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RIP F. Reid Buckley Apr. 16th, 2014 @ 09:33 am
Every once in a while I meet someone to whom I take an instant liking, and it really doesn't matter what they are or where they came from. So it came to pass in the early autumn of 1970 when, in my capacity as President of the Young Conservatives at the State University of New York at Albany, I received a phone call asking if I could, on very short notice, host an appearance on campus of F. Reid Buckley, the youngest son of the precocious Buckleys of Sharon, Connecticut. Brother William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review and host of television's Firing Line, was then in his prime, and brother James L. Buckley then in the middle of his second campaign for United States Senator from New York. This took place some years before their nephew Brent Bozell married Amsterdam's Norma Petruccione (a distant cousin of my granddaughter).



I don't think I had even been aware of Reid's existence until receiving that call. He spent much of his adult life in Spain plodding away as a not particularly successful novelist, though not for lack of talent, as his works show great imagination and deft turns of phrases. (As I have learned myself, the key to success involves more than a good product. You have to figure out a way to get people to read what you've written.)

The rather vague message I received indicated that Mr. Buckley wished to lecture on the subject of bull fighting, so I dutifully booked a room, ran off some quicky posters and stuck them on pillars and bulletin boards all over campus. All things considered, we gathered a fairly respectable and mixed crowd and Mr. Buckley breezed in on schedule, flashing a dazzling smile, and promptly began talking about the importance of conservatism and his brother's campaign, much to the puzzlement of the audience, and my own, though it was a fine talk for a worthy cause, In the q&a that followed, though, he did field some bull fighting inquiries and all ended without incident or rancor.

Afterwards we retired to the campus Rathskeller for a brew and more conversation. If there's one talent shared by the Buckleys, it is the ability to talk effortlessly, brilliantly, humorously and warmly, and my beer with Reid was pure delight.

I only met him one more time after that, a couple of months later at the Waldorf-Astoria the night his brother improbably became the Senator-elect from New York. The returns hadn't come in yet, but the mood was upbeat, and we exchanged exhilarated pleasantries on what would become a most glorious night.

More than four decades have passed. I look forward to seeing him again.

I can think of very few more pleasant ways to spend eternity.
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Father Rutler Says . . . Mar. 30th, 2014 @ 02:33 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
March 30, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

The Belgian priest and physicist, Monsignor Georges Lemaître died in 1966 after receiving news that his theory of the birth of the universe—what he called the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”—had been confirmed by the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. Albert Einstein was slow in coming around to Lemaître’s hypothesis of an expanding universe, now popularly called the “Big Bang”—a term that was first meant in subtle mockery, but then he commended it to further research. Just weeks ago, scientists published evidence of the almost instantaneous expansion of all matter from an infinitesimal particle. The scale and volume of this stuns the human mind, but at least if the mind cannot grasp this, it can acknowledge it, along with the fact that there was no time or space before that “moment.” It fits well with the record in Genesis of the voice of the eternal and unlimited God uttering light and all consequent creatures into existence.

Here one must be careful in attributing to physical science an explanation of the “why” as well as the “how” of creation, and theology—equally the highest science—must not confuse itself with physics. In the sixteenth century, Cardinal Baronius said, “The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” In a moment of unguarded enthusiasm in 1951, Pope Pius XII said that Lemaître’s theory proved the existence of God. He humbly backed off when Lemaître told him that a physical hypothesis could do no such thing.

No human hypothesis can tell us what God alone can reveal: that he made the world and all that is in it for his delight. When we delight God by doing his will, his delight infuses his sentient creatures with joy. The composer Gustav Holst may have employed some fanciful theology (theosophy) in giving personalities to seven planets in his famous symphony, but the ”jollity” of Jupiter is a compelling metaphor for the joy of the saints.

Laetare Sunday in the middle of Lent is not so much an interruption of the penitential season as it is an encouragement not to lose the focus of Lent and life itself on the joy that God offers us in Heaven, where there is no time or space, as it was before the world began. The Church goes “up” to Jerusalem in an earthly sense as a metaphor for moving toward the Heavenly Jerusalem which “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). This is a wonder more daunting and challenging than the most abstruse hypotheses of the most brilliant physical scientists. It moves beyond the pleasure of speculation into the purest happiness of encounter. “Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and come together all you that love her.”      

 


With this week's column from Fr. Rutler, we resume posting MP3 audio files of the gospel and homily of the 10:00am Sunday Mass. 

Access the MP3 file of this week's homily

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Mar. 23rd, 2014 @ 08:10 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
March 23, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

When Shakespeare imagined what young King Henry V might have said before the Battle of Agincourt a century and a half before, he wrote one of the most celebrated speeches never really spoken. Nonetheless, it expresses the pride and thrill of having been privy to a great event:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

The eyewitness accounts of those who walked with Christ and saw the things he did and heard the words he spoke may give the impression that the narrators had an advantage over us these two thousand years later. St. John spoke with reverential awe of "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1). However, not one of the apostles, nor for that matter any human being, was at the beginning of everything. It is by God himself that the creation of the world is revealed, and it is by God in Christ that we learn our purpose in the created order. As Christ who has no beginning or end, but has also a human nature that does have a birth and death, he conflates eternity and time so that when we are united with his death and resurrection in baptism, we mystically are able to be at the beginning of the world and at its end. "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (1 Colossians 1:17).

St. Paul was not there at the Resurrection, but Christ came to him on the Emmaus road [I think he means Damascus Road -rng], and ever afterward the Apostle would say in both defense and boast that he had been born "out of time." During the forty days of Lent, the Church is there with the Lord, going up to Jerusalem in an actual way, and not merely reminiscing or imagining as in a stage play. This is a particular gift of these Lenten weeks, but it is not confined to this season. Nor is it limited to one place. The Holy Eucharist enables all worshipers to be with the Lord, anyplace in the world at any hour, attending at the same time his sacrifice on the Cross and his Paschal victory. St. Peter could say with holy pride, "we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:18). And while that is a sublime thing to be able to say, so can we rejoice as well, for we too hear a voice from heaven when we are with the Lord at the holy altar: "This is my Body… This is my Blood."      

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Mar. 16th, 2014 @ 08:50 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
March 16, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

In classical Latin culture, a Genius was a guiding spirit given to individuals from birth (gignere), enabling them to have special insights. It can be confused with ingenium, a power from within, not one that is endowed from without. From the latter we get words like ingenious and engine. An engine is not a Genius, nor does Genius exactly mean today what it originally meant. The shift from having a genius to being a genius was gradual. Milton speaks of genius as we know it in his Eikonoklastes. With the idealization of reason in the eighteenth century, talk spread of the genius of mankind and of men who were geniuses. But if there ever were geniuses in that age—take Newton—they did not think of themselves as such. Newton thanked God for his calculations. Mozart did not describe himself as other than a craftsman, rather as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called herself a pencil in the hand of God, and unlike the brooding spirit of Beethoven, to whom people doffed their hats, giving birth to the Romantic Age. I confess to bias when I say it reached degenerate heights with Wagner's “beautiful moments but awful quarter hours.”

Two geniuses, if you will, to whom I tip my hat in respect are Newman and Chesterton. But they would be amused should anyone imply that their gifts were inborn and not given. Chesterton knew that people ran the danger of the foundational sin for all other sins, which is Pride. He said that he became a Catholic in order to get rid of his sins. He had no doubt about what caused the Fall of Man because evidence was all around him: “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christianity which can really be proven.” Chesterton roared with laughter at himself, while Newman would rather smile. Chesterton was like a big bass drum while Newman was more like a violin, but neither had pretensions to being anything other than made from clay into which God had breathed life. Newman warned against the veneration of “knowledge for its own sake” because it substitutes specimens of mental brilliance for holiness, “arrogating for them a praise to which they have no claim.” Then came his warning spoken to intellectuals in one of his lectures on the proper idea of a university: “Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.” In our day, you do not have to try to quarry granite with razors or moor a vessel with a thread of silk to know what he meant.      

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Mar. 9th, 2014 @ 02:02 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
March 9, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

Those who are in a position to do so are wise to consult an investment advisor, and at the start of Lent, it is not irreverent to say that the Lord himself is the best one. His parables are woven with references to merchants, investing and interest rates, and in all things he knew whereof he spoke. But he spoke from heaven, even while on earth, which is why he said, “Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). When the crowds remarked that no one spoke the way he did, they were acknowledging, however obliquely, that he had what greedy people superficially think of as insider information, but which in fact was and is an understanding of right value issuing from the economy of the Holy Trinity.

This is why Christ warns so fervently against bad investment of our lives and loves. A divided heart is a very bad investment indeed: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The chief problem with the deadly sin of greed—or avarice—is that it is never satisfied because it tries to fabricate a substitute kind of heaven, with the illusion of commanding power and immortality, but these things quickly fall apart along with the body itself. Avarice rejects goodness in favor of false security. Unlike other sins, it tends to get ever worse with age, since it does not merely want more, it wants more than others, and there will always be those others with more. Instead of freeing the soul, mere things (mammon)—as a substitute for God—burden the soul. The rich young man who asked Jesus about eternal life went away sad precisely because “he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:22).

Lent is a particularly elegant time to walk with the saints of various generations and backgrounds, whose prayers for us build up the “treasury of saints” full of powerful grace. Drawing on the graces of the saints for our needs is the one kind of theft that is holy. St. John Vianney said that the treasury of the saints is meant to be plundered. The Good Thief on the cross inherited paradise because he gave up minor theft with the desire for the greatest wealth of all: “the Kingdom and its righteousness.”

Confidence in this great economy of the Holy Trinity that enriches the intellect and will is the essence of Faith. Without it, people will always be anxious about the future because they have invested their intellect and will in unsteady things that pass away. The avaricious man will always lament the bad investments of his past and will constantly worry about present things, because he lacks the faith to trust in the treasure of heaven. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.”     

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Mar. 2nd, 2014 @ 03:48 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
March 2, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of around 20 million men, women and children by massacres, torture, starvation and execution. Figures diverse as Lord Beaverbrook, Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman and George Marshall noticed his habit of doodling pictures of snarling wolves. Sixteen days before his death, he told an Indian ambassador, Shri Menon, “When a wolf shows his teeth, you know he is not laughing.” In his paranoia he saw wolves all around him and said, “Peasants know how to handle wolves. They exterminate them.”

It is hard to explain such figures apart from evil as a palpable Foe. There was no paranoia in our Lord’s counsel to his disciples: “I am sending you as sheep among wolves. So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). In that menagerie of metaphors is the strategy of spiritual combat. Wisdom and innocence destroy foolishness and naïveté.

Our Lord is far from foolish and naïve when he orders us to turn the other cheek, to give the tunic as well as the cloak, and to walk twice the distance that is required by the Foe. Humility is more powerful than aggression or pacificism, and “heaps coals” (Romans 12:20) on the Foe's demonic pride. This is hard to do, given the human instinct to revenge, but the Council of Trent assured that the commandments of God are not impossible to observe. His ultimate strategy in spiritual combat is: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

In 1983, the U.S. Bishops’ Conference issued a pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, which in retrospect was called unwise and naïve by Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans. In World War II he had served in the 505th Parachute Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division in the Ardennes Offensive and helped liberate a concentration camp. For a short while during the Allied occupation of Germany, he was priest-in-charge of the Cologne cathedral. The dust cover of my book, Principalities and Powers, shows armed soldiers at Mass in those bombed out ruins, and Chaplain Hannan may very well have been the priest at the altar. His last words at the age of 98, receiving Absolution on his death bed, were, “Sounds good to me.” Once when a mugger tried to rob him in Rome, the elderly archbishop struck him down and said later that he did not have time to turn the other cheek. But as a good shepherd who protected his flock from wolves, he knew that he had engaged and outwitted a Foe even fiercer than the wicked of this world.

Lent is a campaign against the aboriginal Evil One who seeks the ruin of souls. Even soldiers in a victorious army can be killed. Christ has defeated the Foe, and he protects us with “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).     

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Feb. 22nd, 2014 @ 03:07 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
February 23, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

Dante's thought was so greatly shaped by Aristotle that he called him “The Philosopher” rather as it is customary to call Saint Paul “The Apostle.” He placed Aristotle in a sort of suburb of Heaven, for Aristotle's logical thought was a noble anticipation of Christ the Word, or Logos, as the litmus test for all logical thought. Aristotle applied his “Principle of Non-Contradiction” in several ways, but the third way, most pertinent to daily conversation, means that two statements that are opposite cannot both be true. Like all great truths, this seems so obvious that it should hardly need to be pointed out. But people contradict the principle of non-contradiction all the time. It is easy to slip into this mistake out of fuzzy courtesy—which in the extreme is a form of sentimentality—as when someone says, “That may be true for you, but it is not true for me,” or, “All religions are the same.” Pope Benedict XVI saw this as so great a danger to logical living that he spoke of it as a “dictatorship of relativism.” To propose that opposite assertions can be true is harshly to cancel out truth. In our grammar, two negatives make a positive, but to say that a negative and a positive make a positive would be to say that nothing is really positive. Then to say that Christ is and is not the Living Word is to say that the Word is just a word. This “dictatorship” inevitably tries to crush any assertion that there is such a thing as logic at all.

   This is not a matter just for the philosophy class. It has harsh consequences for justice. The “show trials” of Stalin and Hitler were held in a Humpty Dumpty world where a word means anything the judge wants it to mean. This reduces sense to sentimentality, and there is a fine line between sentimentality and cruelty, because it twists logic and explains why demagogues speak of caring for society even as they destroy every vestige of it, condoning unnatural acts as natural, and even offering to help children by killing them, as “lawmakers” in Brussels have recently done. Milton said, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

   Christ did not contradict himself when he said that he fulfilled the Law, even while he was breaking some of the little laws. He was showing the logic of the law as expressive of the eternal Logos that orders all things. The Apostle, even wiser than The Prophet, spoke of a wisdom which “is not of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).   

 


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BONUS FATHER RUTLER!

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THANE! Feb. 21st, 2014 @ 11:23 pm
More shocking news of civil unrest in our sister-city in India:

Thane: Fifteen workers of Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navanirman Sena including its city president Nilesh Chavan were on Friday arrested by the police for vandalising Kharigaon toll booth near here yesterday.


A group of MNS workers attacked the toll booth following a heated argument with the staff. Today police arrested Chavan and 14 others.

Inspector RD Malekar, who is investigating, told PTI that they were booked for rioting, unlawful assembly, etc.

PTI

First Published: Saturday, February 22, 2014, 00:11
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Father Rutler Says . . . Feb. 16th, 2014 @ 05:05 pm



FROM THE PASTOR
February 16, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

One of Christ's most radical declarations was that he had come into this world not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. He gives us the full intent of the law, and does not treat the “letter of the law” as though that were the full portent of what law is about. Some of his fiercest adversaries were lawyers who were like painters but not real artists. For even with the best of intentions, painting by numbers and not by inspiration does not amount to true art.

   For more than 27 years I have had the privilege of being spiritual director to Catholic lawyers in our archdiocese, and I have been edified by those who understand the majesty of law not just as a profession, but as a noble vocation. I am sure that when they encounter those who trivialize the law, such as those “ambulance chasers” who advertise for clients on television wearing loud suits and cowboy hats, they must react to them as I do to the more vulgar evangelists who make fortunes duping crowds with panaceas instead of the Gospel.

   Since about 1960, the number of lawyers in our nation has increased at five times the rate of growth of the population as a whole. There are various reasons for this, but it is certain that elements of our legal system have lost perspective. Without respect for God as the author of justice, justice itself suffers. G.K. Chesterton said, “When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.”

   There are those in our society who have come to think that all laws are little, and that the courts can change the big laws by human will. So we have activist courts even attempting to abolish the basic natural laws of life as ordained by God. Christ reminded Pontius Pilate that governors are responsible to heaven. A characteristic of tyrants is that they subvert the law. During the terrible years of National Socialism, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich risked his own life when he preached: “The State, as an institution built by God, can establish its laws, and its subjects are under the obligation to obey them, for the sake of their conscience. The State has the right to levy taxes and to demand sacrifices of property and life in the defense of the Fatherland. The State, however, has no right to make laws which are incompatible with Divine Law and the Natural Law.”

   St. Augustine said, “Love God and do whatever you please.” But that does not mean lawlessness. God “never commanded anyone to be godless. He has given no one permission to sin” (Ecclesiastes 15:20). Many who quote Augustine omit the rest of his sentence: “. . . for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”   

 


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Father Rutler Says . . . Feb. 2nd, 2014 @ 08:32 am



FROM THE PASTOR
February 2, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler

From time to time, programs on Public Television feature medical doctors suggesting ways to reduce the chances of various diseases. Sometimes the experts contradict one another, but at least they invoke some scientific evidence in their support. Very different are the endless lines of “motivational” speakers who utter all sorts of vaguely Gnostic froth and then are replaced by others with equally vacuous information about unleashing the “inner child” and so forth. The irony, of course, is that the television producers dangle this pseudo-metaphysical nonsense before the viewer, while not daring to feature any sort of classical religious direction. That may be understandable, given their secular obligations, but the inconsistency lies in presenting psychobabble as something serious.

   In contrast to the purveyors of Spirituality-Lite, are the solid spiritual directors who have been real saints themselves or helped to form saints. In different ages and various ways, they seem to have agreed that the human consciousness develops in three stages. First, the child gradually asks “What am I?” and learns through experience. This physical stage then moves along to a psychological query: “Who am I?” This is the mental climate of adolescence, with all its vitality and frustrations. Man, however, is fated to perpetual adolescence, unless he enters the third stage of maturity, which asks “Why am I?” This marks the progress from biology and psychology to theology. The Psalmist (8:4) asks: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and in so saying he was speaking of the third stage of maturity in terms of philosophical reflection. The Psalmist penetrates this even more deeply by asking why God “visits” us.

   That “visitation,” or involvement of the Creator with his creatures, moved from inspired intuition to historical fact when “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” In declaring “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” Jesus answered “What am I?” by being the Way, and “Who am I?” by being the Truth, and “Why am I?” by being the Life. While our limited intelligence asks in various ways, “Am I?” the question is answered in the very fact that we are loved by the I Am.

   By referring all that we are to Christ, and by letting his Holy Spirit guide our intellect to truth and unite our will to his, which is the essence of spiritual “crucifixion” of all that is beneath our dignity, then we learn the what and who and why of our being. There is no need to search for an “inner child” if we simply become childlike in humility and awe. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).   

 


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