“Homo faber” – Man the Builder by Fr. George W. Rutler
FROM THE PASTOR
January 25, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler
The great edifices of classical cultures are also morally edifying by
their anonymity. The artists and artisans who embellished them are
generally unknown because they were honoring something greater than
The desire to be known, however, is not unworthy of human dignity, provided it is not just selfish pride. Homo faber, man the builder,
is entitled to take just satisfaction in an accomplishment, provided
thanks for the inspiration are accorded to the Divine Inspirer.
Humility refers all things to God, but it dispenses with the false
modesty, like that of Dickens’ Uriah Heep, that solicits praise but
pretends not to want it. When Michelangelo carved his name very visibly
on his Pietà, he wanted people to know that God had done a great thing
through him. That is different from those who want their names known
just to advertise themselves. “Their inward thought is that their houses
shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations;
they call their lands after their own names” (Psalm 49:11).
Once a man desires to please God first, he will begin to understand
that he is not just a statistic in the divine regard. “Non nobis,
Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam—Not unto us Lord, but unto thy name
give the glory.” St. Paul warned St. Timothy not to be a “man pleaser”
because that distracts from the primary relationship with God who made
us for his delight. To be dependent on human recognition is to forfeit
the radical dignity that God alone gives us. “We love him because he
first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
No one wants to receive mail addressed only to “Occupant.” Christ
does not address us as statistics, the way a bureaucrat does. St. Paul
wrote his epistles to churches composed of individuals, each of whom he
was willing to die for, as Christ died for him. He does not end his
letter to the Romans without naming them: Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila,
Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys,
Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis,
Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia,
Nereus, and Olympas. It is quite like the list of names with which
Cardinal Newman ended his Apologia pro Vita Sua. That is the greatest
modern autobiography in the English language, and he named his friends
because he had shown them that they were friends of God.
The pantheon of fame has its cracks. I recently spoke with a college
student who had never heard of Bing Crosby. The only recognition that
matters is how we are known to the Lord. Should we be blessed to meet
him in glory, he will not say, “How do you do?” He will not even say, “I
think I remember you.” He will say, “Before I formed you in the womb, I
knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Make a Donation, of any amount, to the Church of St. Michael.
Our website is http://www.StMichaelNYC.com
[Hat tip to JM]