Cloud of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive

Overview

In Cloud of Witnesses, Fr. George Rutler offers a personal account of the many remarkable people he has encountered throughout his life. From Robert Frost, to Mother Teresa to the many lesser known people, Fr. Rutler lets you in on the many graces that he has received through his own friendships. Told with personal vignettes in his signature style, Fr. Rutler offers not only an inside glimpse into his remarkable circle of friends, but also a deeper understanding and appreciation...

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Overview

In Cloud of Witnesses, Fr. George Rutler offers a personal account of the many remarkable people he has encountered throughout his life. From Robert Frost, to Mother Teresa to the many lesser known people, Fr. Rutler lets you in on the many graces that he has received through his own friendships. Told with personal vignettes in his signature style, Fr. Rutler offers not only an inside glimpse into his remarkable circle of friends, but also a deeper understanding and appreciation for the richness of the priestly ministry.

"While Father George might not know everyone worth knowing, he does introduce us to a bewildering range of characters... We find no malice in these portraits, but he is honest, perhaps a little tougher on his fellow clerics, as he writes loyally of the humanity of his friends. I know a few of the characters brought to life in these sketches and can vouch for their accuracy. I therefore feel confidence in recommending also the larger number of personalities I did not know." ~ From the foreword by George Cardinal Pell of Sydney.

This is an unusual book, written by an author with unusual insights, a wide range of knowledge, and an elegant style.

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Editorial Reviews

Mike Potemra
I think Rutler is not condemning fiction so much as contextualizing it — suggesting that fictions bear to life somewhat the same relation that books about contemplative prayer do to contemplative prayer. They help, but their orientation is toward an object greater than themselves, and the time comes when they must be left behind.

A reader of this book will have hours of fun, and flashes of happy understanding. Strongly recommended.
National Review Online

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594170881
  • Publisher: Scepter Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/17/2010
  • Pages: 172
  • Sales rank: 970,559
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Father George Rutler is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City and is the author of many books. He is on the board of numerous schools and colleges and is chaplain of the New York Guild of Catholic Lawyers and various fraternal societies. He has been a spiritual director for the Missionaries of Charity and other Religious orders and has lectured and given retreats in numerous countries. For over twenty years his programs on EWTN have been broadcast worldwide.Life's Rich Pageant
Mike Potemra (National Review Online, May 10, 2010)

Regular NRO readers are familiar with the work of Father George Rutler, the Anglican-turned-Roman Catholic polymath who is rector of the Church of Our Saviour in Manhattan. Father Rutler has, to understate significantly, a distinctive personality, and what makes his new book — Cloud of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive — such a joy to read is his own appreciation for the distinctiveness of the characters with which God has peopled his life, and ours. The book is a collection of 56 word-portraits, each about three pages long, of people whose lives have intersected with Father Rutler's. His subjects are, each in his or her own way, remarkable, but that is only to restate the fact that they are human persons. As Rutler himself writes, quite accurately, in his introduction: "My mention of them is perhaps more like the Japanese poetry that gives an impression instead of a reproduction; but it is an impression made by that unique mystery, a human person, so important that thinkers such as Aquinas and Newman have said that it would be better for whole galaxies to collapse than one of these souls be lost."

To give the reader a flavor, here is part of Rutler's account of the Rev. Hugh Maycock, principal of Pusey House:

His own hobby was collecting antique pawnbroker's balls, whose history he traced to the Medici. Inordinate sleep was a necessity for him after he was bitten by a tsetse fly in Malawi as a missionary. "I can always tell what time of day it is. When I awake in my pajamas I know it is time for Mass and when I awake in my trousers I know it is time for tea." . . . He imputed eccentricity to another only once in my presence. A maths don in his undergraduate days had developed a conceit that he was turning into a mushroom, like Gaius Caligula who thought he was made of glass. [Maycock] added, rather chillingly, I thought, that there was no truth to it.

Which raises the issue of eccentricity, on which Father Rutler makes a pregnant comment, quite offhandedly, later in the book. Describing the courage of Catholic bishop Austin Vaughan in standing up to liberal Church bureaucrats, Rutler remarks, "He was patronized as an eccentric by the self-centered." What wisdom there is in this casual phrase! It is a great insight into the nature of personality. A society calls those "eccentric" who do not share society's own fads and obsessions — when in fact those people may well be quite properly centered in the individuality God gave them, as opposed to ec-centric, "out-centered" in mere conformism.

Rutler reveals that Bill Buckley "regularly sent me [his novels] in the vain expectation that I would read them; they were not his best writing, and I do not read novels anyway, as every day in real life is more thrilling than any fiction." Let not the reader jump too hastily to accuse Rutler of philistinism here; I believe he's on to a very important truth. Why, after all, do we read fiction? Is it not, in large part, to try to understand our common human condition, to make sense of its bewildering diversity, to make joyful discoveries about it? What Rutler is celebrating is precisely that diversity that so baffles us — what John Duns Scotus called haecceitas, that irreducible this-ness that God had in mind in creating an individual. (Scotus, by the way, is a writer I have long recommended to my colleagues. "Scotus for Ramesh," I like to say.) I think Rutler is not condemning fiction so much as contextualizing it — suggesting that fictions bear to life somewhat the same relation that books about contemplative prayer do to contemplative prayer. They help, but their orientation is toward an object greater than themselves, and the time comes when they must be left behind.

A reader of this book will have hours of fun, and flashes of happy understanding. Strongly recommended.

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