• Facebook Apostles

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 10,915 other followers

    • 70,153 Visits
  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.” by Fr. George W. Rutler

bandaged-hand-injury

.

FROM THE PASTOR
April 19, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.
Even in this Easter season, there are those who would nervously employ the secular convention of saying that they want Christ but not his Church, and that they can confess their sins to God without confessing to a priest. This ignores what Jesus did when he rose from the dead: he constructed the Church through his teaching during the forty days before the Ascension, and the first thing he did when he appeared to the apostles was to give them authority to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Saint John wrote that not all the books in the world could contain what Christ did in those forty days, but the Gospel accounts tell all that he wants us to know. The power of what he taught the apostles in that brief time, with the wounds still in his body, is clear in the fact that all of them, save John himself, died brave deaths proclaiming the Resurrection.

Such dying, predicted by Christ, has perdured through all subsequent ages in one way or another. Last week, Pope Francis marked the one hundredth anniversary of the massacre of about 1.5 million Armenian Christians by the Turks, abetted by Imperial German staff officers serving with the Ottoman Empire. The Pope said that “it is necessary, and indeed a duty” to “recall the centenary of that tragic event . . . Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.” The greatest number of killings occurred on appalling death marches of hundreds of miles where the Turks drove women, children and old people (most of the young men had already been massacred) into the Syrian desert. There was no food or water given to the victims along the way—and this was done by design.

Saint Paul, converted by the risen Christ, had evangelized his Turkish homeland. Despite centuries of persecution by Muslims, in 1914 some 15% of the Turkish population was Christian. Today the Christian community is practically non-existent. Persisting in its denial of the persecution, the Turkish government condemned the honesty of Pope Francis by withdrawing its ambassador to the Holy See. That exercise in denial was not singular. In 2010, a declaration was introduced in the House of Representatives calling the systematic eradication of the Armenians a genocide. The Obama administration blocked it.

The mentality that denies the Resurrection, also denies the consequences of such denial. The Resurrection is not about spring flowers and butterflies, and Jesus made that clear by retaining the wounds in his glorified body. Christ triumphed over Satan, and to deny that is to give Satan a leg up in the governance of nations and the attitudes of people. The dominant religion of Turkey maintains that Jesus was not crucified. If not crucified, then not risen. And if not risen, then mankind has license to sink to its lowest depths by crushing life and spreading death.
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

The fugitive beauty of the lilies of the field by Fr. George W. Rutler

Easter-Lilies-in-the-Field-600x337

.

FROM THE PASTOR

March 29, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler
.
It seems to me that greatness exists on two levels. One is that of those who do important things for the general society. Historians may debate whether this encompasses bad as well as good things. After all, there have been figures in history who were called great because they affected the world importantly, if dolorously. Napoleon changed the world in many ways, but he did so cruelly at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and the exaction of unimaginable suffering. Then there have been those who saved civilization from near calamity.

If greatness as moral good is not part of the calculus, then bad men as well as good can be called great, if their influence was vast, whether for the good or for the bad. Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, for instance, killed more people and imposed more horrors than anyone else in history, but through the lens of moral indifference, they were great figures, if only because their crimes were on such a scale.

From a moral perspective, greatness is the peculiar laurel of those who have not done things on a great scale, but who did things that were good in defiance of things bad. As a teenager, I had already decided that Winston Churchill was a great man for the good, so in 1961 I persuaded my father—the greatest of men in my life—to accompany me into Manhattan to see Churchill when he visited Bernard Baruch. There was no conversation, only a nod and pleasing comment. It was all I needed for contact with greatness.

Later I read that Churchill thought the three most regrettable sadnesses were those of lives worn down by toil, worry and boredom. For all his hard work and worries and boring years as a man scorned, he was never worn down by them. That is a matter of natural virtue and a key to moral greatness. Yet Jesus was more than a great man that way. When he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, some—guileless children and wizened elders—cheered him as a great man, but he was more than that, and anyone who defines him as only that misses the point. His divine nature, perfectly united with his human nature, exulted in common carpentry, just as much as he did in summoning all the galaxies into existence from the first light. His human worries were a descant on his insight into how heavy human hearts missed the fugitive beauty of the lilies of the field. Nothing bored him: not a single sparrow, nor a hair on a head.

The Palm Sunday crowds soon disappeared. Those who remained were transformed: work would be a votive offering and not a burden; worry would gentle into prudence; and boredom would be banished. For proof, there is the fact that Jesus the toiler would not worry about what the Father had prepared. And he who never was bored was the only man who never bored anyone.
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

St. Patrick’s Day: Revenge of the Druids? by Fr. George W. Rutler

 

 
druids_stonehenge

FROM THE PASTOR
.
March 15, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler
.
Maewyn Succat did not have an easy time embracing the Faith. Although his father Calpurnius was a deacon, Maewyn indulged a spirited youthful rebellion against what he had been taught, and it was only after being kidnapped by superstitious people called Druids that he realized the difference that Christianity makes in the souls of men and the character of cultures. This was in the fifth century, and Maewyn, probably born in the Cumbria part of England near the Scottish lands, was roughly contemporary with the bishop Augustine in North Africa who watched the decay of the Roman Empire. Maewyn eventually became a bishop in Rome where Pope Celestine I re-named him Patricius, the “Father of His People.” His people were to be in the land of Eire where he had suffered in virtual slavery.

Patrick was neither the first nor the only one to bring the Gospel there. Foundations were also laid by such missioners as Palladius, Ciarán of Saighir, Auxilius, Secundinus and Iserinus. One reason Patrick was sent to Ireland was to stem the spread of the Nestorian heresy, which misrepresented the “hypostatic union” of Christ as true God and true Man. A couple of centuries later, Nestorians in the East would influence Mohammed’s misunderstanding of Christ. Patrick was not subtle when it came to the truth: “That which I have set out in Latin is not my words but the words of God and of apostles and prophets, who of course have never lied. He who believes shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be damned. God has spoken.”

If Patrick, whom the archdiocese of New York is privileged to invoke as its patron, could witness what has become of his feast in the streets of our city, he might think that the Druids were having their revenge. He certainly would decry the notion that his feast was merely a celebration of an ethnic identity which was not his, or of a conviviality not rooted in Christian moral reason. This Saint Patrick’s Day, Maewyn/Patricius would bond more instinctively with the beheaded and crucified martyrs in the Middle East and Nigeria (whose official patron is Patrick) now spilling their blood for Christ, than with some revelers on Fifth Avenue who pantomime his name while spilling beer. There is a difference between martyrs and leprechauns.

This is not to dampen good spirits and rightful celebration, risky though they are in these Forty Days when the shadow of the Cross looms larger daily. But it is a reminder of the cost of discipleship in a cynical culture, and of the heavy cost of succumbing to the threats of the morally bewildered who, with adolescent petulance, would intimidate the Church that carried the Gospel across the Irish Sea. Patrick said when he braved the dark pagan groves: “If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.”
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” by Fr. George W. Rutler

20130925_authorityjesus

FROM THE PASTOR
February 8, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.
“Says who?” That challenge to authority is not confined to adolescents. It is a valid question, provided one wants a legitimate answer. The right use of authority is a staple of civilized order, and its abuse is the engine of the worst civil crimes. That is why our government has a system of checks and balances.

The source of Christ’s authority was the big question when he healed and forgave sins. He taught “as one with authority and not as the scribes.” When accused of using Satan as the source of his authority over evil spirits, he replied that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and when Pilate invoked his own authority, the Lord told him that he would have no authority at all were it not “given from above.” Conflicted, Pilate on his grand judgment throne suddenly seemed shriveled by Christ’s innocence, and he surrendered his authority to the mob. Here was Shakespeare’s “Man, proud man, dressed in a little brief authority.”

In Pilate’s civil order, his authority had been delegated in a pragmatic system for promoting “the tranquility of order” according to natural law. By contrast, Christ’s authority was intrinsic because it was divine. So it is with the Church he established when he gave the heavenly keys to Peter. There are three options in response: to deny his authority, to attack it, or to embrace it.

Entrusted with divine authority, the Church, when true to herself, respects the free will with which man is endowed, so when it comes to matters of faith, she “proposes and does not impose.” But faith itself is not enough. As St. Paul warned the Corinthians, one can speak with the “tongues of men or of angels” but can still sound like a “banging gong or clanging cymbal.” To produce results, the human response to the divine summons must be activated by love. Saint Augustine said: “Faith is mighty, but without love it profits nothing.”

Satan and his evil spirits that “prowl the world” have faith in Christ in the sense that they have no doubt that he is divine. “I know who you are.” Satan’s endless agony is that his knowledge of God is divorced from love of God. We risk courting that misery if we consider God as a power without logic. Such a god was what Pope Benedict described in his classic Regensburg Address: a god who is absolute will, without any identity beyond sheer power. Such is the god of terrorists, creating rage in a culture that is unable to deal with logic.

The Divine Word who authored all things into existence speaks with authority without being authoritarian: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles, lord it over them, but it must not be so with you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:42-43).
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

Ecclesiastes: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry by Fr. George W. Rutler

banner-series-ecclesiastes

FROM THE

.PASTOR
February 1, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.
When William F. Buckley, Jr., was asked why he slouched so much, he said it was because he was bent under the weight of all the wisdom he carried. One gets the impression that the author of Ecclesiastes, one of the twenty-four “Writings” of the Old Testament, must have been very bent over under such wisdom, but he does not seem to have been the sort to make amusing, self-deprecating comments. He is deeply serious, and his counsels are thoroughly sobering, even when he advises us to “eat, drink and be merry” (Ecclesiastes 8:15), because that seems the only way to make the best of a bad day. Ecclesiastes is the Latin version of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Koheleth, which means “Gatherer,” for the author gathers wisdom from his own experience. Yet this wise man does not seem to have taken pleasure in writing so many wise things, for he sighs: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (12:12).

I can sympathize with that, but there are some books that are relatively painless for an author, if not for all his readers. This month I have a new book that was not wearisome to write, first because it is not long, and second because it is a meditation on the parables of our Lord. While my words may be faulty, his words “shall never pass away,” and I felt safe in hiding behind them. It was the publisher’s suggestion to name it “Hints of Heaven” because the parables are precisely that: ways the Master gives his followers clues, by various images, to the mysteries of heaven. Even an inspired writer like Ecclesiastes did not come from heaven, so while his wisdom is divinely inspired, it is not divine. Thus, for instance, in one of his parables, the Lord quotes Ecclesiastes about “eating and drinking and being merry” (Luke 12:16-21), but with a whole other meaning.

The first parables are from the period between the second and third Passovers of his ministry, following the Sermon on the Mount, and are about spreading the Good News of eternal life. In the third year of his ministry, he tells parables about God’s mercy. Approaching the Passion, his parables are about the Second Coming, the Day of Judgment, the penalties for arrogance and the rewards for humility.

The late Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, who instructed me briefly, said, “Books and words, created quite recently, yesterday and the day before, have become outdated, have fallen into nonexistence. They no longer say anything to us; they are dead. But these ingenuous stories, so simple in appearance, live on, full of life. We listen to them, and it is as if something happens with us, as if someone has glanced into the very depth of our life and said something which relates only to us, to me.”
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

“Homo faber” – Man the Builder by Fr. George W. Rutler

metropolis1_0

FROM THE PASTOR
January 25, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.
The great edifices of classical cultures are also morally edifying by their anonymity. The artists and artisans who embellished them are generally unknown because they were honoring something greater than themselves.

The desire to be known, however, is not unworthy of human dignity, provided it is not just selfish pride. Homo faber, man the builder, is entitled to take just satisfaction in an accomplishment, provided thanks for the inspiration are accorded to the Divine Inspirer.

Humility refers all things to God, but it dispenses with the false modesty, like that of Dickens’ Uriah Heep, that solicits praise but pretends not to want it. When Michelangelo carved his name very visibly on his Pietà, he wanted people to know that God had done a great thing through him. That is different from those who want their names known just to advertise themselves. “Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names” (Psalm 49:11).

Once a man desires to please God first, he will begin to understand that he is not just a statistic in the divine regard. “Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam—Not unto us Lord, but unto thy name give the glory.” St. Paul warned St. Timothy not to be a “man pleaser” because that distracts from the primary relationship with God who made us for his delight. To be dependent on human recognition is to forfeit the radical dignity that God alone gives us. “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

No one wants to receive mail addressed only to “Occupant.” Christ does not address us as statistics, the way a bureaucrat does. St. Paul wrote his epistles to churches composed of individuals, each of whom he was willing to die for, as Christ died for him. He does not end his letter to the Romans without naming them: Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus, and Olympas. It is quite like the list of names with which Cardinal Newman ended his Apologia pro Vita Sua. That is the greatest modern autobiography in the English language, and he named his friends because he had shown them that they were friends of God.

The pantheon of fame has its cracks. I recently spoke with a college student who had never heard of Bing Crosby. The only recognition that matters is how we are known to the Lord. Should we be blessed to meet him in glory, he will not say, “How do you do?” He will not even say, “I think I remember you.” He will say, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

The Only Real Prediction, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” by Fr. George W. Rutler

SONY DSC

FROM THE PASTOR
January 18, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.
A prophecy is a declaration of truths from God: “Thus says the Lord . . .” Because it is a very serious matter to speak that way, our Lord warns against “false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It is inexact to think of a prophecy as a prediction, as when someone who says something will happen on the world scene is said to have made a “prophetic statement.” The confusion is understandable, since when the Lord speaks, there are warnings and promises about the consequences of not obeying the Voice.

Since people are not divine, even those of acute insight can lack foresight. Some of their wrong predictions are amusing, but only in retrospect. In 1876 an officer of Western Union saw no commercial use for the telephone, and before that, in 1830, an inventor said that rail travel at high speed would cause people to die from asphyxia. Even before then, it is said that Napoleon stomped out of a room indignantly when he thought his intelligence had been insulted by Robert Fulton describing a boat propelled by a steam engine. Then in 1807, right down the street from our church, a crowd gathered to jeer “Fulton’s Folly,” but the Clermont did work and made it up to Albany, albeit at five miles per hour.

Pope Innocent III decided that the world would end in 1284, 666 years after the founding of Islam. The Michigan Savings Bank decided against funding Henry Ford’s horseless carriage because it was only a fad. In 1878 Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson confided, “When the Paris Exposition closes, electric light will close with it, and no more will be heard of it.” Hiram Maxim said of his own invention in 1893, “The machine gun will make war impossible.” The New York Times displayed its infallible intuition for fallibility in 1936: “A rocket will never be able to leave earth’s atmosphere.” In 1943 the Chairman of IBM said that there would be a world market for no more than five computers.

These days there are various predictions about climate change, a legitimate concern that should be tempered by caution about turning hypotheses into absolutes. Fifty years ago we were told from many quarters that by now there would be massive starvation caused by overpopulation, and England would be covered in ice, just as the meteorologist Albert Porta thought that an exploding sun would engulf the earth in 1919.

Abraham Lincoln’s self-effacement resulted in a most memorable miscalculation when he said: “The world will little note nor long remember . . .”—in the Gettysburg Address. The Mother of our Lord made an opposite and very accurate prediction, stunning as it was: “Henceforth all generations shall call me blessed . . .” In her case, perfect humility dispensed with natural modesty. John the Baptist was the last of the prophets, which is why any religion that proposes Christ as a prophet but not the Son of God misses the whole point of true prophecy itself.

Christ did make some predictions—the death of Judas, the destiny of Peter, and the destruction of the Temple—but he counseled against worrying about the future. His only prediction we need to know is fulfilled in every generation:

%d bloggers like this: