In the tumultuous 11th century, seven monks including Saint Bruno formed the Carthusian order, dedicated to prayer for the serenity of souls, taking as their motto: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” — the cross stands as the world spins.
September’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross would seem a curiosity, were it not that Christ used that most cruel machine of death to conquer death.
Saint Peter was uncomprehending when his beloved Master said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Peter “took Jesus aside” and told him that this must never be — only to be admonished that he was thinking not like God but as a limited human being.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He “took Peter aside” and told him that he would go where he did not expect. Not long afterward, Peter hung on a cross in Rome. To the astonishment of men intent on stretching out their dreary lifespans as long as they could, Peter died gladly.
Fanny Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns, including, in 1894, “Keep Thou My Way.” One of its lines was, “Gladly the cross I’ll bear.” Inevitably that led to choirboys calling it, “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.” Her story, though, was not a joke. She was blind all of her 95 years and was a student and teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind, right here in my parish on Ninth Avenue and 34th Street in Manhattan.
She told one of her fellow teachers, the future President Grover Cleveland, “If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” Her small tombstone is engraved: “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”
Saint John Vianney said, “The worst cross is not to have a cross.” A current televangelist has made many millions of dollars preaching a “prosperity gospel” in an arena in which the cross is absent. His wife summed up their gospel: “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself because that’s what makes God happy.”
These two newly rich people have now begun a cosmetics business — but prosperity theology itself is nothing more than cosmetic.
At Holy Mass, the celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts” — not “Lift up your faces.”
Fr. George William Rutler is a Catholic priest and the pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan. This article from his parish church bulletin is used by permission.