By Fr. George Rutler

Always Darkness Before the Dawn

January 6, 2021
Column: From the Pastor

This article was originally published Dec 20, 2016, four years ago, on the heels of President Trump’s election and after 8 years of President Obama’s presidency, yet Fr. Rutler’s insights perhaps have even richer meaning today, January 6, 2021, a day marking the date of Epiphany (though now commonly celebrated on a Sunday) and also marking the Congressional confirmation (or not) of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election….

The maxim “It is always darkest before the dawn” supposedly dates to the seventeenth century, but sentiments like it have been around forever. Holy Mother Church moves it beyond the platitudinous “self-help” literature to the realm of fact. Coincident with the darkest days of the year, the birth of the Light of the World, who is Christ, is preceded by warnings of attempts to hide that light.

Of the “Four Last Things” preached in Advent, Hell is saved for last. Death contrasts with life, Judgment refutes meaninglessness, Heaven opens the gates to eternity. Then just before the “Dayspring from on High,” the Church declares that Hell is real. It is an endless moral darkness in which the most unrelenting suffering perhaps is boredom.

Universally, and not just here in our neighborhood of “Hell’s Kitchen,” the contradiction of God’s joy is sensed when ugliness mocks beauty, deceit twists truth, and evil defies goodness. But Heaven is intuited through that triad of beauty, truth, and goodness. As primary colors refract from pure light, so do those three fundamentals emanate from the divine Light of the World, who came into a world darkened by sin and death. Just as Catherine of Siena said that “all the way to Heaven is already Heaven for those who love the Lord,” so is the path to Hell already Hell for those who deliberately reject him. If boredom is the chief quality of Hell, it is significant that when Christ walked through this world, some people loved him so much that they were willing to die for him, and others hated him so much that they killed him, but no one ever found him boring.

Our nation has gone through a long moral darkness, dimming awareness of human dignity and the sacredness of life. While not putting trust in princes (Psalm 146:3), there is no doubting the fact that if the recent election had gone another way, the downward spiral of our culture would have continued. There may be some glimmer of dawn in recent executive nominations.

The next (2017, chosen by then-newly-elected President Trump) Secretary for Health and Human Services has a one-hundred percent approval rating from the National Pro-Life Committee, the new Attorney General is a protector of religious liberty, and the future Secretary of Defense (2017, chosen by then-newly-elected President Trump) is a champion of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. No mention of those suffering Christians was made in the recent (2016, then-President Obama) presidential proclamation of Human Rights Day, and the hellish massacre of dozens of Coptic Christians in Cairo last week (2016) received scant attention, and less outrage. That will change soon (in 2017), and there is hope for the Supreme Court (2017).

While not naïve about politics, the darkness of our times may be a sign that a dawn awaits. Whatever that means for our culture, the dawn has always shone on the Church and “the darkness has never overcome it” (John 1:5).


Ironically, this article was originally posted on December 20, 2016, four years ago and soon after President Trump had been elected, following 8-years of extremely pro-abortion President Obama’s presidency. 

Fr. George W. Rutler, S.T.D., is a brilliant scholar, author, convert, former pastor of Our Saviour in Midtown Manhattan, the closest Catholic parish near the site of 9-11, and now pastor of St Michael’s parish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. A donation of any amount may be made to the parish at:

Father Rutler’s latest book: Our Peculiar Times. This “timely set of reflections on the ominous times in which we are living” is a must-read!


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 »