary Time” and unless the liturgical meaning of that is understood, it does not seem very interesting. Crowds do not gather to see something that is advertised as perfectly ordinary. But Ordinary Time means that the weeks are numbered. The English word “order” comes from the Latin word for numbers in a series, ordinalis. The fact that there is any order at all in the world is a splendid mystery, but if you don’t believe that a Creator ordered it, the astonishing mystery is only a bewildering puzzle.

Creation is logical, and Ordinary Time is a celebration of the truth that the source of that logic, the “Logos” became a human being and dwelt among us. The ordinariness of Jesus confused those in his hometown: “Where then did this man get all these things?” (Mathew 13:56) In religions invented by ordinary people, the gods and wonderworkers are exotic. In defiance of that naïve convention, Jesus was deceptively ordinary precisely because he created the universal order. That structure was broken by the first sin, which is behind all other sins: the illusion that human egos can replace God. That is why the Perfect Man seemed odd, but it was rather like thinking that someone who is healthy is the odd man out: “He must be out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).

Ancient cultures held that history is cyclical: the “Wheel of Time” eventually repeats itself, with creatures tethered to an inescapable fate. But God has revealed a different picture: history is progressive, and the Bible, which begins in an earthly Garden, ends in a heavenly City. We have a free will to determine the steps we take in that progression. In As You Like It, Shakespeare might give the impression that biography is a fatal cycle, for on the world’s stage “all the men and women merely players” start as infants “mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms” and end life frail again in “second childishness, and mere oblivion…” But that apparent oblivion is not the end, nor do the players reincarnate or linger as dust on some Wheel of Time. The voice of the Logos calls to each soul as to Lazarus: “Come forth.”

The whole mystery is so wonderfully ordered that it hardly seems wonderful at all. George Eliot wrote: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” That is just another way of saying that the most extraordinary thing about the world is that it is so ordinary.

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Facing East at Mass as One by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 17, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea to be Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, with instructions to continue a “reform of the reform.”

After the Second Vatican Council, many changes in the liturgy were done virtually overnight, with no mandate from the Council, but motivated by what Pope Pius XII would have called a romantic “historicism” based on a mistaken understanding of the early Church’s liturgy. Even some well-intentioned but misinformed Catholics have thought that inferior contemporary music and completely vernacular texts were the aim of Vatican II. A growing number of young Catholics understand better what the popes want for the liturgy than some aging people who have not outgrown the confusion of the 1960s and 1970s.

One change, never mentioned by Vatican II, was having the priest as a “presider” face the people all through the Mass. It came at a time when people were increasingly preoccupied with themselves, and it encouraged a psychology of self-absorption. The venerable “ad orientem” posture of the priest, always kept in the Eastern rites, is not a matter of turning his back to the people. Rather, the priest faces East to direct the faithful’s attention away from himself and toward the horizon symbolizing the Resurrection.

The readings and preaching (the “synaxis” or synagogue part) are done facing the people for they are instructive, but the Holy Sacrifice (the “anaphora” or temple part) is offered with everyone facing in the same direction, rather than in what Pope Benedict XVI called an “enclosed circle.” Pope Francis celebrates ad orientem in the Sistine Chapel. It has nothing to do with the placement of the altar, for the venerable manner—as in ancient basilicas—is a free-standing altar. In our own parish church, the ad orientem use is suitable for the altar in the nave as easily as at the older altar.

As Cardinal Sarah points out, liturgical innovations were supposed to invigorate Mass attendance, but they had the opposite effect, not to mention the countless millions of dollars spent on church renovations which in too many cases ruined fine art. His Eminence has asked that parishes institute the ad orientem in the Ordinary Form by Advent, as a thing “good for the Church, good for our people.” Actually, no permission is needed for that, since the original General Instruction of the Roman Missal left the position as a legitimate option, so it may be instituted at any time. The ad orientem use will be a modest change, different from the way innovations were made in the 1960s with tactless abruptness.

Cardinal Sarah said, “The liturgy is not about you and me. It is not where we celebrate our own identity or achievements or exalt or promote our own culture and local religious customs. The liturgy is first and foremost about God and what he has done for us.”

Europe Cannot Survive Without a Christian Sense of Mankind by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 10, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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In 1988 as Pope John Paul II began his speech to the European Parliament, Ian Paisley, a member for Northern Ireland, shouted that the pope was the Antichrist. Another member, Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, seized and with the help of a few others pushed him out of the hall. Since the Archduke was the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, it was as if a thousand years of popes and Holy Roman emperors had come alive again. In 2004, Otto had the joy of watching John Paul beatify his father, the Emperor Karl, in whose army the pope’s own father had devotedly served.

Shortly before his election to the papacy, Benedict XVI wrote a book entitled Europe: Today and Tomorrow. It was prophetic, and poignantly so, in light of the troubles that the European Union is having these days. The constitution of the Union studiously avoided mentioning the role of Christianity in the formation of Europe. The same Union has promoted many policies hostile to moral sanity, which have architected the structure of what successive popes have called a Culture of Death.

Hilaire Belloc said that “the Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.” This could be a very limited and parochial view, but an expansive interpretation means that Europe would not be a triumph of civilization had it not been for the Christian sense of mankind. Europe cannot survive as a cohesive culture with a logical ground for its existence without Christianity as its animating force. This sense is lacking now, and the spiritual life of Europe generally speaking is materialistic and indolent, slothful about any transcendent perspective on life.

In 1980 Pope John Paul II named Saints Cyril and Methodius, representatives of the Eastern or “other lung” of European Christianity, co-patrons of Europe along with Saint Benedict, whose feast we celebrate this week, and whom Pope Paul VI had proclaimed patron of Europe in 1964. In contrast to the functioning model for European unity—which seems to be, for the European Union, an entity bureaucratically sustained—Saint Benedict preserved and promoted European culture through his carefully structured and maintained system of monastic confederations. This was not unlike, albeit in a supernatural order, the structure symptomatic of fast-food chains or international corporations.

Saint Benedict could once again be a unifier of Europe more effective than any bureaucracy in Strasbourg or Brussels. As he wrote in his Rule: “No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brother love in a chaste manner, fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else, and may he lead us all to everlasting life.”

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