• Facebook Apostles

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

    Join 10,910 other followers

    • 64,022 Visits
  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

The Real Sacred Numerology by Fr. George W. Butler

binary-number-tunnel-1080p-hd-wallpaper

.

FROM THE PASTOR
March 5, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.

A “psychic reader” near our church has a sign telling what bell to ring for her to open the door. If I ever have the chance, I shall ask why, if she has psychic abilities, does she need a doorbell? Superstition is a sin against holy religion, and one can look for meaning in numbers to the point of excess, which is one form of superstition. But God’s historical involvement with us seems intertwined with certain numerical configurations that can be hard to ignore. Foremost among them, of course, is the number seven, but there is also forty.

In simple physics, negative forty corresponds on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales, but that is only a curiosity. In Sacred Writ, however, it rained forty days during the Flood, spies scouted Israel for forty days, the Hebrews wandered for forty years, the life of Moses divided into three segments of forty years, and three times he spent forty days on Mount Sinai, not to mention Goliath challenging the Israelites twice a day for forty days. Some of that might be swept aside, but then Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea, and walked among men for forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. It is perhaps obtuse to ignore that.

The number forty has something to do with fear. There are two kinds of fear: servile, which is fear of the unknown, and holy, which is the awe instilled by the Holy Spirit. Servile fear may be legitimate, though it can also be irrational. It is reasonable to fear poisonous spiders, but it is irrational to fear all spiders all the time.

The ancient Greeks were better psychologists than the less introspective Romans, and so they gave us the term “phobia” for irrational fear. Today, however, ignorant people slur anyone with a rational aversion to false religion or to perversion as “phobic.” But if Roman culture lacked the psychological sophistication of the Greeks, it was precise about social realities, and Latin has words for different kinds of fear: metus, terror, timor, pavor, formido, trepidatio and, that more-subtle form of fear suffered by sensitive people expecting the worst: praetimeo.

Jesus knew these temptations without succumbing to them. He knew them so well that he sweat actual blood. He warned against irrational fear as sternly as he urged holy fear: we should fear no harm to our bodies as much as we should fear eternal destruction in hell (Luke 12:5, Matthew 10:28). In his glorious resurrection he forbade fear, and the Beloved Apostle took up this theme: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, Jeeves quotes Psalm 30 to the amiable dunce Bertie Wooster: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” For those perplexed by fears worse than the ones Bertie Wooster suffered, that is what the splendid forty days of Lent are about.
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

“The purpose of Lenten disciplines, not salvific in themselves, is to train voices to join their chorus of faith” by Fr. George W. Rutler

valley-of-dry-bones

.

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

.

There is nothing new in being told that we are dust and shall return to dust. We hear it every year. Ezekiel pondered that when he saw a valley of dry bones. The answer came when God breathed, and the bones came alive again, “an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

One of the longest discussed, and often most harshly argued, questions for Christians has been how much divine breath, or saving grace, is needed to give eternal life when physical breathing stops. The idea that man is “totally depraved” took wide hold in the sixteenth century, but had already been engaged in the fourth century. Self-styled Reformers had lost their grasp on the original form of creation. All heresies are an exaggeration of a truth, to the exclusion of its subtleties. The Council of Trent affirmed the truth that man cannot be in harmony with God’s plan, or “justified,” by his own good behavior without the breath, or “grace,” of God which comes through Jesus Christ. This is why Christ said that no one is good except God (Mark 10:18). But Trent also rejected the lie that “since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished.”

Dry bones and limp lives can come alive by giving God permission (as St. Teresa of Calcutta often said) to make us what he wants us to be. While no one is good except God, each of us can become perfect (Matthew 5:48). This is not a contradiction. Goodness is a quality of being; perfection is the result of contact with that goodness. Perfectionism is a neurosis based on the confusion of goodness and perfection. The secular progressivist dreams of building an ideal society on earth through human effort, and learns the hard way that utopias end up being hells.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry said that perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. Perfectionism tries to add, as though goodness were a sum, while perfection subtracts that which obscures goodness. Michelangelo said that he sculpted Moses simply by chipping away from the marble all that was not Moses, as Moses had been there all along.

Exactly two years ago this month, twenty young Coptic Christian Egyptians were kidnapped by Islamic State militants while on a work crew in Libya. They refused to renounce Christ and chanted in chorus “Ya Rabbi Yassou!”—“Oh my Lord Jesus!” A black youth from Chad, Mathew Ayairga, not a Christian, was watching and, when asked by the captors, “Do you reject Christ?” he replied, “Their God is my God.” He was baptized by blood when all twenty-one were beheaded. While these martyrs had never heard of the theological disputes over grace and justification, they were confident that Christ can raise life eternal from dust and ash. The purpose of Lenten disciplines, not salvific in themselves, is to train voices to join their chorus of faith.

 

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

The Wise Man is Known by the Fewness of His Words by Fr. George W. Rutler

1000509261001_2098498276001_bio-biography-george-washington-sf

.

FROM THE PASTOR
February 19, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.

An oral tradition holds that in the course of a reception during the Constitutional Convention, the hearty Gouverneur Morris on a wager, after bowing to George Washington, patted him on the shoulder. Washington cast an icy glare at Morris, and the room fell silent. A man of grace and tact, Washington nonetheless had no patience for what he considered boorishness.

At the age of sixteen, Washington had laboriously copied out a long list of “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour” compiled by French Jesuits in 1595. Rule 47 said, “Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance . . . and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant, abstain from Laughing thereat yourself.” Similarly, Rule 64: “Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth. Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion. . . ”

None of this was a formula for pomposity. This simply was the protocol for avoiding behavior that masks pride as humility. Philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Seneca the Stoic agreed that the virtuous man is one of piety, dignity, manliness and gravity. Saint Benedict (480-547) raised this up a notch by associating these virtues with true humility. He writes in his Rule for monks: “The tenth degree of humility is when a monk is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written, ‘The fool exalteth his voice in laughter.’” Then: “The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: ’The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.’”

Benedict was a happy man, and his monasteries were beacons of joy in a darkening society. He knew the difference between honest happiness and suspect giddiness, just as no one today would want to buy a used car from a man who is constantly giggling. Slapping a man on the back may be fraternal, but it also may be a subtle form of domination. And clownish behavior can be an indication of insecurity. In the days of vaudeville, the advice was to hold a baby and wave the American flag if the audience started to boo. When institutions are failing, false informality serves as a desperate distraction from that fact, and when someone is insecure, levity becomes a substitute for virtue.

The irony is this: those who are silly on the outside can be sly on the inside, and the comic can be cruel to those who see through the charade. The witty Chesterton nonetheless spoke of the “easy speeches that comfort cruel men.” Cruel men dressed Jesus as a clown on the way to the Cross, but he never lost his dignity. His humility made the governor so nervous that with studied ambiguity Pilate nailed a sign over his head calling him a king.
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

Gossamer Hopes and Tinsel Messiahs by Fr. George W. Rutler

7757560618_df3799c977_b

.

FROM THE PASTOR
February 12, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.

Europe and its contiguous lands were in a chaotic condition in 1240: the Mongols were destroying Kiev, the Novgorod army virtually wiped out the Swedes along the Neva River, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, was pillaging the Papal States using Islamic Saracens as his mercenaries. Pope Gregory IX’s attempt to rally a Crusade against the invaders failed, and his good friend Saint Clare was virtually bedridden as the Saracens besieged her convent at San Damiano. Her beloved Francis of Assisi had died fourteen years before. In this emergency, she left her invalid couch, went to the window and exposed the Blessed Sacrament in a silver and ivory ciborium, and the alien troops fled.

In northern Mexico until just a few years ago, drug- and gang-related violence had made Ciudad Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Following the example of Saint Clare, missionaries turned to the Eucharistic Lord for help. A perpetual adoration chapel was opened in 2013 when the murder rate was forty people a day, with soldiers and policemen joining the gangs. Increasing numbers of devotees urged the soldiers to join them in Holy Hours. Few now dismiss as only coincidence the fact that within five years the annual murder rate dropped from 3,766 to 256.

That rate is far lower than many cities in the United States now. With dismaying insouciance, statisticians in our nation over recent years have coldly taken for granted its moral decay. Besides graphic violence in the streets, there are over 500,000 abortions each year. In many places, births out of wedlock are the norm, teenage suicide has doubled in little more than a decade, 40% of all children live in broken homes, school diplomas and college degrees have generally become meaningless, marriage has been redefined into surreality, and freedom of religion has been intimidated by false readings of constitutional rights.

Recent political shifts in our nation offer a faint glimmer of genuine promise for a change in all this, as more people realize that in the past they had placed their confidence in gossamer hopes and tinsel messiahs. But the ballot box is no substitute for the Tabernacle. A well-known Pentecostal preacher surprisingly admitted that most miracles happen in the Catholic Church because “Catholic people revere the Eucharist.” If more Catholics themselves understood that, there would be more miracles. Now, miracles do not contradict nature: they are God’s will at work at high speed. Christ promised to be with us “until the end of the world.” Eucharistic adoration is simply the recognition of his presence. Saint Clare prayed, “My Lord, if it is your wish, protect this city which is sustained by your love.” The Lord answered, “It will have to undergo trials, but it will be defended by my protection.”
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

Saint Thomas Aquinas Sanctioned Border Control by Fr. George Rutler

border-control

.

FROM THE PASTOR
February 5, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler
.

In the margin of a public speaker’s manuscript was the notation: “Weak point. Shout.” Such is the rhetoric of those who place emotion over logic and make policy through gangs rather than parliaments. In Athens 2,400 years ago, Aristophanes described the demagogue as having “a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the marketplace.” That marketplace today includes the biased media and the universities that have become daycare centers.

The recent action of our government’s executive branch to protect our borders and enforce national security is based on Constitutional obligations (Art. 1 sec 10 and Art. 4 sec 4). It is a practical protection of the tranquility of order explained by Saint Augustine when he saw the tranquillitas ordinis of Roman civilization threatened. Saint Thomas Aquinas sanctioned border control (S. Th. I-II, Q. 105, Art. 3). No mobs shouted in the marketplace two years ago when the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act restricted visa waivers for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. The present ban continues that, and only for a stipulated ninety days, save for Syria. There is no “Muslim ban” as should be obvious from the fact that the restrictions do not apply to other countries with Muslim majorities, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Turkey.

These are facts ignored by demagogues who speak of tears running down the face of the Statue of Liberty. At issue is not immigration, but illegal immigration. It is certainly manipulative of reason to justify uncontrolled immigration by citing previous generations of immigrants to our shores, all of whom went through the legal process, mostly in the halls of Ellis Island. And it is close to blasphemy to invoke the Holy Family as antinomian refugees, for they went to Bethlehem in obedience to a civil decree requiring tax registration, and they violated no statutes when they sought protection in Egypt. Then there was Saint Paul, who worked within the legal system, and invoked his Roman citizenship through privileges granted to his native Tarsus in 66 B.C. (Acts 16:35-38; 22:25-29; 25:11-12) He followed ordered procedure, probably with the status of civis Romanus non optimo jure—a legal citizen, but not allowed to act as a magistrate.

It is obvious that the indignant demonstrators against the new Executive Orders are funded in no little part by wealthy interests who would provoke agitation. These same people have not shown any concern about the neglected Christians seeking refuge from persecution in the Middle East. In 2016 there was a 675% increase in the number of Syrian refugees over the previous year, but while 10% of the Syrian population is Christian, only one-half of one percent of the Syrian Christians were granted asylum. It is thankworthy that our changed government now wants to redress that. The logic of that policy must not be shouted down by those who screech rather than reason.
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

 

The Stories of Hymns – The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns Book by Fr. George W. Rutler

9781682780244

.

FROM THE PASTOR
January 29, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.

The Stuffed Owl is an amusing anthology of bad verse, first published back in 1930. I was reminded of it with the popularity of the new historical dramatization “Victoria” on television, for one of The Stuffed Owl’s choicest specimens is a contribution by one of Her Majesty’s afflicted subjects:

Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,

Into the tomb the Great Queen dashes.

It is matched perhaps only by “Lines Written to a Friend on the Death of His Brother, Caused by a Railway Train Running over Him Whilst He Was in a State of Inebriation” by James Henry Powell. These were amateurs, but, as Dryden said, “Even Homer nods.” That is, even experts make mistakes, and Dryden himself has more than one entry in the anthology along with the likes of Tennyson and Wordsworth.

C.S. Lewis did not care much for hymns, which he said were usually fifth-rate poetry set to fourth-rate music. Exceptions include the great works of Charles Wesley, John Mason Neale, John Henry Newman, and the like. Those were sturdy adaptations of classical theology set to splendid tunes. As such, they stand out from the bad verse and banal tunes that have descended on congregations from the culturally bleak 1970’s onwards. Some hymns from the older Protestant writers are more in accord with solid doctrine than the insipid twaddle heard at some Masses and may be approved for Catholic praise, like the music of Bach and Handel. They harken to a tradition earlier than their times, as did the work of James Renwick, the Anglican architect of our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Liturgy itself is a hymn. The current Ordinary Form permits other hymnody, but this is in the form of “tropes,” as commentary on the sacred texts. The Church’s basic hymnal consists in the Psalms. The Greek “psalmos” is a song accompanied by stringed instruments. Psalms 120-134 even have notations for the instruments.

In the tenth century, the sublime music and ceremonials of the Byzantine rite persuaded Prince Vladimir to adopt it for his lands from northwestern Russia to southern Ukraine. While the Latin rite, performed according to its canons, also has an innate power to evangelize, these days its music is often wanting and its lack of care regrettable.

Nearly twenty years ago I published a book about the history of some hymns, called Brightest and Best. This week it is being re-published as The Stories of Hymns. Perhaps these stories will help readers to appreciate better what St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote:

You must every man of you join in a choir so that being harmonious and in concord and taking the keynote of God in unison, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, so that He may hear you and through your good deeds recognize that you are parts of His Son.

——————-
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 (Kindle only).

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

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

Our nation has been given a remarkable chance to set what is right, and to fix what is wrong by Fr. George W. Rutler

161223161653-donald-trump-rnc-day4-t1-1024x576

.

FROM THE PASTOR
January 22, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

.

During these days of transition in government, temperance in expectations is a wise policy based on experience. Calvin Coolidge said, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” The Yankee farmer was frugal with words, but they were not cheap. No fawning reporters claimed that his sober speeches sent a tingle up their legs. Magazines did not hail him as “The Second Coming,” and he would have thought it absurd to promise that his presidency was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Thus, he did not disappoint.

In his own instance, Coolidge’s competence was as great as his humility. True to his dictum that “One of the greatest favors that can be bestowed upon the American people is economy in government,” the nation during his administration enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, decreased income tax (he thought that the national average income tax of $300 was outrageous), a federal budget surplus, unemployment down to 3 per cent, a decline in racial strife, and a boom in technological patents and progress.

Coolidge became president at the unexpected death of Warren G. Harding, who thought of himself as a significant orator. But that splendid curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, said of Harding’s rhetoric: “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges, it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.”

On the other hand, Coolidge spoke very well indeed. He was the last president to write his own speeches. Though the media caricatured him as “Silent Cal,” he gave more press conferences than any president before or since.

On the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Coolidge said that equality, liberty, popular sovereignty and the rights of man “belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish.”

Our nation has been given a remarkable chance, through all its government branches, to set what is right, and to fix what is wrong. The prayer of our nation’s first bishop, John Carroll, in 1791 is offered again in this new year:

“We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.”

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

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

%d bloggers like this: