Killington, Vermont

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Father Rutler: Come, Lord Jesus

Father George W. Rutler
Given the many theatres that are or have been within walking distance of our church on 34th Street, it is not possible to count the number of times stage curtains have come down on a final act. One block away from us is the theatre built by Oscar Hammerstein, to compete with the old Metropolitan Opera House up on Broadway at 39th. Here on 34th Street, in what is now called the Manhattan Center, the Vitaphone sound system was used in 1926 to record the first soundtrack for a moving picture, Don Juan. Before the old Met’s gold damask curtain came down for the last time at 39th and Broadway in 1966, the greatest Madama Butterfly, Licia Albanese, who once sang in my former church,  rendered her last “Un bel dì” and then kissed with her hand the floorboards of the stage as the curtain came down before a weeping audience.
In another venue, my grandmother had a vivid recollection of the consternation at the old Hippodrome up on 43rd Street in the late 1920s when the curtain collapsed on the child star Baby Rose Marie. That forerunner to Shirley Temple survived and lived to be 94. Albanese was still singing when she died in 2014 at the age of 105.
So curtains fall sooner or later, and we have Advent to remind us of that. The superficiality of a life may be measured by how seriously one takes Advent’s four themes of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Advent proclaims that a curtain is falling, even if a premature Christmas celebration with bells and elves, beginning with the Macy’s parade (two blocks east of our church), fabricates a distraction from that.
If thought is not deep, there will be no real joy when the mysteries of God are disclosed. The bane of our times, and possibly of all times, is superficiality. This was illustrated at a synod of bishops in Rome in 2015, when papers of a politically correct nature were read, one after another repeating clichés to address the world’s problems. One consultant broke through the soporific jargon. Dr. Anca Maria Cernea, a prominent Romanian physician, whose father had been imprisoned by Communists for seventeen years, said:
“The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change.” The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion. Not an ever-increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism on our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on. What the world needs nowadays is not a limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.”
In the darkening days of Advent, the curtain falls on the old man, in sure and certain hope that it will rise for those who believe that there is born in Bethlehem the Savior, who will die in order to rise. 
Faithfully yours in Christ, Father George W. Rutler

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Presidential Proclamation on Thanksgiving Day, 2019

On Thanksgiving Day, we remember with reverence and gratitude the bountiful blessings afforded to us by our Creator, and we recommit to sharing in a spirit of thanksgiving and generosity with our friends, neighbors, and families.
Nearly four centuries ago, determined individuals with a hopeful vision of a more prosperous life and an abundance of opportunities made a pilgrimage to a distant land.  These Pilgrims embarked on their journey across the Atlantic at great personal risk, facing unforeseen trials and tribulations, and unforetold hardships during their passage.  After their arrival in the New World, a harsh and deadly winter took the lives of nearly half their population.  Those who survived remained unwavering in their faith and foresight of a future rich with liberty and freedom, enduring every impediment as they established one of our Nation’s first settlements.  Through God’s divine providence, a meaningful relationship was forged with the Wampanoag Tribe, and through their unwavering resolve and resilience, the Pilgrims enjoyed a bountiful harvest the following year.  The celebration of this harvest lasted 3 days and saw Pilgrims and Wampanoag seated together at the table of friendship and unity.  That first Thanksgiving provided an enduring symbol of gratitude that is uniquely sewn into the fabric of our American spirit.
More than 150 years later, it was in this same spirit of unity that President George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving following the Revolutionary War and the ratification of our Constitution.  Less than a century later, that hard-won unity came under duress as the United States was engaged in a civil war that threatened the very existence of our Republic.  Following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, in an effort to unite the country and acknowledge “the gracious gifts of the Most High God,” President Abraham Lincoln asked the American people to come together and “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”  Today, this tradition continues with millions of Americans gathering each year to give their thanks for the same blessings of liberty for which so many brave patriots have laid down their lives to defend during the Revolutionary War and in the years since.
Since the first settlers to call our country home landed on American shores, we have always been defined by our resilience and propensity to show gratitude even in the face of great adversity, always remembering the blessings we have been given in spite of the hardships we endure.  This Thanksgiving, we pause and acknowledge those who will have empty seats at their table.  We ask God to watch over our service members, especially those whose selfless commitment to serving our country and defending our sacred liberty has called them to duty overseas during the holiday season.  We also pray for our law enforcement officials and first responders as they carry out their duties to protect and serve our communities.  As a Nation, we owe a debt of gratitude to both those who take an oath to safeguard us and our way of life as well as to their families, and we salute them for their immeasurable sacrifices.
As we gather today with those we hold dear, let us give thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings we enjoy.  United together as one people, in gratitude for the freedoms and prosperity that thrive across our land, we acknowledge God as the source of all good gifts.  We ask Him for protection and wisdom and for opportunities this Thanksgiving to share with others some measure of what we have so providentially received.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 28, 2019, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.  I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Father Rutler: Christ the King

Father George W. Rutler
If from time to time you have a sense that all things held dear in both Church and State seem to be collapsing, you might find a comrade in the Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 
Yeats wrote that in 1919, and we are now in 2019. Actually, things have been falling apart since the Fall of Man. Each age has to contend with that collapse, and each has had recourse to Christ as the solution. In 1925, Pope Pius XI proclaimed the Feast of Christ the King. Not King of various nations cobbled together, but King of the Universe. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15, 17).
Jesus Christ is the Word that brought into existence all that was in the mind of his divine Father. His kingship consists in the power of his Logos, which orders all things and is energized by the love between him and the Father, which pours forth as the Holy Spirit.  “In the beginning was the Word [‘Logos’] . . .” (John 1:1).
In the logic of the Logos then, all things fall apart without Christ. Physically, all things hold together (sunestēken) in their elemental atomic structures. The compactness of matter requires gravity, electricity, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. The strong force keeps the nucleus together; otherwise it would come apart by the electrostatic repulsion between the positive protons. Christ the Logos prevents all things from collapsing, not only physically but morally and culturally. There will be a time when that happens, with a “loud noise” (rhoizedon), when all the elements, or atoms (stoicheia), dissolve (2 Peter 3:10).
This dissolution happens as well in the human soul when the intellect and will tear themselves from the truth and will of God. This rupture is what is called sin. It affects cultures, too. So the philosopher Giambattista Vico described the transition of cultures from barbarity to civilization, and from civilization to hyper-civilization, and from that to post-civilization. The fourth stage lives off the detritus of civilization. Whether we are in the fourth stage—post-civilization—is disputed, but if and when it irrationally abandons Christ the King, whose power is not political but logical, it will be worse than the first barbarism because its disintegration is accelerated by the tools of its former civilization’s science.
Every Christian is baptized to proclaim the Kingship of Christ, not just for personal salvation, but as a means of saving a culture in which “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Father Rutler: Boldness for Holy Religion


Father George W. Rutler
Most of our Founding Fathers were not deeply informed about Catholicism, but they appreciated moral integrity when they saw it. When Albert Dubois, eventually the first resident Bishop of New York, fled the French Revolution, he lived for a while in the home of James Monroe. Patrick Henry taught him English, and Thomas Jefferson arranged for him to say Mass in the courtroom of the newly built State House of Virginia.
On July 13, 1804, Jefferson wrote to the Superior and Sisters of the Ursuline order in New Orleans: “I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana; the principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”
Happily, at the end of October, the present Administration redressed restrictions on freedom of religion imposed in prior years. Previously, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had refused federal aid to the foster-care and adoption agencies of Catholic and evangelical Protestant foundations that oppose abortion and the redefinition of marriage. Moreover, the government will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools. Ironically, some of our church leaders, to maintain government funding for pre-kindergarten programs and the like, already agreed to remove crucifixes and religious symbols from parochial school classrooms.
George Washington, who made a significant donation to the Augustinian order, took John Adams to a Catholic Mass in Philadelphia. For Adams, who lapsed into Unitarianism, the chapel might have seemed at first like a Hindu temple, but he found everything so awe-inspiring that he wrote to Abigail: “I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.” What most impressed him was the straightforward “moral” preaching of the priest.  When Adams was only 21, he wrote: "… This World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State, but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence, after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety. And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire, and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune, against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”
Perhaps Providence has saved our nation from the downward spiral of hostility to God. Whatever the future holds, Catholics should pray that their ecclesiastical leaders—and they themselves—will match the fortitude of strong voices now heard in the civic order with boldness for holy religion. 
Faithfully yours in Christ, Father George W. Rutler