Monday, July 5, 2010

Cloud of Witnesses by Fr. George Rutler

A few weeks back, I finished reading Fr. Rutler's Cloud of Witnesses, Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive. An extraordinary witness of our Faith himself, Fr. Rutler has had the opportunity to know, work with and love many powerful warriors in Christendom. The book is a collection of brief testimonies of people who left precious gifts as they touched his life - from housekeepers and groundskeepers to some of the most efficacious witnesses we have all known in our lifetime (John Paul II, Cardinal Cooke, Mother Teresa, Fr. Walter Ciszek, Cardinal Dulles, etc.)

We've all come to know (and love) Fr. Rutler for the masterful way he can deliver a homily that equips us with righteousness or make us say "ouch" (this week's below). The book gives us a tiny glimpse of this bright, articulate convert in a more personal way, where he observes the peccadilloes of our human nature with humor and wisdom that somehow never distracts from the bounty and talents of the people he comes across.

Here's a little from the description of Fr. Stanley Jaki, whom my readers and friends may enjoy..

More than ruffling feathers, he plucked them and he could turn callow undergraduates to melted butter when they used non sequiturs.

Fr. Jaki was the bane of editors, writing brilliantly in English but with thoughts within thoughts and ramblings asides that he refused, with the ferocity of a Hungarian hussar to have retooled.
Moving right along...

Fr. Jaki and Fr. Rutler collaborated on a book together.  On the final edit, Fr. Jaki asked permission to add a "small footnote" to one of Fr. Rutler's paragraphs:

Upon publication, I found myself calling Kant a rank amateur in science and recommending Fr. Jaki's translation of Kant's "shockingly incompetent" cosmogony.  It was by far my most erudite footnote, though I had not written it.  

In another story, he refers to another person as an "enemy of cigarettes" and tells of a story where somebody pulled out a cigarette in the presence of this individual and was promptly treated to having it torn up and snuffed into his hand.   How Fr. Rutler handled the incident is not revealed but the grace (and humor) in which he spiritually governs the complexities of human nature is perfectly clear.

The collection of brief stories is great book for the beach or commuter rail.   At the price of ten dollars, the valuable lessons learned about the missionaries of Christendom, the faith and ourselves, it is one heck of a bargain.

You can pick it up at Scepter Publishers here

Here's this week's message from Fr. Rutler:

July 4, 2010
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Jesus did not appoint the brothers James and John apostles in spite of their temper but because of it. These "Bonaerges" (Sons of Thunder) had wanted to bring fire down on the rude Samaritans. Jesus knew that such anger, if harnessed, could become "righteous." There is a difference between using temper and losing temper, as there is between oil for energy and the Gulf oil spill. Anger rightly used and not lost becomes strength. James became the first apostle to offer his life serenely for the Lord, and John in his maturity wrote, "Little children love one another.”

The risen Christ converted St. Paul’s destructive wrath on the Damascus road. Later, the Apostle would warn the Galatians that their uncontrolled temper is a “work of the flesh.” St. Jerome’s letters to St. Augustine show how hard it was for him to control his tongue and pen, and the sun often went down upon the wrath of the Irish missionary Columba. No saint, naturally placid or aggressive, replaced anger with the opposite extreme of timidity. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

The cure for both sinful anger and sinful timidity is the virtue of courage. St. John Chrysostom wrote to Timotheus: "For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair of being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance.”

Timidity disguised as charity can do more harm than anger, and the conceit that evil will melt away by ignoring it would be like Captain Smith on the Titanic saying, "Iceberg? What iceberg?" St. Augustine said, "God does not need my lie." St. John Fisher, speaking as the only one of his country's bishops who was a true shepherd, lamented: "The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it." Exactly four hundred years later, Churchill would say, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori was not timid when he counseled: "Even when correcting faults, superiors should be kind." But his kindness was in fact the engine of his zeal to "admonish sinners," which is the first of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. Conversely, St. Leo confronting Attila the Hun, St. Joan of Arc trying to make a man of her pathetic king, and Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko staring down the Communists, were not foolhardy in their assertiveness. Their strength came not from Anger Management Therapy but from Christ whose very wrath is merciful.

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Anonymous said...

Carol, thank you kindly for this. I miss Father!

If anyone here knows where I can get a copy of this book - CHEAP - let me know!


Anonymous said...

Sounds great. I look forward to Fr. Rutler's weekly messages. Thanks for letting us know about the book.

Carol McKinley said...


Drop me an email.