Fr. Rutler’s Weekly Column

Fr. Rutler’s Weekly Column

February, 17, 2019

Like the optimist who sees a glass of water half-full and the pessimist who sees it half-empty, people assess the times in which they live by their personality. Each age has had its crises, but the time in which we live seems especially fit to the description with which Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”
While other generations have known philosophical and physical conflicts, ours is conspicuous for an evaporation of moral certitudes by which good and bad are judged. Our Lord warned against pessimism (Luke 17:23), but he also cautioned against the deceits of false optimists who would caricature Christ to promote evil (Matthew 24).
The Catechism is clear: “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” (CCC 675).
No cogent veteran of the last century, with its mega-villains, could deny the existence of Satan. But the Lord of Death and Prince of Lies employs his agents to kill babies, shatter families, corrupt priests, and mock the Church. Each modern economic, sexual, and artistic “liberation” has masqueraded as an “angel of Light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
In the fourteenth century Saint Bridget of Sweden predicted: “During the first part of (the Antichrist’s) reign, he plays more the part of sanctity; but when he gains complete control, he persecutes the Church of God and reveals all his wickedness.”
During the bicentennial of our own nation, the future St. John Paul II said in Philadelphia to a crowd not altogether paying attention: [NB] “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. “
In dealing with “principalities and powers not of this world” (Ephesians 6:12), human politics and social reforms to fight them are as useless as a pea shooter. Spiritual combat begins and ends with worship of the one true God in His one true Church. The prime Antichrist hates that the most. Around the year 300, Abba Apollo said, “The Devil has no knees, . . . he cannot worship, he cannot adore.”

Fr. Rutler has made a point of critical importance to which I shall offer a gloss of my own.

As I have often written in these electronic pages, no initiative that we undertake in the Church – including cleansing – will succeed if it does not begin with and return to our sacred liturgical worship of God.

We must revitalize our liturgical worship.  This is URGENT.   In turn, this revitalization will have a massive knock-on effect on priests and, with them, congregations.

We have to get serious again.  How shall we fulfill our obligations under the virtue of religion both individually and collectively?  Sacred liturgy.

And by liturgy I don’t mean Mass!   PLEASE, people, stop using the word “liturgy”… “the liturgy” … if you are talking about Holy Mass.  Mass is liturgy, but liturgy is more than Mass.  A square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares.  Liturgy includes the liturgical hours and all manner of other rites.  Mass the most important liturgy we have, but not the only liturgy.

We need a restoration of The Liturgy across the board, from top to bottom.

Is it too much to hope that we collectively sobering up after the decades of drifting on the halcyon vapors of the 60’s and the delusions about what was mandated and what was not by the Council Fathers?  With Team Francis prowling through the Church it is hard to say.  It’s like déjà vécu all over again.

The revitalization of our Catholic identity – isn’t that what we are talking about in This Present Crisis? – must come from revitalization of our collective formal liturgical worship of God.  Then it must return to worship in an unending circle.  Christ is the one who is the True Actor in every world and liturgical gesture.  Our participation in those words and gestures have transformative power.   This is TRUE “Liberation Theology”!   Authentic active participation by active receptivity in serious and reverent and time-proven liturgical rites that tie across the gulfs of centuries, regions and even the door of death.

Fathers!  Bishops!


Teach about it.  Make it available.  Use it often and oftener.

This is one of the greatest tools we have in The Present Crisis to help us do what needs to be done.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lurker 59 says:

    Suggestion: Let us use the term “The Divine Liturgy” when speaking of the Mass. [Let us in the Western Church says “Mass” when referring to Mass. When we talk about the Eastern Church’s celebration of the Eucharist we can all happily use “Divine Liturgy”. I was talking about “liturgy” not “Divine Liturgy”.]

    1. It unites us with the Eastern Churches
    2. It indicates that Mass is an independent source of Revelation coming to us from God and is not of human origin.
    3. Most importantly, it is a strong statement that the action of the Mass is God’s own action, not man’s. It is the action of Christ the High Priest, God Incarnate, who acts through God the Holy Spirit, to offer the eternal sacrifice to God The Father. Man can only participate in this Trinitarian mystery, it is not man’s own action.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z. This is so true. As a layperson, it has become obvious that whatever VII was intended to be by some, it has helped facilitate a departure from Catholicism as it was practiced and taught for all previous time. We have Protestant relatives, sincere Christians who positively have more devotion to Christ and the Kingdom than most Catholics I know, sad to say. But their worship of Him is incomplete, they do not comprehend the depth and the majesty and the Truth of the Holy Mass, so their spirituality is incomplete. The Holy Mass makes sense, it is the worship of God as God surely intended, a priest being central to that worship, making it possible by the priesthood that God created. This way God can be with us for all time. This is what He created.
    We attend Low Mass weekly, still Mass in the Extraordinary Form, in Latin. How I would like to encourage all to find a similar Holy Mass in their area, even if you must drive. Even if you can only attend once per month, and the other weeks at the best local Novus Ordo Mass you can find. Go. Keep going. We have no hymns, no one sings, a few candles, no organist, no music, two servers, one older, one a boy. And it is bliss. It is calm, peaceful, ancient, amazing, sacred, holy, authentic, and when the priest raises the host, we are at Calvary, for that moment. We are sustained for another week of scandal and a world gone mad. God has not left us, He is right there every week.
    I feed very sad for Catholics who do not avail themselves at this particular time in history of the Latin Rite Mass. We need it, desperately, and God has provided it to get us through this time where the Church and the faith are being hidden from us.
    Above all, do not let the Latin stop you! Get a Missal from about 1962 with Latin on one side and English on the other, say, a St. Joseph’s Missal or St. Andrew’s. There are others. You will quickly pick up what Father is saying and doing, the Missal will walk you through it. Soon the Latin will become familiar and comfortable.

  3. Fr. Kelly says:

    Lurker 59
    I think you missed Fr. Z’s point.
    If we use the term “The Divine Liturgy” when referring to the Mass, then how will we refer to Benediction, Public Celebration of the Divine Office, Public Processions, Celebrations of the Sacraments, etc. These all have an equal claim to that title.

    All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The various Eastern rites and separated churches do not all use the same terms for stuff. So why do we think that the Latin/Roman Rite will somehow move toward unity, if we pick one church’s terms over all others, and over our own?

    Sigh. We do not impress the various churches and Rites with our respect for the dignity of all separate rites and traditions, by attempting to mash everything into a mushy bunch of yuck.

    And it’s not particularly unity-inducing for us, either, to find out that X weird abuse or Y strange new custom is supposedly “Eastern.” (Especially since it’s usually a terrible, horrible misrepresentation of the customs in question.)j

    So yes, “Theia Leitourgia” is a beautiful name for the Mass. But “Missa” is also a beautiful name for the Mass.

  5. Ms. M-S says:

    I really do wish I could be as certain as the earliest Christians that the Lord would make His appearance in the near future, but indications are that there’s an either temporary or final time of trial to be lived through, well under way. One of the best things a Catholic (as opposed to a Reformed Catholic) can do is make every effort to preserve the Traditional Latin Mass of the ages. Even if you have to drive long distances, even if there are only a few people in the congregation, it’s one of the single most important things you can do to attend the TLM, support it however you can, and train your children in participating in the rite. As the husband of a pair who have gotten a TLM once a month in a parish said yesterday to the ten of us who’d gathered for it, “We’re keeping it going here until it comes back everywhere.” Amen!

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Rutler wrote: “While other generations have known philosophical and physical conflicts, ours is conspicuous for an evaporation of moral certitudes by which good and bad are judged.”

    That evaporation is often welcomed with glee these days, such as last month when the Party of Death clapped and cheered for more baby killing in New York.

    That evaporation also produces a remarkably narcissistic and shallow perspective on life, as illustrated by a 2011 article in Huffington Post by Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies in California:

    “Imagine a place where almost no one ever goes to church, the majority of people do not believe in God, and among those who do, their belief is fairly watery and thin. Imagine a society where people see Jesus as perhaps a nice man who taught some nice things…But you don’t actually have to imagine too hard — just hop on a plane to Denmark. Such a secular haven really exists, in the here and now.”

    [The Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies goes on at length about free health care, free taxis, and how the bread and yogurt are “devastatingly good.”]

    “…this religion-lite land is among the best on earth. Are there any problems here? Of course. No society is without its troubles and challenges. But you can be sure that here in Denmark, troubles and challenges are faced by marshaling human reason, logic, discussion, debate, empathy, observation, and rational problem-solving — not by prayer or faith.”

    “Denmark is not only one of the safest places on earth, but it is also one of the most moral and ethically conscious cultures in the modern world…”

    “Equality, freedom, democracy — these things are not only highly valued but successfully realized. And all without much concern for an eternity of heavenly bliss or torturous hellfire.”

    “John Lennon asked us to imagine no religion. I’m not only imagining it, but I’m living it. And I’m loving it.”

    Well, there are more problems on display there than one can shake a stick at. One problem is: “Such a secular haven really exists, in the here and now.” It has not occurred to the professor that religious barrenness is not conducive to maintaining a “haven.”

    For example, Judith Bergman at Gatestone Institute last month published an article about Belgium, Islamic terrorism, and multi-culturalism. Bergman notes that Belgium’s State Security Service, the VSSE, released a report last November which examined Islamic radicalization in prisons, foreign Islamic propaganda, and other such matters. Here is a key paragraph from Bergman’s article, it illustrates the effect that religious barrenness can have over time on education, culture, and government (with the caveat that there are those Belgians who are not pleased with this situation):

    “The Belgian intelligence services [SG here: perhaps simply “VSSE” would be more accurate] do not appear to consider Islam a factor in generating Islamic terrorism. Instead, the report offers up other explanations why Islamic terrorism is committed internationally: “…Real or perceived discrimination, political instability, poor economic conditions, unemployment, level of development.””

    In the 1930s during the Great Depression pilots were not flying their crowded PanAm Clippers into skyscrapers, nor were truck drivers mowing down pedestrians from London to Nice to New York. Something important is absent from that report.

    The evaporation of moral certitudes is producing not only religious barrenness but intellectual barrenness. As one may surmise…there are consequences.

    As Fr. Z exhorts, the revitalization of liturgical worship is essential. Moral certitudes must be revitalized in Western culture, which is under direct and sustained assault by Islamists.

    In 2004 Robert Louis Wilken, a Professor of Christian History in Virginia, published “The Church as Culture” in First Things. Here is the ending:

    “Nothing is more needful today than the survival of Christian culture, because in recent generations this culture has become dangerously thin. At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture. The unhappy fact is that the society in which we live is no longer neutral about Christianity. The United States would be a much less hospitable environment for the practice of the faith if all the marks of Christian culture were stripped from our public life and Christian behavior were tolerated only in restricted situations.”

    “If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us.”

    “If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the faces of angels, turned toward the face of God.”

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