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May 2017: Mother of Fair Love by Fr. George Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
May 7, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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The month of May stirs feelings most in lands where it follows dismal winters. In the northern damps Chaucer chanted: “And after winter folweth grene May.” By understandable instinct, it is the month specially dedicated to our Lord’s “Mother of Fair Love.” This May 13 will have a special elegance of symmetry, marking the hundredth anniversary of the day three children in the remote village of Fatima north of Lisbon said they had seen the Virgin Mary.

That was a “private revelation” which, since it is not part of the essential deposit of faith, is not like a doctrine that Catholics must acknowledge as true. But what happened at Fatima in 1917 is one of twelve apparitions which the Church considers “worthy of belief.”

Lucia Santos and her two young cousins claimed to have received heavenly messages and visions on the thirteenth of each month from May to October. Jacinta Marto died shortly after that at the age of nine, and her brother Francisco died at ten. This week Pope Francis will go to Fatima and declare both of them saints. The beatification process began a few years ago for Lucia, who died in 2005 at the age of 97.

The  ways that some have tried to read their own ideas into the messages do not detract from the astonishing manner in which these untutored visionaries conveyed such powerful descriptions of things eternal, and even spoke of  Russia and the Communist revolution, of which they had no earthly knowledge. Most riveting was the promise the Lady gave of a “sign” which then happened exactly on the appointed day on October 13 when over 60,000 people, including many who had come to scoff, saw the sun appear to spin and seem to plummet near the ground.

In 1981 as a student in Rome, I saw the chaos on May 13 when St. John Paul II was shot. A year later, he went to Fatima and presented one of the bullets to the shrine, saying that he had come “because, on this exact date last year in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, there was an attempt on the life of your Pope, which mysteriously coincided with the anniversary of the first vision at Fatima, that of 13 May 1917. The coincidence of these dates was so great that it seemed to be a special invitation for me to come here.” It has been said that coincidences are God’s way of remaining invisible.

In 2000, the future Pope Benedict XVI, having visited Sister Lucia, wrote: “The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word.”


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

Emmaus: This road will take you wherever you wish to go by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
April 30, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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Rare is the obituary that can match that of Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart (1880-1963) who died as the most decorated soldier in the British Army. He was born to a Belgian father and Irish mother, though reputed to be an illegitimate son of Leopold II, King of the Belgians. His mother died when he was six, and his English stepmother sent him to the Birmingham Oratory School in England, founded by Cardinal Newman. He entered the University of Oxford, but dropped out to join the British Army and fight in the Second Boer War. He married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen, the eldest daughter of an Austrian prince. Soon he went to British Somaliland with the Camel Corps to fight Mohammed bin Abdullah, the “Mad Mullah.” There he lost an eye and part of his ear.

Carton de Wiart returned to fight in the First World War in France, was wounded seven times, shot through the skull and ankle, hip and leg, and lost his left hand. After the war he resided on the estate of his Polish aide de camp, Prince Karol Radziwill, in a wetland larger than the Republic of Ireland, until the Nazis invaded. Dispatched to Serbia, his aircraft crashed in the sea off the coast of Italian-controlled Libya, and he began three years as a prisoner of war in Italy. Upon his release, Churchill sent him to China; en route he attended the 1943 Cairo Conference with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Chiang Kai-shek.

A fervent anti-Communist, Sir Adrian later criticized Mao Zedong to his face. He retired in 1947 to County Cork in Ireland, laurelled as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Companion of the Order of the Bath, Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and recipient of the Croix de Guerre of France and Belgium, but first of all, of the Victoria Cross, and above even that, he was renowned as a vigorous Catholic.

Wandering down a country lane one day, lame and partially blind, he asked a very young colleen where it led. Un-phased by his scars, she gently said, “Oh sir, this road will take you wherever you wish to go.” This is not without application to these Easter days, for the two grieving men on the Emmaus road were wounded by disappointment in Jesus whom they expected to be their Messianic hero. It was when he took them to a wayside inn that they recognized him. He told them that their road was not only the way to Emmaus, but “wherever they wished to go.”

The road depends on whether one follows Christ, or one’s confused ego. At the Last Supper when Saint Thomas asked the Risen Lord where he was going, the answer was: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

        

Priests are ordained to shepherd their flocks daily toward the border of time and eternity by Fr. George W. Rutler

 

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FROM THE PASTOR
April 23, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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In these fifty days of Easter, there are natural echoes of rebirth: the skyscrapers rising daily within our parish bounds, and the change of weather. But were this neighborhood decaying as it used to be, and were we south of the Equator moving into Autumn and then Winter, the joy of Easter would still be vivid, and perhaps more so, for Christ’s triumph over death contradicted the melancholy of the culture in those days.

Each year, the suffering of Christians in many parts of the world bears witness to the power of the Holy Spirit. While the genocide of Christians has discomfited much of our media, who would rather reduce Easter to a quaint Rite of Spring with no emblems more serious than bunnies and funny hats, in his Easter message our President cited the Christians martyred on Palm Sunday in Egypt. Those faithful died while chanting the Palm Sunday Hosannas when they left this world for the Heavenly City.

In the church just outside Cairo and in the cathedral, are icons of Saint George who is the patron of Christians in the Middle East. His feast on the Latin calendar is transferred this year from today to Monday, in deference to the Easter celebrations. The images of Saint George slaying the dragon perdure, and I am doubly blessed to have him as my patron, while being pastor of this parish under the patronage of Saint Michael, who also wore armour in the great spiritual combat.

Recently a lady told me that her Jewish husband has always venerated Catholic priests, and for a solid reason. He was a boy in Germany during the Second World War, orphaned in the Holocaust, when a priest smuggled him through dangerous territory to the border with neutral Switzerland. As the priest entrusted the boy to the border guards, and waved goodbye, he was shot from behind by two Nazi soldiers. Such has been the office of priests since the Risen Lord instructed the apostles in the forty days after he rose from the dead.

Like Joshua leading the Jews across the Jordan into the Promised Land, priests are ordained to shepherd their flocks daily toward the border of time and eternity. Then their task is done. For this reason, a bishop does not carry his pastoral staff, the crozier, at funerals, for he no longer has charge over the souls of the departed.

Christ the High Priest meets the soul, not waving farewell but opening his arms as on the Cross, the Good Shepherd whose judgment separates the sheep from the goats, while willing that none be lost and all be saved. In the words of the eighteenth-century Welsh hymn:

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Bear me through the swelling current,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.   

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
April 16, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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To write about the Resurrection of Christ is the hardest task, for the event is the deepest of all mysteries, and yet it is also the easiest to address because its power permeates every human action. This was planned by God from the start of creation, and the Risen Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

In his last walk from Jericho up to Jerusalem, Jesus knew what he must do to conquer death. He must die as no one else had died, as both divine and human. That Jericho road is about the distance from mid-Manhattan to Yonkers, but it rises from the lowest spot on the face of the earth, more than 800 feet below sea level, to Jerusalem, more than 2,300 feet “on high.” This was to fulfill what had been planned from the beginning of time, and only Christ knew the content and pattern of that plan because “Before Abraham was I AM.”

The psychology of defective pride would seek to thwart the Lord of History. Sin is an attempt to outshout the Word that uttered all things into existence. At the climactic moment of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem to defeat the Anti-Christ, men of earthly power tried to silence those who welcomed him, and he said with serene confidence that if they were silenced, “the stones themselves would cry out.”

Jerusalem was a magnificent triumph of human engineering. The same sort of human intelligence that built it builds our modern cities. These days in our parish, buildings are rising in the vast Hudson Yards project. Across the street from us to the south, one skyscraper nearing completion will be taller than the Empire State Building. Many of the workers on those buildings come to our church for the sacraments, but if all of them were silent, the buildings themselves would be hymns “crying out” to the Creator who endowed mortal minds and muscles to raise up all that stone and steel and glass.

Christ loved Jerusalem and he loves all civilizations, which is why he wept when the city did not understand why he had come into the world. All cities rise and fall, but Christ rises “never to die again” and promises that all who live and believe in him will not die forever.

Saint John Chrysostom lived in the great city of Constantinople in a chaotic time. He died in the year that the British soldier Gratian declared himself Roman emperor, only to be assassinated and succeeded by Constantine III, and the same year that what now is France was invaded by the German Vandals. In his great Easter homily, the Hieratikon, he set his sights on another city:

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!   

        


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

 

Palm Sunday 2017 by Fr. George W. Rutler

Palm Sunday Attack

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FROM THE PASTOR
April 9, 2017

by Fr. George W. Rutler

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The first Psalm engraved in my memory was the 24th, which as a child I found especially cheerful. Our grammar school principal, Miss Booth, would ring a large handbell to summon us in from the playground for the opening exercises of Scripture-reading, prayers and the Pledge to the Flag. This was a public school in a time untouched by the neurotic political separation of the Creator and his creatures. Miss Booth’s favorite Psalm obviously was the 24th, because it was the only one in the whole Psalter she seemed to know by heart. She may have thought it the best for starting the day, especially on occasions when the Superintendent of Schools arrived: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:9).

The whole meaning of that song of David became clear when the real King of Glory entered Jerusalem, with children joining adults in waving palm branches. But on the same day, that King wept over Jerusalem for the indifference of most of its people.

A few days ago I spent some good hours in the company of David Alton, with whom I have often corresponded, while he was visiting our city. Now Lord Alton of Liverpool, he has been a major champion of pro-life causes in the House of Lords and has promoted awareness of the genocide of Christians in the Middle East and the modern slave trade.

Just as the persecution of Christians is nervously ignored in our social climate, so are most people unaware that there are more slaves now than in all previous centuries combined: by varying estimates between 21 million and 46 million laboring in domestic servitude, forced labor, sex trafficking, child labor, indentured servitude and forced marriage. Certainly the angels of the millions of victims of legalized infanticide always behold the Father’s face (Matthew 18:10), and the modern martyrs join them. Those enslaved know that Christ can set them free morally, even as societies enchain them physically. While such enslavement is most common in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia and Qatar, this bondage exists nearly everywhere in clandestine and subtle forms.

On Palm Sunday, Christ enters New York and every city, and in each one there are those who joyfully greet him, and others whose sullen indifference or contempt move his human nature to tears. That is the drama of free will, which is why each of us is a kind of city unto ourselves, and the gates of our hearts may either open or close to him. He is never alone, for the Father is always with him, but he wants us to be with him too. I am indebted to my old principal Miss Booth for ringing that school bell and leading that Psalm.   
      


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

 

 

Hells Kitchen’s Church of St. Michael Towers Above its Skyscrapers by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
April 2, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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When the original and lamented Pennsylvania Station designed by McKim, Mead & White was under construction in the first decade of the last century, our parish was not in a salutary area. The New York Tribune described it as a “whirlpool of slime, muck, wheels, hoofs, and destruction . . . a waterfront as squalid and dirty and ill smelling as that of any Oriental port . . .” The president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Alexander Cassatt (brother of the impressionist painter Mary Cassatt), in competition with the Vanderbilts’ New York Central, secured property from our parish which then was parallel to our present church, fronting on 32nd Street. While Mr. Cassatt was an astute businessman, he was outmatched by the second pastor of St. Michael’s, Father John A. Gleeson (pastor from 1890 to 1919), who drove a hard bargain. After negotiations that were the most costly and lengthy of all the Railroad’s hundreds of real estate dealings, the corporation paid for the re-location of the church, convent and school to their present location.

Our “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood is far different from what the New York Tribune described, although there still are many social problems: just a few days ago a young man was stabbed to death near the church, and Father Gleeson’s present successor regularly deals with violent addicts and all sorts of unmannerly folks. Nonetheless, this parish is witnessing the most intense real estate development in the history of the nation, and skyscrapers are going up all around us.

This Lent there is something parabolic about the scaffolding going up to repair the cross on the roof, which was in danger of falling. It will be standing tall by Easter. A heating system over a century old sometimes failed this winter, and is in constant need of repair, the most recent work costing over six figures. Our faithful people were without complaint on recent winter Sundays when there was no heat at all, while I had the advantage at the altar of warming my hands over the heat of the thurible. None of this is a complaint, since we rejoice in the tremendous potential of our neighborhood, already manifest in the growing number of impressive young adult Catholics assisting in many ways.

While a parish is by definition parochial, it is part of the wider Church which Christ has made universal. It is gratifying, for example, that missives from our parish now reach more than seven thousand readers, many of whom correspond from different states and foreign countries. I try, though not always well, to answer them, but they are a welcome part of our extended parish family. A pastor is humbled by the generosity of so many friends of his parish, especially since we very rarely speak of financial matters. But Lent in particular enjoins all to draw closer to God through prayer, to grow stronger in ourselves through discipline, and to unite more closely with each other through almsgiving.
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 http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

Enemies of the Cross of Christ by Fr. George W. Rutler

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FROM THE PASTOR
March 26, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

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Laetare Sunday is a relaxation from what, in our culture, are usually the not-too-rigorous rigors of this penitential season. Thoughts of the Heavenly Jerusalem occasioned the hymn “Jerusalem the Golden.” Ours is a translation by the Victorian classicist, John Mason Neale. The hymn is the fourth part of a poem by Bernard of Cluny in the twelfth century. He had dedicated it to the Abbot Peter the Venerable who oversaw the operation of nearly two thousand monasteries nurturing the revival of European civilization. In his attempt to better understand the twisted zeal of the Saracen Muslims who were massacring Christian pilgrims, Abbot Peter translated into Latin the Koran and various Arabic astronomical texts.

“Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest . . . I know not, O I know not, what joys await us there, What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.” The imagery, based on the divine Revelation of Saint John, is light years removed from the materialist Paradise envisioned in the Koran, with its rivers of wine to make up for earthly abstinence, and the free use of women.

Mistaken ideas of Paradise are rooted in rejection of the mystery by which Christ conquers death by the victory of the Cross. The one consistency in such heresies is the typical resentment of the Cross. A friend of mine who is a priest has bravely gone to Iraq to assist the persecuted Christians there. Along with pictures of bombed Christian towns and burned churches, is the evidence that “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18) have destroyed every image of the Cross. To drive home the point, the graves of Christians have been desecrated, bodies exhumed, and coffins left littering the ground.

In Mosul in 2007, a 35-year-old Chaldean Catholic priest and three sub-deacons refused to renounce Christ and were martyred. Father Ragheed Ghanni had been secretary to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who promoted many good works for the local people, including an orphanage for handicapped children. Both had studied in Rome at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), where I did my theology with the kind and bright Dominicans. A year later, the Archbishop, having opposed the imposition of Shariah law, was martyred.

For years, it was politically incorrect in our own country to publicize these sufferings. The same university students who retreat to psychoanalysis when they hear views contrary to their own, act as though the genocide in the Middle East did not exist. Christians in the Middle East must feel betrayed to hear comfortable clerics in the West speak glibly of “dialogue” with their persecutors. Ignorance is not innocence, and naiveté is not knowledge. But Laetare Sunday now is enriched by the heavenly help of modern witnesses who embraced the Cross:

“They stand those halls of Zion, all jubilant with song, And bright with many an angel, and all the martyr throng.”

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 http://www.StMichaelNYC.com

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