Serious Thinking


Lent is a time for serious thinking. That does not mean morose thinking.

Quite the opposite. Melancholia and even despair issue from living life superficially without engaging the profound mysteries that God sets before us. Serious thinking means that we take people seriously, and that means we take God seriously because He takes us seriously. If we do not, we miss out on the most marvelous opportunity of knowing why we exist. "God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I have been struck lately by the superficiality of our society's understanding of itself. I have never been polled by those agencies that supply lists of favorite this-and-thats, so I did not figure in a recent report of Public Policy Polling, which claims that 91 percent of Americans consider Abraham Lincoln the greatest person who ever lived, followed by Jesus at 90 percent and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at 89 percent. George Washington got 86 percent, Mother Teresa got 83 percent, and Gandhi was three points lower than Santa Claus, who was the favorite of some 67 percent, who seem to think he was real. (I doubt they had in mind St. Nicholas of Myra.) These people vote in general elections.

My knowledge of pop culture is notoriously thin, and so I had never heard of a popular chanteuse until some days ago when a television bulletin announced her death. Much television programming was replaced with film footage of the attractive singer with a pleasant voice and interviews with fans and several hyperbolic California coroners. For someone like me, whose notion of popular music encompasses Gilbert and Sullivan and John Philip Souza, and who thinks Cole Porter avant-garde, it was not clear why this entertainer's sad death, caused by drugs, brought flags to half mast and got more coverage than threats of a nuclear showdown with Iran.

I prefer to think that this myopia is more a projection of the media's own banality, but if this is the depth to which most people plummet in the drama of life, we will be entranced by quick sound bites instead of the Word of God. "Stop being childish in your thinking. In respect to evil, be like infants, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20).

In his address at Westminster Hall in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI warned against the "inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems."

We are facing one of our nation's most challenging moral crises, and dim are the chances of resolving it if most voters skim the surface of reality. The Pope said: "If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident — herein lies the real challenge for democracy."




Father George William Rutler. "Serious Thinking." From the Pastor (February 26, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


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 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, 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 © 2012 Father George W. Rutler

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