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The light of truth

  • FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER

From time to time someone will remark that our national flag hanging from the choir loft appears to be faded.


bellarmine3Saint Robert Bellarmine
1542-1621

It is actually in good condition, but the white stripes are printed with the names of those who were killed in the attack on our nation on September 11, 2001.  Hardly anyone in our parish was not affected by that, one way or another.  When offering Mass this past week for the dead, I remembered how, as people panicked in a stalled subway from Brooklyn when the electricity failed and smoke filled the passageways, a blind man guided them to the exit.  During his life he had learned to manage without the light of day.

Christ is the original Light of the world, uncreated, and from whom all earthly light proceeds.  Without Christ, the intellect darkens, and this moral myopia is the affliction of our present time.  Celebrities illuminated by stage lights can utter some of the darkest blasphemies against human dignity.  Professors who think of themselves as "bright" can obscure the logic of their students.  When the lights of truth go out, and the corridors of civilization fill with the smoke of Satan, the only sure guides are the prophets and saints. 

In saying that the blind will lead the blind into a ditch (Luke 6:39), Christ was referring to the morally blind, and not the physically blind, as depicted poignantly in that painting by Pieter Bruegel.  The contemporary term "Fake News" does indeed expose the tendency of prejudiced opinion to conceal the Light of Truth. 

This week the Church celebrates the life of Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), a man of superior intellect, though his mental brightness was not flawless.  Most conspicuously, he made the mistake of rejecting the heliocentric theory of the priest Copernicus and his friend Galileo.  The philosopher of science, Karl Popper, and Pierre Duhem before him, cut him some slack by arguing that the saint objected to presenting a hypothesis as an irrefutable conclusion.

But Bellarmine's real business was to lead people out of temporal darkness into eternal light.  This he did by his theological learning and commentary on culture, including his exposure of the fallacy of the divine right of kings (or what we might call government absolutism), but above all by his dictum: "Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which no man is saved."

In garishly bright city streets filled with people in danger of moral meanderings, each church is meant to be a beacon that saves people from falling into the ditch.  The Vigil Lamp before the parish altar may seem frail, and its flame small, but it is a flickering reminder that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

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Acknowledgement

Rutler5smFather George W. Rutler. "The light of truth." From the Pastor (September 18, 2019).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

The Author

Rutler1rutler46smFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, 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 © 2019 Father George W. Rutler
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