The joy of the saintFATHER GEORGE RUTLER
There is that guileless definition of saint by a little girl who was thinking of the stained-glass figures: "A saint is somebody the light shines through."
Saints suffer much, like a man with perfect pitch hearing noise, but they have a joy that "no one will take away" (John 16:22). The theologian Baron von Hügel (1852-1925) thought Blessed John Henry Newman a "sad and somber character." The Baron, who was born to Austrian and Scottish parents in Italy and lived most of his life in England, was a lugubrious man himself, and when he wrote ponderously in one language he seemed to be thinking in another. It has been remarked that the only times Newman is said to have been depressed were the times he was visited by Baron von Hügel. Newman was not a man of levity, but joy is not always evident to the superficial eye. Chesterton said that the one thing our Lord concealed was his mirth.
Christ's prescription for joy is written in his Beatitudes. Blessedness is happiness deeper than the sensory happiness known as "hilaritas" or the moral contentment called "felicitas." Blessedness is contact with the Source of all joy. It is a mistake to analyze the Beatitudes as didactic instructions in moral behavior. Nietzsche made that mistake and concluded: "In Christianity neither morality nor religion comes into contact with reality at any point." Theodore Dreiser, the radical social reformer, was greatly impatient with the "idealistic maxims of Christ" precisely because he read them as idealistic maxims. Both of these men seem to have been very sad people, but it was not Christ who saddened them. Neither could admit that blessedness is possible. Nietzsche said "Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul." But the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is that the essence of a soul comes from outside the soul. The self that lives only for itself is saddened by itself.
The moral life lived apart from the Lord of Life becomes burdensome and arbitrary. To understand the joy of the Sermon on the Mount, one has to look to the other mounts: Tabor where the Light of Christ shone; and Calvary where that Light shone in the darkness and "the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).
Father George William Rutler. "The joy of the saint." From the Pastor (February 5, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.
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 © 2011 Father George W. Rutler
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