Engaging Advent

FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER

T.S. Eliot belabored the obvious in saying, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

The season of Advent is lyrically beautiful if one is willing to engage the realities it teaches: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. The alternative is to create a parallel universe partying in a faux Christmas confection of jingle bells, dancing elves and self-conscious bonhomie, avoiding the Incarnation of God.

Reality, nonetheless, has the last say. Advent focuses on the reality of life as a sacred gift from God, and not a morally indifferent biological accident to be manipulated by human will. Pope Paul VI was scorned for saying this in his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, whose predictions have been realized with frightening rapidity. The first illusion it condemned was artificial contraception as morally good. Those cultures that ignored reality are entering what the European Union now admits is a demographic "catastrophe." The dwindling population rate is leading to the collapse of social welfare benefits and the bankruptcy of Europe's cradle-to-grave welfare state. The cradles are emptying as fast as the graves are filling.

A report presented to the European Parliament by the Institute for Family Policies says, "Europe is plunged in an unprecedented demographic winter and has become an elderly continent, with a large birth deficit, fewer marriages and more of them broken, homes emptying." The report projects there will be 27 million fewer Europeans by 2050, with every third inhabitant over 65. Unspoken is the effect of Islamic immigration to fill the vacancies and replace European civilization. What is chillingly unreal about the report is its acceptance of those eugenic policies that brought on the catastrophe. Our own nation is on the edge of entering the same illusory world of a bright future without obedience to the facts of life.

From a secular perspective, Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin has written about the harm done to children by the "Marriage-Go-Round" in the United States. Marriage has become a status symbol rather than an essential core of society. Marriages in our country are even more ephemeral than in Europe. After just five years of marriage, 23 percent of Americans had separated or divorced compared to 12 percent in West Germany, 8 percent in Great Britain, and 3 percent in Italy. Dr. Cherlin's approach is utilitarian and ultimately defeatist: "I think our best hope is to find better ways of coping with the culture we have."

Christ does not call us to cope with the culture, but to transform it. Transformation happened in a decaying Roman Empire and it can happen in our quaking modern imperium, but only by facing reality. In their recent annual conference, the US bishops issued a pastoral letter on marriage, which realistically spoke of good and evil. It is already being criticized by the sorts who mocked Humanae Vitae, but they are growing very grey.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father George William Rutler. Weekly Column for November 29, 2009.

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

THE AUTHOR

Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001.

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 16 books, including: Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2009 Father George W. Rutler




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