Fr. George W. Rutler- Sunday 1 March 2009 – Self Knowledge & Repentance
Fr. George W. Rutler’s
Lent is a time to examine the conscience: Am I letting God make me what he wants me to be? According to Plato, Socrates said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” He knew the words in the pronaos, or forecourt, of the temple at Delphi: “Know thyself.” Self-knowledge consists in matching our behavior up against the virtues. By so doing we “repent,” or “return” to the plan God has had for us since our conception. “Let us search our ways, and seek, and return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). St. Paul urges an examination of conscience before receiving the Blessed Sacrament (1 Cor. 11:28-31). As physical light refracts into seven primary colors, so the Light of Christ refracts into seven virtues: faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. But the Prince of Darkness also refracts into seven dark anti-virtues, or deadly sins: pride, anger, lust, avarice, gluttony, envy, and sloth. A good self-examination requires listening to the counsel of God through his Church and acting on it to correct one’s ways. Recently, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was reproved by Pope Benedict XVI at a brief audience to which he would not admit press or photographers, aware that the occasion could be exploited for political purposes, which it was. The Pope pointedly urged that public figures examine their consciences. He reminded the Speaker, who boasts that she is a practicing Catholic, that life must be protected “from conception until natural death.” On previous occasions the Speaker has woefully misrepresented Christ’s teaching, actually claiming an idiosyncratic knowledge of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. It is well known that Pope Benedict XVI is more familiar with these sources than the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rather than examine her conscience, the Speaker later issued a press statement of her own, censoring the Pope’s remarks and changing the subject to “poverty, hunger, and global warming.” A lawyer named Douglas Kmiec, whose Tartuffish political counsel has cast him in the role of Richard Rich manipulating the testimony of St. Thomas More, called the Pope’s admonition “intrusive.” A few days later, our new Secretary of State raised the hopes of many that on her visit to China, as a matter of conscience, she would mention the more than half million prisoners in slave labor camps, forcible abortions and organ harvesting, support of genocide in Darfur, and the countless Chinese Christians being martyred for the Faith. Instead, she said that “human rights . . . can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” This went beyond the insouciance of Eleanor Roosevelt who, as Solzhenitsyn records in The First Circle, praised Stalin’s “wonderful” prison camps. We should not examine the consciences of others, but, for life to be worth living, we should hope that others at least have a conscience.