Like Paul in Caesarea 


Having spent more than a few years dealing with mental patients, I thought I was pretty well informed about the etiology of psychosis.

When I had to deal with a distressed individual whose symptoms were unlike any I had encountered, I asked a distinguished psychiatrist if there is a term for such a personality, and he replied that, based on the information I had given him, the best term was "nutcase." That was precisely what the Roman governor Porcius Festus thought of St. Paul. The Apostle had been imprisoned by Felix, the predecessor of Festus, for causing social unrest. The problem was that Paul's alleged crimes had to do with religion, and the cynical Romans did not want to get involved in matters concerning Judaism or anything outside the purview of the Roman legal system. As the Greeks were nothing if not philosophers, so the Romans were above all lawyers, and at their best they had no equals. When the King of Galilee, Julius Marcus Agrippa II came to the coastal city of Caesarea with his sister, Julia Berenice of Cilicia, with whom he was said to have had an incestuous relationship, Festus told them with Roman hauteur about this Paul of Tarsus, who spoke of "a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive" (Acts 25:19).

After Paul had testified before King Agrippa, Festus shouted, "You are mad, Paul; such language is driving you mad!" He assumed that Paul was the sort of fanciful intellectual the sober Romans disdained — living in an unreal ivory tower while the sturdy Romans built real towers and aqueducts and bridges. Paul said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus. I am speaking words of truth and reason." Agrippa then said half sardonically, "You will soon persuade me to play the Christian."

Christians are presently engaged in a confrontation with authorities in our nation that resembles Paul on trial. Some of those authorities assume that anyone who believes in a "certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive" must be mad. With admirable unity our bishops are defying the intimidations of our present government, like Paul in Caesarea. This discomforts those vague Catholics who prefer Caesar and his largesse to Christ and His sacrifice.

I recently received a note saying that that the bishops are exaggerating the state of things to mislead the people. I should be glad to disprove that in public debate — for there is no substance to such a view — but the note was anonymous. Paul was not mad, and on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we celebrate the mystery that will always be a puzzle to those who define reality on their own terms: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Corinthians 13:13). 




Father George William Rutler. "Like Paul in Caesarea." From the Pastor (June 3, 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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