Recollections of Reagan

February 6, 2011

Recollections of Reagan

By Fr. George Rutler

February 6, 2011 - I'm not sure of the year, but I think it was 1975, I was asked to give the invocation at a luncheon in a Philadelphia hotel. Most of those present were economists, of whose subject I am innocent. Beforehand, I was left in a side room, solitary save for one stranger at the far end of the room. He was studying lines on small note cards. He noticed me standing alone, preparing my spontaneous remarks just as he was doing. After some moments of silence, he walked the length of the room and offered his hand: “How are you, Reverend? My name is Ronald Reagan.” His kindness was natural, and in his humility he assumed correctly that I did not know who he was, and he did not mind that at all. Not long after that he became better known.

On the death of President Reagan, Pope John Paul II wrote to Mrs Reagan:

"I recall with deep gratitude the late president's unwavering commitment to the service of the nation and to the cause of freedom as well as his abiding faith in the human and spiritual values which ensure a future of solidarity, justice and peace in our world.. Together with your family and the American people I commend his noble soul to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father and cordially invoke upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of consolation, strength and peace,”

When Reagan addressed the parliament of Portugal, he became the first president to mention Our Lady of Fatima. He recalled how the Pope went to Fatima after the attempt on his life, “to fulfill his special devotion to Mary.” He added, “ the prayers of simple people everywhere, simple people like the children of Fatima, there resides more power than in all the great armies and statesmen of the world.” When Communist members of the parliament stormed out, the President drew laughter: “I notice that those on the Left have found their seats uncomfortable.”

Many of our cultural elite were uncomfortable when on March 8, 1983 he called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire.” Anthony Lewis of the New York Times said the speech was “primitive...simplistic theology” and Henry Steele Commager of Columbia University called it “the worst speech ever given by an American president.” But when news of the speech reached Natan Sharansky, confined to an eight-by-ten foot cell on the Siberian border, the reaction was different: “Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s ‘provocation’ quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth — a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.”

I catechized and received into the Church a friend, Peter Robinson, who went on as presidential speechwriter in 1987 to pen the line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Various advisors urged that it be removed, but President Reagan shouted it in Berlin, and soon the wall came down.

Some patronized Reagan as just "a great communicator.” He said, “I am not a great communicator but I communicate great things.” Mother Teresa visited him in June after he was shot and told him: “You have suffered the passion of the cross and have received grace. There is a purpose to this…This has happened to you at this time because your country and the world needs you.”

On January 14, 1988 he signed a document: “Now therefore I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death, and I do proclaim, ordain, and declare that I will take care that the Constitution and laws of the United States are faithfully executed for the protection of America’s unborn children.”

Only those who support that are fit for public office.

Fr. Rutler is the Pastor of the Church of Our Savior in New York City.

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