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Light, Life, and Death by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
December 21, 2014
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by Fr. George W. Rutler
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Where there is light there is life. That is a basic fact of botany and biology, and even moss and moles attest to that. While darkening days and cold winds have brought winter early, the season begins officially with the Winter Solstice. The “shortest day of the year” is as long as all the others, but darkness seems to cut life short. It is a good time for contemplating the difference between life and its absence, and so the Church leads ever deeper these days into the mysteries of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. As the opposite of Heaven, Hell would seem to be the last thing anyone would want to think about just before Christmas, but the whole point of the Nativity of Our Lord is that it brings Heaven to earth in order to save us from the darkness of Hell.

Even those who would avoid these mysteries betray some intuition of them when they say in unguarded moments that something “Looks like Hell” or is “Heavenly.” Even an atheist is willing to contradict himself by telling believers to “Go to Hell.” As it is darkest before the dawn, so in these solemn hours when we try to imagine what it is like to be separated from God forever, there is a thrilling sense that something glorious is about to come into the world. Nothing could be more Hellish than the possibility that there is no Hell, for it would mean that there is no moral judgment. It would be like there being no up because there is no down, or no right because there is no wrong.

Every time Christ spoke of the “fires of Gehenna,” he was intimating the eternal Heaven where there is no need of sun by day or moon by night, for the Lamb is the light, and thus all contradictions cease only in that eternal radiance: no darkness in contrast to light and no death in contrast to life. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5).

To worship is to announce what we think of ourselves, as well as what we think of the object worshiped. That is why the worship of the true God, and him only, is at the top of all the Commandments. We can be Christians living in the “light from light,” which is the uncreated Christ himself, or we can be updated Druids worshiping the darkness and confused by a glimmer of light, but that would make us a perpetual confusion to ourselves. That is a foretaste of Hell where all is chaos in disunity. The truth is different: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Christmas Gifts

Christmas is an important time of the year to make special gifts to our Lord for the care and work of his “Holy House” of St. Michael’s here in “Hell’s Kitchen.”

This area is now in the midst of the massive Hudson Yards development. Thus we have an unprecedented challenge as a parish. In recognition of this, our parish will remain and will not be merged in the archdiocesan realignment process.

Christmas donations will be a good way of thanking the Lord, and St. Michael, for keeping us here and entrusting to us the work of spreading the Word in this unique neighborhood.

Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

No one ever gets lost by following Jesus by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
December 13, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler
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In mid-Advent, with the solemn purple on the altars and the days darkening early, the Church suddenly dons rose vestments and admits flowers. Saint John says, when the Light shines in the darkness, the darkness cannot overpower it. In the eighteenth century, when philosophy had lost its moorings in the Scholastic tradition of the Catholic saints and turned inward in a pessimistic way, a friend told Samuel Johnson that he had wanted to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness kept breaking through. Dr. Johnson was a man meant for Gaudete Sunday as, in fact, all of us are. For we are meant for Heaven, and it is Heaven’s gentle joy that breaks through in these days. With all of the comforts of our generation, this world is sad in many ways. Of course, there are the unspeakable sufferings of Christians in many places, and injustice in violent forms, and corruption and stupidity in high places, but there is also a subtle melancholy born of an insensibility to eternal joy.

Christ is the way to Heaven and said so himself. He was prophesied by the voice of his own cousin, John the Baptist, in fulfillment of the words of a prophet almost as great as John: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).

When I was a student in Rome, I frequently got lost in the streets that were anything but straight: they were astonishingly winding and crooked in the ancient quarter where I lived, and more than once did I walk into a blind alley. Yet when one asked a local Roman for directions, the answer was invariably: “Va sempre diritto.” (Keep going straight ahead.) I must say it was not very helpful. But that is what Our Lord says each day of our lives. The difference is that he does not point the way, he IS the way. He does not point a finger saying, “Keep going straight ahead.” He says to you and me, as he said to the apostles, “Follow me.”
. That is an incontestable fact, and the saints prove it. The greatest of saints, the Mother of Jesus, is the cause of our joy, Causae Nostrae Laetitiae, because she directs us to the One who shows the way to Heaven: “Do whatever my son tells you to do” (John 2:5). He leads us up no blind alleys.

In 1336, Pope Benedict XII declared in the constitution Benedictus Deus:

We define that . . . since the passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the souls in Heaven have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive and even face-to-face vision, without interposition of any creature in the function of the object seen. Rather, the divine essence immediately manifests itself to them plainly, clearly, openly.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas is an important time of the year to make special gifts to our Lord for the care and work of his “Holy House” of St. Michael’s here in “Hell’s Kitchen.”

This area is now in the midst of the massive Hudson Yards development. Thus we have an unprecedented challenge as a parish. In recognition of this, our parish will remain and will not be merged in the archdiocesan realignment process.

Christmas donations will be a good way of thanking the Lord, and St. Michael, for keeping us here and entrusting to us the work of spreading the Word in this unique neighborhood.

Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

Advent: Get Ready for the Surprise of Christmas by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
December 7, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler
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It would be hard to think of any writer in the last several generations who celebrated Christmas as heartily as G. K. Chesterton. It was precisely because of this, and not in spite of it, that he said with a severity not characteristic of his benign personality: “There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes.”

Dangerous, that is, because the rush neglects the deepest mysteries of life which are the stuff of Advent meditations: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell; and by that neglect we are abandoned to a life of anxiety, unable to know why we were made or what we are to become. Disgusting, that is, because rushing Christmas spoils the appetite for higher things and tries to replace holy joy with entertainments that quickly become boring.

Advent is the time to get ready for the surprise of Christmas, and that would seem to be a paradox for there can be no preparation for a surprise. But because Christ is “ever ancient, ever new,” we know ahead of time that his eternal presence will always surprise us, the way he has surprised every generation, by “making all things new.” Note that he does not make all new things, for that is what fashion designers do, which is why they quickly go out of fashion. Rather, he takes what exists already and breathes new life into it. He does that with a weary world, and he does that to all those who give him permission through humble submission to his grace.

This past year, our parishes have gone through a program called “Making All Things New” for restructuring parishes to meet the new needs of new demographics. I did not love the Rube Goldberg elements of the program. But the title is the theme of Advent and of every day of a Christian’s life truly lived. This Advent truly ushers in a new year for the lives of our parishes.

For almost one and a half years I have been Administrator of the Church of the Holy Innocents as well as Pastor of the Church of St. Michael. Both parishes have been given a surprising new lease on life in response to the potential of our neighborhoods. This is a cause for thanks, along with a renewed sense of responsibility. I am very happy that the Church of the Holy Innocents will have its own full-time Administrator beginning on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Father Leonard Villa is an old friend of mine: I was at his ordination and have watched his fine ministry in various parishes. He is perfectly suited for his assignment, and I am glad that our two parishes will be close to each other, not only physically but spiritually. I shall celebrate my last Mass as Administrator of Holy Innocents at Midnight on Christmas while continuing as Pastor of St. Michael’s as the parish grows.

If you enjoy reading these newsletters, please express your support with a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

1st Sunday in Advent: Take the Hand of God by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
November 30, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler
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For those old enough to remember it is easy to forget, and for those young enough it is easy not to know how uncertain was the future in 1939. In those dark days as the new year approached, King George VI broadcast by radio the lines of an obscure poem:

On the first Sunday of Advent, the faithful stand at the gate, for this is the beginning of a new year in the cycle of how the Church worships her Creator. The circumstances of the world today seem off-balance in many ways. Beside many domestic challenges is the unspeakable suffering of Christians in the Middle East and far enough away elsewhere to escape the attention of those absorbed in themselves or too timid to call barbarism for what it is.

The weeks of Advent invoke the four facts most important to consider for spiritual maturity: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Here right next to Macy’s, in the heart of the nation’s busiest shopping area, the crushing mob can make it difficult to concentrate on these “Last Things.”

As this past Sunday’s feast declared, Christ is King of the universe. Sovereign as he is over all things including our souls, it is nonetheless possible to shut our minds to him by deceitfulness and to turn our actions away from him by selfishness. Christ limits his access to our mortal souls by an old royal protocol, which William Pitt expressed in terms of earthly monarchs: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.” Our Lord does not invade, but he does invite: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). In Advent he awaits our invitation: “Maranatha”—“Come, Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:22).

In death there is a last chance to open the door: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

We know how things turned out after 1939, but we do not know how they will unfold after 2014. We do know that Christ stands at the gate. As another line in that poem says:

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

We are now posting MP3 audio files of the gospel and homily of the 10:00am Sunday Mass.

Access the MP3 files of this year’s homilies.

If you enjoy reading these newsletters, please express your support with a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

“We Have No King But Caesar”: Feast of Christ the King by Fr. George Rutler

During the celebration of holy mass in the chapel of the Carmelite Monastery 6 members of the OCDS community made promises to the Order.  Dr. Jason Bourgeois and Judy Hawkins professed their temporary vows for 2 years and David Travers, Suzie Megown, Kath

 

FROM THE PASTOR
November 23, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler

 
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is a modern celebration. Pope Pius XI added it to the liturgical calendar in 1925, inspired to contradict the growing statism of Communist and Fascist movements that would give the civil authority pre-eminence over all human affairs.

Eight decades ago, in Germany, Bishop Johannes Schmidt preached on the Feast of Christ the King against the neo-pagan attempt of the National Socialists to replace the spiritual realm of the Church with a new social order based on racism and national interests. The Vatican Radio broadcast his “magnificent sermon” to Germany in German, including his comment that no state has a right to rewrite reality: “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.”

There are influences in our culture today that want Christ to abdicate his throne by having the Church abandon the truths of the Faith. There are also bolder attempts to overturn Christ’s kingship through judicial arrogance. Today, you can read their opinions in the newspapers as they say: “We have no king but Caesar.” It is a repetition of the moral arrogance that Pope Pius XI addressed, when governments attacked the sanctity of life through eugenics and social engineering.

Then as now, marriage was in the crosshairs, for if Caesar is to rule reality, he must be allowed to subvert natural law. This includes redefining marriage, the very core of civilization, an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman. It is significant that Pope Alexander III, who canonized St. Thomas Beckett, that defender of Christ the King against an earthly ruler, also issued some 400 decretals on the sanctity of marriage. Later attempts of the secretly married Protestant archbishop Cranmer to permit a system of divorce were not sanctioned for three centuries in English civil law. Even then, Lord Russell of Killowen lamented: “What was once a holy estate enduring for the joint lives of the spouses is steadily assuming the characteristics of a contract for a tenancy at will.”

Cultural sanity can only return with obedience to the Kingship of Christ, and no Congress, or Supreme Court, or Synod can contradict him without contradicting their own integrity. In 1970, Blessed Pope Paul VI happily changed the Feast of Christ the King to the climactic Sunday of the liturgical year, to declare to all the world that our Divine Sovereign “was and is and is to come.”

On the solemnity of Christ the King in 1997, Saint John Paul II said: “His was a shameful death, but it represents a confirmation of the Gospel proclamation of the kingdom of God. In the eyes of his enemies, that death should have been proof that all he had said and done was false: ‘He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him’ (Mt 27:42). He did not come down from the cross but, like the Good Shepherd, he gave his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). The confirmation of his royal power, however, came a little later when on the third day he rose from the dead, revealing himself as ‘the first-born of the dead’ (Rv 1:5).”

We are now posting MP3 audio files of the gospel and homily of the 10:00am Sunday Mass.

Access the MP3 files of this year’s homilies.

If you enjoy reading these newsletters, please express your support with a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

The best way to make a church beautiful is to fill it with people: by Fr. George W. Rutler

church__made_of_peopleFROM THE PASTOR
November 16, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler
The feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran last week was a twofold reminder of the importance of that church, which is the Pope’s cathedral and, like all churches, an expression of the unity found in communion with the Successor of Saint Peter. It is also an important sign that all church buildings are expressions of heaven.

In Jerusalem, our Lord said that if the temple were destroyed, he would rebuild it in three days. He was speaking of his own body, for buildings come and go but he lives forever. Yet he revered the earthly temple and became most righteously angry, using a whip to drive out those who profaned it. Each one of us by baptism becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the best way to keep that human shrine fit for God is to whip Satan out of it by going to confession.

Church buildings are natural lodgings for the supernatural Church, which is why we should make them as beautiful as possible. Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” The art and skill with which we adorn churches in turn bring us closer to the Lord. It is not enough to believe in Christ. The acknowledgement of his divinity must move the soul to worship him. “The devils also believe and tremble in fear” (James 2:19), because they refuse to worship him. Their fear is servile fear, and not the holy fear, or awe, that churches should evoke and encourage. It is the difference between being haunted and being holy.

Jesus called the Temple “My Father’s house” because he is the Divine Son. We pray “Our Father” and not “My Father” because we are not divine by nature, but God “adopts” us as his children, and so church buildings express in stone what we are in flesh. They should not be like lecture halls or living rooms, but should be places where earth and heaven meet. To enter a church is to confess that our relationship with God is a corporate obedience to his will and not an individualistic exercise of arbitrary opinions.

Hundreds of churches have been destroyed recently in Iraq and Syria. Christians there paradoxically become ever more vividly Christian by their terrible suffering. When we get into a lather about merging churches in our city, and act as though the closing of a church building were the end of the world, we should rather ask ourselves if we could be servants of God without a particular building of which we have become fond. In all things, including church architecture, faith offers God the best we can give. But without the devotion of the heart, asceticism fades away into vain aestheticism. A wise liturgist once said that the best way to make a church beautiful is to fill it with people.

We are now posting MP3 audio files of the gospel and homily of the 10:00am Sunday Mass.

Access the MP3 files of this year’s homilies.

If you enjoy reading these newsletters, please express your support with a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

A Parish is a “Juridical Person” : On the Proposed Merging & Closing Some NYC Parishes by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
November 9, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler

The proposed realignment of parishes is complete for now. The most recent segment of the process called “Making All Things New” was extensive and even draconian, and representatives of our parish participated in it faithfully and patiently. Their work has borne good fruit. Contrary to some recommendations, both churches for which I am responsible, St. Michael’s and Holy Innocents, will remain open.

A parish is a “juridical person” that cannot close, but may be merged. Holy Innocents remains as is for the foreseeable future. St. Michael’s is in the unique position of being amidst the most extensive development of commercial and residential properties in the history of our nation. Along with the astronomical rise in the value of the area’s real estate are the increasing numbers of residents and commuters, with improved access to public transportation via a new subway stop that is to open nearby. These are considerable matters in configuring the future of our Catholic witness.

The Church of St Michael was established in 1857 near the current site of the Pennsylvania Station and was moved to our present location fifty years later, preserving much of the church’s art and stonework. Our present situation is being “monitored” to determine if another relocation into the heart of the Hudson Yards development will be prudent some years from now. While there may be nostalgic connections to buildings, nostalgia is not holy tradition, for the latter is the dynamic transmission of unchanging Faith.

In any battle, sometimes a battalion holds its ground, and sometimes it makes a strategic move. How that works for us has yet to be determined. A parish is not a family heirloom, but a military base. We are engaged in a spiritual battle in our culture, greater than any physical struggle, for we are engaged against “principalities and powers” not of this world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the fate of the city depends far less on improved schools and transportation and health and social welfare, than it does on bringing the life of Christ to a culture that is spiritually traumatized.

The number of people in New York City who currently identify themselves as Catholic is about the same as it was seventy years ago. Yet back then, weekly Mass attendance in the city was over 70%, and now it is about 12%. Most of the decline occurred in the conflicted time immediately following the Second Vatican Council. In recent years, the decline in attendance has leveled off, but the numbers have yet to increase. If all Catholics were serious about their response to Christ’s call, there would be no redundant churches.

The first stage in spiritual health is to have a good examination of conscience, just like a physical examination. When the doctor says your body mass has to be improved, you trim down, exercise and eat well. Spiritual fitness is the same: we need to slim down what drags us down, worship and be nurtured by the Sacraments. Then comes the new strength.

If you enjoy reading these newsletters, please express your support with a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.

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

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