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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Father Rutler: Saint John Henry Newman

Father George W. Rutler
Over forty years ago, I told a wise Protestant theologian that I had been reading the Apologia pro Vita Sua of John Henry Newman (1801-1890). He warned me that it is “a dangerous book.” That was just the sort of advice that makes a young thinker all the more eager to read it. And so I did, and so did countless others whose lives were changed by this book, whose passages are some of the most beautiful in the English language, and whose author’s thoughts considering the psychology of the soul are undying.
Newman wrote that book in four weeks, standing at his upright desk in Birmingham, England, in response to a personal attack on his integrity: “I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind . . . but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.”
Today Newman is to be canonized in Rome, a tribute to his unsurpassed gifts of grace as theologian, historian, writer, poet, preacher and, most of all, a pastor of souls. While preaching and writing immortal words, he also was meticulous in running the Oratory school he founded, even making costumes for school plays, paying coal bills, and playing his fiddle in the school orchestra.
In his honor and in thanksgiving for the Church’s recognition of his holiness, of which the angels never were in doubt, we shall dedicate today a shrine for him in our church. As with all that we try to do in our church, this sculpture is the work of one of our own parishioners. Newman foresaw with uncanny prescience the various challenges of our own day, and this monument should be a reminder to pray for his intercession on behalf of our local church and the Church Universal in a time of spiritual combat, which is a lot like what he faced in his own age. 
To Newman’s great surprise, and even “shock,” the newly elected Pope Leo XIII in 1879 created him a cardinal. He had been so attacked and calumniated for his religious views over many years, that he was satisfied that the “cloud” had finally been lifted. In his acceptance speech he said that his entire life had been consecrated to refuting the doctrine of relativism which held that “Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”
Today we sing Cardinal Newman’s hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light,” which his own life embodied and faith made bold: “I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me.”
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Father George W. Rutler


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Father Rutler: The President's Bold Defense of Life

Father George W. Rutler
At the start of October, life in Manhattan recovers from those late September weeks when the opening of the United Nations General Assembly ties up traffic, even blocking many streets, and takes over many hotels and clubs for expensive receptions—some of the costliest, it seems, being those of some of the poorest countries. With so many heads of state in town, battalions of Secret Service agents and bodyguards eye everyone with suspicion.
This year there was one bright spot, although largely ignored by much of the media. Representing the United States, our President gave what was perhaps the most forceful address that any of our Chief Executives have spoken there. Denouncing the United Nations’ scheme to promote abortion, first drafted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the President said that “Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”
Such boldness must have shocked many diplomats present, like those in the 1942 film “I Married an Angel” who were aghast when Jeanette MacDonald, as a blessed angel, tells them the truth, upsetting their cocktail party. Our nation has never had an angel for president, and its Constitution in fact prevents that. But Abraham Lincoln invoked “the better angels of our nature” and confounded those who had dismissed him as an untutored vulgarian with ambiguous views on abolition. The first Christians in Jerusalem were suspicious of Paul’s conversion, and theologians like Tertullian and Justin, some years before Constantine, thought it impossible that any emperor would ever defend Christianity.
Ironically, there are highly placed prelates who have shied away from mentioning these matters in secular forums, hoping that subtlety might be more persuasive. Such naiveté, as in the instance of the Holy See’s diplomats cajoling Communist China by compromise, accomplishes little. In his United Nations speech, the President said: “The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honor its binding treaty, made with the British and registered with the United Nations, in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system, and democratic ways of life.” The Holy See has not commented on the popular demonstrations in Hong Kong, which may explain why the youths there struggling for freedom, and inspired by the heroic Cardinal Zen, are waving the Stars and Stripes and not the Vatican flag. 
“For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

ENGLAND’S ‘RETURN TO WALSINGHAM’?



Catholics readying country's rededication as 'Our Lady's Dowry'


From Church Militant
By Stephen Wynne

On Tuesday, Catholics across the United Kingdom celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham, a feast commemorating apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a pious English noblewoman in 1061.
The celebration marked the final months of a multi-year prayer campaign for national re-evangelization and conversion that will culminate on March 29, 2020, with the rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary.
An exhibition brief marking the upcoming rededication explains the significance of the title: "The word 'dowry' (from the Latin dos, meaning 'donation') is sometimes understood as the donation accompanying a bride. In medieval English law, however, the meaning was reversed — a husband would set aside a portion of his estate ... for the maintenance of his wife, should she become a widow."
"The historical understanding of England as 'Mary's Dowry' is understood in this sense — that, England has been 'set apart' for Mary," it adds.
Campaign organizers describe the next few months as a time of grace, "when all England is invited to renew their own personal 'YES' to the Lord Jesus through parish communal acts of preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary."
They're also inviting U.K. Catholics to commit to "regular Confession, the praying of the Angelus, Rosary and prayerful invocation of the Saints and Martyrs of England as ongoing prayer for our nation and the entire British Isles."
England was once renowned for its Catholic piety — especially its devotion to the Blessed Virgin, embodied by the dozens of Marian shrines adorning the country.  
The title "Our Lady's Dowry" is thought to have originated during the reign of St. Edward the Confessor (1042–1066). By the middle of the 14th century, its use was widespread. 
On July 15, 1381, King Richard II (1377–1399) officially dedicated England to Our Lady as Her Dowry, entrusting the realm to Her care and protection — an event depicted in the renowned medieval painting, the Wilton Diptych.
Reflecting on England as "set apart" for Mary, Abp. Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in 1399:
The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has drawn all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the first beginnings of our redemption. But we English, being the servants of her special inheritance and her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions.
Around 1496, Richard Pynson, printer to King Henry VII, composed the Walsingham Ballad, which declares: "O England, great cause have you to be glad compared to the Promised Land, for you are graced to stand in that degree, through this gloriously lady's intercessions; to be called in every realm and region the Holy Land, Our Lady's Dowry; thus are you called from all antiquity."
"No other nation claimed such an honor as this," writes Fr. Matthew Pittam, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. "Before the Reformation, England was as advanced as any other European country in steadfast devotion to Our Lady."
He recounts that King Henry VIII's revolt in the 1530s marked a turning point for the country's devotion to the Virgin Mary:
With the Reformation came the fanatical destruction of so much of the great Catholic heritage, art and architecture of England. Shrines were destroyed, important images of Our Lady were taken to Chelsea and burned, and holy men and woman died for their faith. Alongside this iconoclasm and terror came the dimming of the memory of Our Lady's Dowry.
 Even so, Fr. Pittam notes, "[F]or some the hope and promise of this special honor was never completely extinguished."
"Recusant families, those who kept the flame of Catholicism burning during penal times (when Catholicism was outlawed), maintained the faith at great personal cost," he adds. "For many of these families, the belief in Mary's Dowry spurred them on during their most difficult and trying years and gave them strength to persevere through persecution."
In 1893, Pope Leo XIII urged English Catholic pilgrims in Rome to remember "the wonderful filial love which burnt within the hearts of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God, to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the Kingdom itself acquired the singular title of 'Mary's Dowry.'"
Dowry Tour organizers note that unlike King Richard II's dedication in 1381, next year's rededication "will not be the gift of the country of England, but the personal gift of the faith of the people of England to the Mother of God, to seek her help in building a strong spiritual foundation" for the re-evangelization of the country. 
In the immediate lead-up to the rededication, on Feb. 21, 2020, all Catholics are invited to begin a personal 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary, following the method of St. Louis de Montfort. The personal consecration will culminate on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. 
March 26–March 28 will mark a three-day triduum of prayer, during which participants will go to confession and join in recitation of the Rosary and the Litany of the Saints and Martyrs of England.
Finally, on March 29, the personal rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary will occur in Westminster and Walsingham, as well as every cathedral and parish in the country.
Participants will implore Our Lady's intercession, mindful of what some regard as a prophecy of spiritual renewal: When signing the rescript for the Restoration of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in 1897, Pope Leo XIII declared that "When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England."

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Father Rutler: The Scandal of Particularity

Father George W. Rutler
As with quotations that are variously attributed, journalists including Charles Anderson Dana of the “New York Tribune” and John B. Bogart of the “New York Sun” are said to have coined the aphorism: “‘Dog bites man’ does not make the news, but ‘Man bites dog’ does.” Human nature is fascinated by what is exceptional and scandalous. But “skandalon” really means more than that. It is a “stumbling block” that trips up the way mere mortals think things are supposed to be.  
Theologically, there is the “Scandal of Particularity.” It has two aspects. First is the doctrine that the Creator of the universe has solicitude for every minute detail of it, even every sparrow and each hair on your head (cf. Matt. 10:29). This has ramifications even in mathematics where the “Chaos Theory” proposes a “Butterfly Effect,” meaning that something as slight as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in New Delhi might cause a hurricane in New York. So too it is with people.
Every human action can have consequences beyond fathoming. There is the prime example of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, that started a domino effect leading to the First World War. His chauffeur spoke only Czech and did not understand the orders of German security officers to follow a route safe from assassins. So he drove according to the original plan and came within feet of a radical Bosnian who had not expected such luck. It might be said that 17 million people eventually died because one man took a wrong turn.
The second part of the Scandal of Particularity is the acknowledgement that Christ, whose divine nature has no beginning or end, came to our small planet with a human nature as the unique savior from sin and death. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). His divine nature enables him to see “the big picture” while his human nature involves him in the minutest details of ordinary life. If this is scandalous, it is because presently we are limited to categories of time and space, and we find it hard to think of importance without being overwhelmed by size and power.
In another quotation variously attributed, Stalin is said to have remarked: “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million men is a statistic.” The same dictator mockingly asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” He knows now – though a bit too late. But the biggest scandal of all to the limited mind, and so bold that it is refreshing when it expands the mind, is the Lord’s declaration: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father apart from me” (John 14:6).