The Erudite Father, Spiritual Enrichment, and the Personal Pianist

Fr. George Rutler, author and pastor of Our Saviour Church in New York City, evinced sparkling erudition during his speech yesterday at the Portsmouth Institute’s conference celebrating William F. Buckley, Jr. That Fr. Rutler has lived a life of the mind came across forcefully, with regular practice at public oratory, and one couldn’t help but imagine his lunches with Mr. Buckley and assorted guests as historic events.

There has been a somewhat official-looking video camera following conference-goers from event to event, and I encourage readers to seek out Fr. Rutler’s portion of the final product, whatever it may be, but here’s audio of a few highights:

  • On religious belief in the eyes of the post-modern relativist: stream, download (1 min, 47 sec)
  • On Buckley’s “Christian longing for death”: stream, download (34 sec)
  • On the inadvisable good humor of those who usher in the collapse of society: stream, download (1 min, 32 sec)
  • On conservatism disconnected from faith: stream, download (1 min, 15 sec)

After a few questions and answers, Fr. Rutler’s talk was followed by the Portsmouth Abbey monks’ observance of vespers (if that’s the right way to phrase it). Having never been to such a service, I found the experience to be more spiritually enriching than even I would have expected. One does wonder how much stronger the effect might be were the monks’ seats behind the altar filled, rather than smattered, with black cloaks, but I suppose we are generally so stultified, spiritually, that we needn’t be gifted with the full effect of rituals. We mightn’t know how to process it.
And thus primed with heavenward thoughts, we moved on to the auditorium, where Lawrence Perelman (miraculously arrived after enduring a broken down train north of Westerly) shared some of the music that he’d played for WFB in keeping with the relationship that I described yesterday.

On the program were Bach’s Partita No. 6 in e minor (the last piece that Mr. Buckley had requested that he play) and Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 in A Major, Op.110 (apparently a favorite of the requester). The performance was compelling throughout, but it was the first movement of the Beethoven that I found myself whistling as I made my way to the working man’s van — foregoing dinner out so as to preserve harmony with my family. Stream, download (7 min, 7 sec). (The decision turned out to be wise, because as it was, I remained awake until 1:00 a.m. learning PowerPoint sufficiently to put together an end-of-year presentation for my wife’s kindergarten class.)

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