By Fr. George Rutler

On Letting the Light Shine

December 11, 2019
Column: From the Pastor

As a rather observant child, I made a mental note of the fact that my maternal grandmother would ask me to “make a light” instead of asking me to switch it on. When she was a child, no one switched lights on.  At night, light was not had without effort, not in her English town nor in most places yet.  She was born on the day that Gladstone introduced his Irish Home Rule bill in the House of Commons, the same Gladstone who gave a lamp to Newman who had “never sinned against the Light,” a lamp that still can be seen on his desk in Birmingham, and it certainly was not electric. Four years after my grandmother’s birth, Florence Nightingale recorded her voice on a wax cylinder patented by the Edison Company.  My grandmother harbored a devotion to the “Lady with a Lamp” for her town’s regiment had fought in the Crimean War and some of them remembered the Lady visiting at night the wards in the Selimye Barracks of Scutari and it most definitely was not an electric lamp:  that was the year Thomas Edison was born.

While eclectic in theology, and something of a Universalist, Florence Nightingale moved from Unitarianism to Anglicanism, and soon came to admire the slum work of the future Cardinal Manning who provided her with ten Catholic nuns to help nurse the soldiers in the war.  They, along with fourteen Anglican nuns, nurtured the English custom of calling all nurses, mostly secular but usually veiled, “Sister.”  A lamp, not electric, became the symbol of nursing organizations even in the United States.  Then there was the friend of my grandmother, a very old lady, Granny Pye as I called her, who had been born in Scotland in the year that the missionary David Livingston died in Zambia.  Although she belonged to the Old Kirk that did not allow ritual candles, she had a ritual of her own, for she read from the family Bible every night by candlelight, as though light bulbs were somewhat profane.

My point is that artificial light is so available now, at the flip of a switch, that we are losing a sense of wonder at the gift of light. The first creature was light itself “Let there be light….” It is hard to describe light without referring to… Read More>>

View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »

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