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St. Charbel Makhlouf by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 23, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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There are saints whose lives were inconspicuous and whose canonizations surprised some who thought they were unexceptional. There are others whose mystical gifts were so prodigious that they made every effort, sometimes amusingly as in the instance of Philip Neri, to distract attention from themselves. In recent centuries these would certainly include John Vianney, Padre Pio and Charbel Makhlouf, canonized in 1977, whose feast we celebrate on July 24.

He was born in 1828 in the northern Lebanese village of Biqa-Kafra. He became a monk at the age of twenty-three and was ordained a priest in 1859. After sixteen years in the Monastery of St. Maroun, Charbel was allowed by rare exception to live on his own as a hermit. For the next twenty-three years he lived a harshly mortified life. Given the rigors he endured, and neglect of any comfort, is it remarkable that he lived to the age of seventy. He wanted to be forgotten, and it was assumed that he would be, despite his quiet reputation for giving inspired spiritual advice to many who went to him. But for forty-five nights after his burial, an intensely bright light shone from his grave, attracting the devout as well as curiosity-seekers and even Muslims. Since then, an astonishingly long list of seemingly miraculous cures have been attributed to his intercession.

The Maronite Church to which Saint Charbel belonged uses the ancient West Syrian liturgy, with the consecration prayers in the Eucharist retained in the Aramaic that our Lord spoke. The Maronites, whose vernacular is Arabic, are in full communion with the Pope. Their origins as a distinct rite go back to Saint Maron in the late fourth century, and Saint John Maron, patriarch of Antioch from 685 to 707, who led a successful military resistance against the invading Byzantine armies of Justinian II, enabling the Maronites to be fully independent.

The Maronites preserved their identity during the Muslim caliphate (632-1258) and the Ottoman rule, and have maintained their presence since Lebanon became an independent state in 1943. The Maronite diaspora increased after the Muslim-instigated massacre of 1860. In 1902 a fourteen-year old Maronite named Khalil Salim Haddad Aglamaz emigrated to Mexico and started a dry goods business. One of his sons is Carlos Slim, who lives a relatively modest life for a man Forbes magazine declared the world’s richest in 2014.

At Sunday Mass we pray to our Patron, Saint Michael the Archangel, for our fellow Christians in the Middle East in these trying days. While Lebanon is safer for Christians than most regions in that part of the world, and by law its president must be a Maronite, its Christian population is shrinking. The Maronites have a tradition of hospitality, and bid visitors welcome: Ahlan wa sahlan. And now we also know why Saint Charbel is such a popular saint in Mexico, far from Biqa-Kafra.


Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God’s Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

“We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.” by Fr. George Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 16, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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In the nineteenth century, the poet Adam Mickiewicz dramatized the theme of his suffering Poland as the “Christ of Nations” and, in an image used by many others, Poland was crucified in the twentieth century between the two thieves of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. It was not the West’s proudest moment when President Roosevelt complained to Stalin at the Yalta Conference that “Poland has been a source of trouble for over five hundred years.” Pope John Paul II lamented Yalta in the encyclical Centesimus Annus. That will resonate in the annals of papal teaching more than recent magisterial concerns about the responsible use of air conditioning and the like.

   On July 6 in Warsaw, the President spoke of a culture with which a generation of “millennials” have been unfamiliar: “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

   Comfortable journalists, for whom the “Christ of Nations” is an enigma, resented “a tiny speech, a perfunctory racist speech,” “xenophobic” and “a catalogue of effrontery,” and a comparison was made with Mussolini. Solzhenitsyn once was pilloried for similar themes, and Reagan was advised by his Chief of Staff and National Security advisor not to tell Mr. Gorbachev to take down the Berlin Wall. 

   The Warsaw speech mentioned three priests: Copernicus, John Paul II and Michael Kozal. The latter was the bishop of Wloclawek who was martyred by the Nazis in Dachau along with 220 of his priests in 1943.

   Among the irritations in the Warsaw speech were these words: “We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.” As that was being said, the parents of a gravely ill child, Charlie Gard, in London were tussling with government officials who did not want to release their infant to them.

   A Polish philosopher, Zbigniew Stawrowski has written: “The fundamental cleavage is not the West v. Islam or the West v. the rest, but within the West itself: between those who recognize the values of Judaeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman culture and those who use terms like “democracy,” “values,” “rights” but pervert the latter. So it means democracy of the elites, values of secularism, rights to kill Charlie Gard, marriage that has nothing to do with sex, sex that … is a “private” matter to be funded by the confiscatory state and your duty to support this incoherence…”

   The Polish king Jan III Sobieski rescued Christian civilization at the gates of Vienna in 1683. That was one of the “troubles” that Poland has caused in the past five hundred years. We survive because of such behavior.

 


Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God’s Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

Einstein’s Unified Field Theory is No Match for God by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 9, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

For Albert Einstein, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.” The day before he died in Princeton Hospital in 1955, he spent hours speculating about a “unified field theory,” a project he had begun in the 1920s. Roughly put, it is a “theory of everything” that melds general relativity and quantum field theory to explain all the physical aspects of the universe. A close associate of Einstein, who often conducted seminars in Einstein’s house at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, John Archibald Wheeler of Johns Hopkins, said shortly before his own death in 2008 that if such a theory were discovered, the most astonishing thing about it would be its simplicity.

All this is pretty obscure to me since, if we yield to the cognitive experts on how the brain works, my right lobe may be active and even over-active, but my left lobe is atrophied. I  know, however, that the Divine Intelligence who made all things, came into his own creation and told us all we need to know in order to live forever: “The Word (Logos) was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and the darkness of ignorance has never cancelled out that light of truth.

As for a unified theory of everything, Christ the Logos showed that everything in creation is “contingent,” that is, connected to him, from the light at the farthest rim of the universe to the light that shone in Bethlehem at his earthly birth. All that exists is related to him and depends on him: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our sufficiency is in him” (2 Cor. 3:5).

A unified field theory is child’s play compared to the mystery that explains eternity as well as time. Jesus knew that this would be beyond our intelligence, even with right and left brain lobes combined, so he allowed: “I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). He was hinting at that theological contingency by which everything influences everything else. For the moment, all we need to know is that God who “-ists” enables us to “exist” and that we can become what he wants us to be by our association with him, in the sacramental life. Christ’s unified fact, not a theory, transcends the most cogent speculations of the earthly physicists. He prayed to his Divine Father: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23).

If our world seems to be spinning out of control in its terrors and perversions, that is only because it has separated from Christ. “In him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

 


Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God’s Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

 


 

Of Cabaret, Nazis, and Progressives by Fr. George W. Butler

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FROM THE PASTOR
July 2, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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The film Cabaret is better known these days than the novel The Berlin Stories on which its screenplay is based. Christopher Isherwood described the dissolute culture of a demoralized people, which gave rise to the National Socialists. Heroes in the German Church defied the Nazi outrages, and thousands became martyrs. Bishops who honored the apostolic witness included Felhauber, Galen, Preysing and Frings, while some others were satisfied to adjust to those barbaric times. The heroes had not much support from the papal nuncio, Cesare Orsenigo, who told Preysing: “Charity is well and good but the greatest charity is not to make problems for the Church.” The German bishops made a better showing than the Tudor bishops who caved in to Henry VIII, save for John Fisher, who became the only saint among them.

Pope Benedict XVI, who lived during those hard days in Germany, said in 2002:  “Heroic virtue properly speaking does not mean that one has done great things by oneself, but rather that in one’s life there appear realities which the person has not done himself, because he has been transparent and ready for the work of God.” This is the universal call to holiness of which Saint Francis de Sales preached so solidly.

The German cardinal Walter Kasper has described a “Revolution of Tenderness and Love” that would seem paler than the bold summons of Pope Benedict and St. Francis de Sales. In 2014, Cardinal Kasper said: “Heroism is not for the average Christian.” Many seem to have accepted that, for the German Church is in demographic meltdown: priestly ordinations have dropped by half in the last decade, and Mass attendance has plummeted to 10.4%. This contrasts with the amazing growth of the Church in Africa, but Cardinal Kasper has said: “They should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

Last Sunday a parade down Fifth Avenue with its raucous obscenities surpassed in decadence anything described in The Berlin Stories.  At the same time, I was accompanying a group of visiting “wounded warriors” from Walter Reed Hospital unable to get through the traffic. One young soldier strove to carry his luggage with two prosthetic arms, while trying not to look at the street vulgarity. Such heroism is precisely what bewilders those who take pride only in their lack of heroism. Hilaire Belloc wrote:

“The Barbarian hopes—and that is the very mark of him—that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilisation has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort, but he will not be at pains to replace such goods, nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is ever marveling that civilisation, should have offended him with priests and soldiers . . . .”


Father Rutler’s book, He Spoke to Us – Discerning God’s Will in People and Events, is now available in paperback through Ignatius Press.

Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

And Will God Not Vindicate His Elect? by Fr. George. W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
June 25, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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The legend of King Robert the Bruce, exiled from Scotland in a cave off the Irish coast in 1306, resembles a similar story in the Bible about King David when he was a boy. King Robert watched a spider finally manage to make a web after failing in several attempts.  Thus the child’s rhyme: “If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again.” Our Lord’s parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) is about a poor widow who persisted in getting the judge to hear her case. The refined translation says that the judge wearied of her importuning, but the Greek has the judge fearing that she would punch him. That was a woman who would not give up.

To discourage is to lose heart. It is a trick of the Anti-Christ and the very opposite of Christ who encourages. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The widow in the parable reminds one of the Damas de Blanco—Ladies in White—who are wives and mothers of political prisoners in the gulags of Communist Cuba. Mostly Afro-Cubans, they formed in 2003 to protest the large-scale arrest of their kin who included journalists and human rights activists. From then on, every Sunday, they attend Mass in Havana and then process in white clothing to a park where, despite their peaceful witness, they frequently have been beaten and jailed.

Their persistence has been an embarrassment to many outside Cuba who choose to ignore the devastation wrought by Marxism. Even some leading churchmen indulge the gossamer hope that appeasement will convert evil to good. The Ladies in White were hurt but not thwarted when a U.S. presidential executive order in 2013 lifted sanctions against Cuba, while requiring no reform of its dictatorship. “Peace for our time” was predictably delusional, and political oppression increased: there were 1,095 detainees in 2016, up from 718 in 2015. Our social media applauded the capitulation, its accompanying festivities, and our own government’s “easy speeches” that, as Chesterton said, “comfort cruel men.”

On June 16 in Miami, our President fulfilled a campaign promise by signing a directive imposing sanctions that will not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free elections. He also explicitly mentioned the persistence of the Ladies in White. Berta Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White, whose husband has been serving a twenty-year sentence, replied: “These days, Mr. President, when most of the world responds with a deafening silence to the harassment, arbitrary detentions, beatings, house searches, and robberies against peaceful opponents, human rights activists and defenseless women, your words of encouragement are most welcomed.” It was like the parable of the undaunted widow: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?”


Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

God and the Mosquito: by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
June 18, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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Our Lord’s admonition that much will be required of those to whom much has been given, applies most vividly to us. We have been given so much in the way of inventions and medicine and comparative wealth, but above all in knowledge of the world around us. No king in his silken bed at Versailles knew the luxury of instant information that we have. “YouTube” gives us access to great music for which the Bourbon monarchs had to summon their court musicians, while we need only press a button on the computer.

   I have been listening on YouTube to the choir of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London singing the Victorian John Stainer’s setting of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.” They are the most wondrous and mysterious words ever spoken and have to be sung, for they are a love song. A young man shyly told me that he knelt to propose marriage to the girl he loved, even though he thought she might laugh at him. But in the humility of true love, he meant what he said, and they are now married.

   God so loved the world. That means all he has created in the world. I confess that I do not yet share my Creator’s affection for all things. For instance, I do not like, let alone love, mosquitoes. Perhaps our Lord sees, through his aesthetic lens, a mathematical symmetry and power of endurance that I will only appreciate during my first years of assimilation in Purgatory. For that matter, I find it hard to like, let alone love, some of the people rambling along 34th Street at a snail’s pace, oblivious to those behind them, and speaking loudly and rudely on their cell phones. I am not God, who loves them as I try only feebly to do. He even died for them. And for me.

   Jesus became human, but from the perspective of heavenly glory, he might just as easily have become a mosquito. In the divine eye, humans are no more or less attractive than bugs, but God took upon himself the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7) because humans have the unique gift of reciprocating the love that made them. By reflecting that love, through worship and service, we are God’s agents in making the world into what he wants it to be.

    I am not a mosquito, but that makes no difference to my Creator. In the seventeenth-century words of Samuel Crossman, now accessible on YouTube:

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?


Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

 

 


 

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Trinity Sunday: Human intelligence needs God’s help to apprehend the inner reality of God by Fr. George Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
June 11, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

The Feast of the Holy Trinity follows Pentecost because it is only by the inspiration of the Third Person of the Trinity, who leads into all truth, that the mystery of the Trinity can be known. Human intelligence needs God’s help to apprehend the inner reality of God. Certainly, human reason can employ natural analysis to some extent to describe God in terms of causality and motion and goodness. Saint Anselm, who models the universality of Christendom by being both an Italian and an Archbishop of Canterbury, said that “God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.”

A house is a house because it houses. But what is in the house is known only by entering it. Since creatures cannot enter the Creator, he makes himself known by coming into his creation. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (John 1:18).

Had we invented the Trinitarian formula, it would be only a notion instead of a fact. There are just three choices: to acknowledge what God himself has declared, to deny it completely, or to change it to what makes sense without God’s help. That is why most heresies are rooted in mistakes about the Three in One and One in Three.

Unitarianism, for example, is based on a Socinian heresy. Mormonism is an exotic version of the Arian heresy. Islam has its roots in the Nestorian heresy. All three reject the Incarnation and the Trinity but selectively adopt other elements of Christianity. Like Hilaire Belloc in modern times, Dante portrayed Mohammed not as a founder of a religion but simply as a hugely persuasive heretic, albeit persuading most of the time with a sword rather than dialectic. These religions, however, are not categorically Christian heresies since “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith . . .” (Catechism, 2089).  Only someone who has been baptized can be an actual heretic.

Cultures are shaped by cult: that is, the way people live depends on what they worship or refuse to worship. A culture that is hostile to the Holy Trinity spins out of control. In 1919, William Butler Yeats looked on the mess of his world after the Great War:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .

   That is the chaotic decay of human creatures ignorant of their Triune God. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” But to worship the “Holy, Holy, Holy” God as the center and source of reality is to confound anarchy: “For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . .  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).


Father Rutler’s book, The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns, is available through Sophia Institute Press (Paperback or eBook) and Amazon (Paperback or Kindle).


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

Our website is www.StMichaelNYC.com

 

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