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A Book Review . . . Mediocrity Vs. The Golden Mean

June 18, 2019 Featured Today No Comments

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

Grace and Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization, by Fr. George W. Rutler; 145 pages, EWTN Publishing. Available from Sophia Institute, www.sophiainstitute.com, in both print and electronic editions.

Grace and Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization, comes from televised talks which Fr. Rutler did for EWTN. They make for a book which is full of meaningful thoughts and advice. The twenty chapters are divided into three sections entitled, Virtues and Abominations, Jesus and the Gospels, and Truth and Civilization.
Fr. Rutler begins with a discussion of what living by the “golden mean” involves. He defines it as living so as to avoid mediocrity and embrace virtue, and further states that if we are do this then we must confront our mediocrity and live lives of heroic virtue. He is particularly critical of that mediocrity which is a compromise between the truth and lies, and which has “virtually destroyed education in Western civilization, and…has dealt a mortal blow to our system of justice and politics.”
Mediocrity, then, far from being bland and inoffensive, has actually ushered terrible evils into the world.
In Christian terms, the golden mean can be seen as the narrow gate which Jesus spoke of, the way to which is itself narrow and hard (Matt. 7:14). Thus following the golden mean ultimately leads to the cross. But our civilization has largely rejected God’s goodness, the idea of original sin, and particularly the cross — which explains our present predicament.
Fr. Rutler also looks at the prevalence of lies and lying in our society. He argues that nothing could be more important than a desire for the truth, which is a desire for reality, and for God, and without which we cannot enter Heaven. He points out that in the Book of Proverbs we find lying listed as one of the things abominable to God (Prov. 6:17).
The author shows how the twentieth century came to revere lies, pandering to people such as Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist and birth control advocate, and Alfred Kinsey, the sex researcher, who in one way or another promoted false views of humanity and the human person. Thus we have been living in an age of lies and disinformation.
But as Fr. Rutler says, “to live a lie is to be afraid of the truth,” and only by turning to Christ can we really live the truth.
Unfortunately, as he indicates, the story of our times could also be written in blood, the blood of all the innocent victims of Communism, and also of the innocent victims of those killed by abortion. These killings have been done in denial of God, and in acting this way, mankind has also been denying Christ. The consequence of this denial has been the shedding of rivers of innocent blood.
This has led, in turn, to a denial that evil acts are in fact evil, such that the perpetrator pretends to himself or herself that they are actually good. Often though, evildoers cannot convince themselves of this, and so have to intoxicate themselves, and hence our prevalent drug culture. As Fr. Rutler says, “Evil always calls itself good; every vice parades itself as a form of liberation.” But equally, “Living an abstraction by bearing false witness against the truth inevitably causes an emptiness in the soul.”
Our job as Christians is to bring harmony to society and to our souls, and to bring peace, insofar as we can, and by means of God’s grace, to the world. But as the author says, “There can be no real peace in any institution, in any family, in any soul, without a meekness before God, with a good fellowship, a good spirit, a good atmosphere in the soul that is compatible with the harmony of Heaven.”
We have to combat the discord brought about by any denial of the natural law, by any deification of the state — that is any attempt to make the state into some sort of god or idol, as happened with Marxism — and by any idolization of the body. This was the type of threefold spirit of discord introduced into the world by the Nazis which was condemned by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge in the 1930s, and which is an ever present threat in our society.
Fr. Rutler describes how passions can enslave the will, while pride can corrupt the intellect, and goes on to say: “Our Lord knows that passion and pride can be defeated only by suffering and failure. That’s what the Cross teaches.”
The author also compares the Sermon on the Mount with Christ’s words from the cross, and describes the crucifixion as the way that our Lord put the Sermon on the Mount into action, and in fact translated it into blood.
We need to follow this example by using God’s three keys to living a holy life — that is, prayer, mortification, and the sanctification of our work.
Regarding work itself, the author says, “The chief work of mankind is the worship of God,” and “the highest of all things we can do is to praise God for having given us the gift of life with which we participate in his plan.” But even our everyday work, regardless of how simple it might be, can be a “majestic cooperation with providence.”
Fr. Rutler cautions against taking civilization for granted — rather we should realize that it took an immense effort to create Christian civilization, and involved generations of men and women reaching up to God. And he says that we should remember that “we live in a time in which civilization is crumbling…and often don’t suspect or understand the power of evil.”
And we also need to remember that the Church is our Mother, that she is the guardian of culture, and where the Mother is loved there is a culture of life. But we live at a time when that Mother is scorned and so we have inherited a culture of death.
This prevailing culture of evil attempts to drown our truth with sentimentality. It is a culture that denies God and is therefore a culture of lies, but to deny God is “to enter into the biggest lie of all; that life itself is an accident. If we don’t understand that life is a gift, we will only be able to see death as a curse.”
The author goes on to say, “Either there is a plan for existence, or there isn’t. All things proceed according to a divine design, or they are all essentially meaningless.”
Grace and Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization also covers such diverse topics as the sin of intrigue, the Pharisee and the Publican at prayer, the impact of the eyes of Christ on His followers — and how everything depends upon recognizing Him — as well as the importance of art, music, and laughter in life.
Fr. Rutler has written a bracing and stimulating book, full of memorable ideas and turns of phrase and one well worth reading and pondering.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later this year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)

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