I wish to disappear


This is true of all Christians.

Any young man called to the priesthood must be like St. Paul:  "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).  This is true of all Christians.  Cupio dissolvi — "I wish to disappear."  Dioceses that understand this excel in vocations, and those that do not, fail.

When I arrived at this parish, there were many liturgical abuses.  Let it not be said that these were the predilections of young people, for there were practically none then.  Rather, they had become the habit of older people who had simply shifted from perfunctorily expedited Masses and a few sentimental hymns to the fabricated folk Masses of the 1960's.  I put a stop to the habit of applauding the organist and choir.  The musicians we have now would be embarrassed by such behavior.  Pope Benedict XVI said:  "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment."

There is even a danger of that same narcissism when attempts at a "reform of the reform" become self-conscious spectacle.  Evelyn Waugh said that Anthony Eden was not a gentleman because he dressed too well.  We try to offer the best to God, but we must not be fussy about it like the nouveau riche.  It once was said that dowagers in Boston did not buy hats, they had hats.  C. S. Lewis' view was that true worship should be like a good old shoe, so comfortable that you don't have to break it in:  "The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of;  our attention would have been on God."  That is a sensibility I have long admired in the Byzantine liturgies.  While some speak of the High Mass of the Western Church as the "most beautiful thing this side of Heaven," I know of nothing so formally transcendent and still so informally natural as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

The constant fidgeting for "theme liturgies" and experimentation is a sign of failure.  Worse yet is the priest who solicits laughter like a ham actor in a dying vaudeville show.   Such clerics should limit their repertoire to the jokes that St. John told the Blessed Mother as her Son bled on the Cross.  One is struck by the way Pope Francis, in his personal simplicity and affability, is so enrapt in the solemnity of the Mass that he would not think of smiling through the Sacrifice of Calvary.

It may seem that reform of abuses is as futile as King Canute ordering the tide to roll back.  Actually, that great king was showing his court that human pride has no authority over what does not belong to him.  That is why he placed his own crown on a figure of Christ Crucified, and that is what true worship is all about.




Father George William Rutler. "I wish to disappear."  From the Pastor (May 23, 2013).

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 © 2013 Father George W. Rutler

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.