Fr. George W. Rutler’s Weekly Letter
Fr. George W. Rutler
January 11, 2009
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord celebrates the “new baptism” which Christ offers: not a symbolic washing in a desire for purity, but an actual wiping away of mankind’s original sin, which is the pride which substitutes the illusory affectation of human power for the omnipotence of God. By baptism, man is reborn into innocence. The traditional antiphon for the first Sunday after Easter quotes 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants…” In Latin the first words are “Quasi modo” and in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel about Notre Dame Cathedral, a crippled infant is abandoned at the cathedral on that day and is named from the antiphon for he seems “almost like” a normal human. Hugo wrote the novel in part to publicize the danger to the great building which had suffered so much damage in the French Revolution. It actually was in danger of being torn down because of its decrepitude and also because its architecture was considered “old fashioned.” Hugo helped inspire the Gothic Revival and saved that great building from the hands of faddists who in their nervous ways resembled those who in recent decades have done so much damage to our own fine churches. In the 1939 film, Quasimodo was portrayed by Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara was Esmeralda. Laughton was reared a Catholic and attended the English Jesuit school Stonyhurst, but lapsed in the course of his personally confused older years. Maureen O’Hara has long been a presence in our archdiocese and once, at the end of a mission I preached, she told me that Laughton returned to the Faith on his deathbed. This she was told by Laughton’s wife Elsa Lanchester who, while an abrupt atheist, knew that his friend would be glad that he had died with the Sacraments. All this is by way of announcing that we have fixed our carillon as a project of our Restoration Fund. After fifty years, the machinery needed replacement. This has been done by the company that installed the original works. The sound of bells, albeit electronically amplified, is an important part of life in our neighborhood, summoning the faithful to worship and reminding passers-by of the hours. It would have been sorely missed. Through advances in computer technology, we can now program the carillon for hundreds of special changes and swings, and hymns according to the liturgical season, and for weddings and funerals. This computerized Quasimodo will not need repairs for at least twenty-five years. So at the start of the new year, the sound of bells will most appropriately celebrate this fiftieth anniversary year of the dedication of our church. It is customary for bells to sound the “Angelus” thrice daily. As not all our neighbors would rejoice with the angels at 6:00 am, the summons is at Noon and 6:00 pm.