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Sunday, September 11, 2011

From the Pastor - 'I Vow to Thee, My Country'

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

Providential symmetry sets the plaintive anniversary of September 11, 2001, on a Sunday, which is always a celebration of the Resurrection. By rare indult, Holy Mass on this day replaces the ordinary liturgical Propers with suffrages for the dead. We live as mourners, never forgetting the wanton rampage of evil on that Tuesday whose late summer brilliance was so affronted by the moral darkness of those who blackened the bluest sky. 

These days pick up the pace from the pleasant torpor of summer, and on this particular day ten years later, we also move on into a new decade to engage a cultural war against the moral offences which have afflicted our time. The Second World War was won by people who knew the difference between good and evil. Things have changed, and there is a lot of ambiguity now about what constitutes integrity and truth itself. Many take the shortcut of denying that we are in a war at all. It was the mistake made by decadents in the 1930’s, like the “Cliveden Set,” who underestimated the pulsating hatred on the pages of “Mein Kampf.”  Christian civilization is again under attack, and little resistance is shown by a society of indolence, promiscuity, infanticide, eugenics, extravagant debt, crime, collapsed family life, and marriage so surrealistically redefined by Gnostics that 44% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 think that matrimony is becoming obsolete. The battle of good against evil will not be won by a culture of narcissists led by leaders chosen because they make people feel good instead of being good.

Christians do not confuse optimism and hope. They do not optimistically think that “wishing will make it so.” They hopefully trust in God, who “made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” So today we sing a grand hymn by Cecil Spring-Rice, “I Vow to Thee, My Country.” He wrote the first version as a diplomat in Stockholm in 1908. At the end of his career as British ambassador to Washington in 1918, Spring-Rice altered its bluster after the traumatic carnage of the First World War. It is set to the magnificent melody of Gustav Holst from the “Jupiter” section of The Planets, which sustains even the lame poesie of more recent alternative lyrics preferred by insensitive taste. Spring-Rice gave the strong chords for the moment, paraphrasing in cadence Proverbs 3:17: 
And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago, Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know; We may not count her armies, we may not see her King; Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering; And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase, And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

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