Christians in the West can no longer take their once-comfortable cultural hegemony for granted and ought to prepare for sacrifice—maybe even persecution—Fr. George W. Rutler writes in  Crisis . Surveying the scene twelve years into the new millennium, he says St. Paul’s basic, clear vision of what the Christian life really entails merits new attention:

Shortly before he died in Oxford in 1988, the Jesuit retreat master and raconteur, Bernard Bassett, in good spirits after a double leg amputation, told me that the great lights of his theological formation had been Ignatius Loyola and John Henry Newman, but if he “had to do it all over,” he’d only read Paul. “Everything is there.”  There is a temptation to think that God gave us the Apostle to the Gentiles in order to have second readings at Sunday Mass, usually unrelated to the first reading and the Gospel.  But everything truly is there. [ . . . ]

There is in Paul a model for Catholics at the start of the Third Millennium which began with fireworks and Ferris wheels but is now entering a sinister stage. Like Paul, it is not possible to be a Christian without living for Christ by suffering for him, nor is it possible to be a Christian without willing to die for him when he wants. The Christian veneer of  American culture has cracked and underneath is the inverse of the blithe Christianity that took shape in the various enthusiasms of the nineteenth century and ended when voters were under the impression that they finally had a Catholic president.

Read the rest of Fr. Rutler’s provocative piece  here .

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