Fr. Rutler interviewed. Fr. Z rants.


Interior of St. Michael’s and the Pastor

Speaking of Hell’s Kitchen, over at CWR there is a dynamite interview with Fr. George Rutler, Pastor of St. Michael’s in Manhattan.

He speaks on a range of issues, from the decision of the Church of England to “ordain” women as “bishops” (which they can’t do because they are a) not really a Church and b) they have no valid orders and c) women can’t be ordained to any grade of Holy Orders.  He talks about the state of Catholic education in New York, though his comments apply equally to other places.  He talks about the need to evangelize rather than sell off our patrimony, which could apply to many places.  He speaks about Islam, which we do need to discuss more seriously than we have.  He offers thoughts about Benedict and Francis.

I’d enjoy reposting the whole thing and doing my own color commentary, but … I’m busy.  Go HERE and read the whole thing.   Meanwhile, here’s a sample, which touches on liturgy with my emphases:

CWR: Your Manhattan parish is in “Hell’s Kitchen,” an area once known for its high crime rate. Is it a difficult parish to serve?

Fr. Rutler: Every parish has its pluses and minuses. Mine was founded in 1857 for Irish immigrants. The site of the church has since moved, but it once included a massive church and school which served 10,000 parishioners.

By the 1960s and ’70s, the area was crime-ridden and poor, but still home to many immigrants. The “Westies,” or Irish mafia, ruled the area. They were notorious not just for their crime, but for being sadists. The parish virtually evaporated; there were almost no parishioners. It was questionable whether the parish could continue.

But the area has revitalized and undergone a big real estate boom. We have many building projects going on, bringing many new people into the area. Property values have risen. A subway stop will soon open near the church to serve the rapidly growing neighborhood.

[QUAERITUR…] But the question is, how many will we make Catholic? Our job is not to just serve ethnic communities with large concentrations of Catholics, but to fulfill the great evangelical commission of Christ: make disciples of all nations. He didn’t tell us to just go out into the Catholic neighborhoods. I think we need to resist the financial temptation to sell the property during this economic upturn, and see that there is a tremendous potential for converts here. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

CWR: The Archdiocese of New York has closed a net 31 parishes, with perhaps more closures on the way. Why are fewer and fewer residents making participation in the life of the Church a part of their lives?

Fr. Rutler: New Yorkers are part of Western culture, which is in the midst of being secularized. Our religious instinct has faded, and our traditionally Catholic families are moving out of the City. [This could be said about many large cities.]

Part of the problem is the need for effective catechesis. [Emphasis on “effective”.] The ignorance of the Faith among the young is stunning. Our Catholic schools have been in a state of decline. In some of our schools we’re covering up our religious symbols so we can receive money from the state.

Also, [Here we go…] there has been a liturgical failing. The liturgy is a prime means of evangelizing people, but our liturgies are often banal.

Rem acu tetigit.

As I have written a thousand times, unless there is a renewal of our sacred liturgical worship of God, no other initiative of “New Evangelization” will succeed.  It all comes back to worship.  That’s the activity, according to the virtue of Religion, that coordinates the hierarchy of our relationships with persons (Divine, angelic, human) and our loves (making sure that GOD has the throne of our hearts and minds).  If our relationship with God isn’t squared away, and that must include liturgical worship, everything else will be on shaky ground.  How can we who accept the claim that the Eucharist (the Sacrament and Its celebration) are the “source and summit” of our Catholic lives think that we can undertake something as sweeping as a New Evangelization apart from a renewal of Holy Mass, the Divine Office solemnly celebrated, and all our other rites?  And yet when we hear our leaders, our shepherds, go on and on and on about this or that project or initiative, how often do they connect it – heck, even mention – the centrality and urgency of sacred liturgical worship of God?

New Evangelization?  Promote and apply Summorum Pontificum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Rutler is a jewel of a priest and educator. I have profited from many of his programs over the years on EWTN. I can hear his voice when reading this interview. Just reading his words in that voice gave me a welcome feeling of peace. His words are refreshingly unambiguous. He does not deflect. He does not talk in abstract terms. He is diplomatic but direct. Thankfully, blessedly, his words are free of nonsensical cultural claptrap.
    I can’t imagine being so fortunate as to be able to hear him every week.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    “New Evangelization? Promote and apply Summorum Pontificum.”

    We also need to promote the “reform of the reform”. We need more Latin, chant, and fidelity to the rubrics in the average parish, i.e. the ordinary form.

  3. jlann1970 says:

    I believe that the problems in the Church came from liturgical changes in the 60s. If anyone looks back they could see statistics about priests and the downward trend from there. If the church does not change course,the church will extinguish itself. In addition to the fact of what it is doing to the people by closing & Extinguishing Parishes. We are loosing souls. …

  4. Kathleen10,

    Whenever I get to NYC I attend Mass at one of Father Rutler’s parishes. I would encourage you to make a trip there to join in worship with the parishioners and visitors. Two weeks ago low Mass at Holy Innocents was packed, and Father’s homily so on point, moving and reverent. He is a faithful and true priest, who prays and preaches and wants us all to be faithful and true servants of Our Lord.

  5. The people I find most heroic in our society are young couples bringing up children. I’ve had parents bring their babies to Mass and get embarrassed when they cry. They come to me afterward and apologize for the disruption. I say, “Don’t apologize, that’s the sound of the future.”

    That’s exactly right.

  6. Gail F says:

    I think part of it is that we have lost the entire idea of worship. The Protestants have worship wrong, but they have it. They think they are DOING SOMETHING when they go to church (even though, to a Catholic, they aren’t doing anything but praying, singing, and hearing a sermon — for us, the preliminaries to worship). They do it with fervor. We have actually lost the Eucharist in a banal sea of preparatory activity, and we don’t even know what makes us different from Protestants anymore. Many poorly catechized people look at a nondenominational service, a fiery preacher, or whatever, and say, “Hey, they BELIEVE something there. They FEEL something. They DO something.” And off they go.

    I am not saying that emotion should rule the day, but today people are taught to emote and there is very little in a typical banal Mass to emote about… which would be all right if there was something compelling to believe or do. But there isn’t, or at least they think there isn’t.

    If we take at face value the pre-Vatican II complaint that people didn’t do anything at Mass and needed to be “full and active participants” (in the way that people mean it now, not in terms of knowing what was going on and intentionally participating), at least they thought something was going on that was worth trying to be part of. Now, I think, many people don’t believe that anything is going on at all. If so, why bother?

    This sounds as if I am down on the Church but I’m not. I’m very hopeful. I think the societal sea change that hit in the 1960s was bound to hit everything and, distressing as it was for the Catholic Church, Vatican II may have been the only possible way of weathering it. The wacky “iffy” priests people in forums like this decry may have been the only possible ones to keep things going during those days. Maybe we owe them everything. If so, that would be very like God, wouldn’t it? To work in the most unlikely way. I am 50; I don’t know that I would have remained faithful if I were 20 years older, much less a priest going through all that. As it was I left the Church and am very grateful to God’s bringing me back. I think we’re in rebuilding mode now — something quite common in the Catholic Church’s past — and rebuilding is never easy. You can’t rebuild unless things are pretty bad, and the people doing the rebuilding are the ones most aware of how bad things are. I am hopeful because I believe in God and the Church founded by Christ. I believe it will prevail no matter what — and also that the way it will prevail will not be obvious when it’s happening. St. Francis of Assisi was one of the key figures in one rebirth, and as popular as he is now, most people in his day thought he was crazy. Who is our St. Francis? Would we even know him if we saw him?

  7. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    […] the Divine Office solemnly celebrated. Thank you, Father, for mentioning this. Solemnly celebrated, yes, and indeed celebrated at all, be solemnly or in private, be it the EF or the OF. The Liturgy of the Hours remains the unwanted stepchild of The Church.

  8. JBS says:

    I think he’s the first priest I ever heard speak in this way. There is a strong tendency among Catholics to concern ourselves only with passing on the Faith to Catholic children, with no effort made to invite non-Catholics into the Church. Unlike Judaism, Catholicism is not an ethnic group, but an evangelical group. As a convert myself, I can tell you that very many inquisitive people like myself would join the one, true Church if only cradle Catholics would extend a persistent invitation. Instead, any discussion of the need for this inevitably turns to the very limited concern for fallen-away Catholics.

    True, the Sacred Liturgy needs to be in place for inquiring souls as a reverent participation in Calvary, but the personal invitation must precede divine worship.

  9. Sonshine135 says:

    Great interview from a very insightful Priest. I so want the doors of Catholicism thrown wide open. I think Fr. Rutler is an example of some of the extraordinary graces our Lord pours out in times of great desperation and sorrow.

  10. Patti Day says:

    Father’s wonderful programs on the Parables were showing weekly on EWTN during the Fall. I hope they will continue when regular programming resumes following the Christmas season.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    The cities, and I see it here, are being taken over by the rich, who want all the amneties of city life, and non-Christians, who are either re-claiming in their minds, lost kingdoms (caliphate) or are rich as well.

    The old Catholics are dying out or going into homes, the middle-aged have moved to the suburbs, and the cities no longer reflect Maltese values.

    It is interesting that the early Church was highly urban, with the largest cities in the Levant and in Northern Africa Christianized.

    But, after the fall of Rome, when chaos from the lack of order became the norm, those Christians moved into rural areas all over Europe-the Christian Diaspora. Perhaps we are seeing some of this again and perhaps it is a good thing.

    Even as late as Jane Austen’s time, the cities, such as London and Bath, were considered the centers of sin. The country houses kept order and stability for a while.

    Perhaps God is trying to get our attention on this point. There are fewer and fewer Christians immigrants coming into the cities of the West.

  12. Siculum says:

    This was a dynamite interview with Fr. Rutler. Well worth coming back here to read the full interview via the link, not just the summary.

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