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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Father Rutler: The Practical Guide

Father George W. Rutler
Earnest preachers use their personalities to lead people to Jesus without obstructing him with themselves. They may honestly boast that they have been given the best information to convey, and we have it in the form of what we call the Bible—that is, the Biblia, or Books. 

   At the start of Lent, our Lord makes us privy to the forty days he spent confronting the Anti-Christ. The only reason he made this public is that he, “who knew all men” (John 2:24), conquered with a blithe insouciance the same three temptations that we mere mortals, whom he loves, confront every day.
   The temptation to turn stone to bread is the seductive power of disordered passions: trying to gratify the wants of the flesh with gossamer seductions that never satisfy for very long. Besides uncontrolled sexuality, this includes gossip, anger and abuse, such as that of drugs and drink, and creates an illusion of pleasure that God alone can give without end. The temptation to defy gravity afflicts human souls by wallowing in fantasy every day, ogling at what others have. The temptation to rule kingdoms is the seduction of the ego to measure ourselves by the prestige others accord us.
   That temptation to rule kingdoms is the most vicious temptation because it elicits and animates the original sin of pride. Not everyone has political power, but each human being is tempted to make a kingdom of his own imagining. Every generation is witness to the futility of that vanity, such as befell the King of Babylon who said in his delusion, like Lucifer: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13).
   Catholicism is practical, which is why its supernatural power may appear among what is deceptively ordinary. Even superstitions, kitsch art, and scandalous behavior by some who identify as Catholics, witness to the fact that the supernatural character of the Church does not depend on human virtue. In some respects, heretical partisans are more virtuous and sober than Catholics, but that is because they depend on themselves, with the result that their populations become monochrome and have no tolerance for exceptions.
   G.K. Chesterton said that if he were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, if he wanted impress people he would ask for something by Plato or Aristotle, and if he expected to remain stranded a long while, he would want Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. But if he wanted to get off quickly, he would want Thomas’ “Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.” The Church is the Barque of Peter and, as such, has the most practical information for those who are stranded in a fallen world and want to get off quickly into the vibrant and colorful civilization of the saints. To begin Lent, the Church provides the guide.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Father George W. Rutler


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