Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Humility before the Word of God

Humility before the Word of God

          I recently saw a pamphlet in which a catechist related how she hated teaching about Creation because she felt like a fool teaching that light was created on Day One, and the sun on Day Four.  Perhaps she feared getting questions to which she didn’t know the answer, which is understandable.  Anyway, the conclusion of the story is how relieved she was to learn that the creation accounts in Genesis only have spiritual meaning and no real relation to the physical creation of the universe.
          Now, I would take issue with her new found knowledge, but that’s not my main point.  I would like to use this simple story of a no doubt sincere woman to reflect on the need for humility when approaching Scripture.
          The book of Genesis has some elements that secularists like to use to scorn Christians.  However, as time goes on, it is they who end up looking foolish. 
          It is important to note that Scripture has both a literal and spiritual meanings.  According to the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, the spiritual is always based on the literal.  It is also important to note that “literal” does not mean “literalistic.”  What’s the difference?  Literal refers to the literal meaning intended by the sacred author who wrote the piece of Scripture.  It allows for metaphor and poetic language, etc.  Literalistic means applying the Webster’s dictionary definition to every word and then constructing the meaning, so for example, to say that “It’s raining cats and dogs,” in the literalistic sense, would mean that felines and canines were falling from the sky.
          This does not mean that anything that seems difficult to us, such as light being created before the sun, can just be explained away as figurative.  It requires a little more work than that.  One thing that is quite interesting is that physicists have discovered, according to their theory of the development of the universe, that light did in fact exist first, as the Bible says, before the sun.  Photons, which are the essence of light, seem to be, according to the most accepted research of modern physicists, the beginning of material creation.  The Bible, it seems, even in the literal interpretation, got it right.
          Just a couple of months ago, I wrote an article about how scientists have shown that all humanity did in fact come from an original man and an original woman, another Christian doctrine scoffed at by the prevailing culture.  (Of course, it is considered a brilliant discovery when hit on by scientists.)
          These instances highlight a very important need for humility when approaching Scripture.  We tend to think that if something does not match our experience or understanding, it must not be true, or there must be a purely spiritual explanation.  We don’t often think that it is our experience or perception that may be limited.
          Another important thing to remember is that ancient peoples were not idiots.  They all knew where light came from, for example.  So the notion of light being created before the sun would have been just as confusing to them, even more, actually, given the discoveries about light and celestial bodies over the centuries to which we are privy.
          We can not dismiss Biblical accounts as the mythology of a naïve or unsophisticated generation.  In many ways, it is our own generation that is the most naïve and unsophisticated in many centuries.
          None of this is to say that I can give a perfect or authoritative exegesis on the book of Genesis.  There is much symbolism in the book, and it is not a science text, but a religious text, containing that Truth which is necessary for our salvation, as stated by the Second Vatican Council.  However, we suffer greatly when certain people try to give an authoritative interpretation, especially when it is based on their own discomfort with some of the text.  We must approach it, as with all Scripture, with humility.
          The Church has given us some clear doctrines in which we can trust.  But she has left much open for study and debate.  The debates are fruitful, and the study is edifying, but only if we engage in both with a spirit of humility.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boy Scout Alternatives

Boy Scout Alternatives

          The Girl Scouts have long been problematic due to their relationship with Planned Parenthood.  There are options for parents who want an alternative for their daughters.  Now, with last week’s controversial decision by the Boy Scouts, many parents are looking for alternatives for their sons.  Thankfully, there are many wonderful Catholic alternatives.  Learn about some at the link below.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Honoring the Fallen this Memorial Day

Honoring the Fallen
this Memorial Day

         This Memorial Day was an occasion of good reflection for me.  I have always been patriotic; after all, patriotism, the love of one’s country, is a virtue.  Nationalism, of course, is a vice, but healthy patriotism is a good thing.  Lately, though, I’ve struggled with that, at least at an emotional level, which is a level, I suppose, of no real consequence, I’ll admit.  But still, I have had trouble feeling emotionally attached to my country.  Why the struggle?  It is one I think many Catholics face.
          Americans today live in a country in which our government, at the highest levels, has set itself in direct opposition to our Faith in many ways.  We live in a culture in which thousands of babies are killed every day, legally; marriage is being redefined; and the government goes to court to defend its ability to take away Christians’ freedom of religion – most notably with the HHS mandate.
          America the Beautiful gets harder and harder to sing.  And then comes Memorial Day, an American holiday that in many ways stands apart from all the others.  On Memorial Day we remember the soldiers who fought to defend our freedoms, our ideals, and never returned home to enjoy those privileges that were won for the rest of us.
          No, I have no problem getting emotional about Memorial Day.  I think of the thousands of men, just like me, with homes, wives, children, communities, who were called to defend an ally from a Communist threat, or repel Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world and “purify” the human race.  They spent days, months and years, in fox holes or some jungle in Vietnam, or even a POW camp, and never came home to the embrace of their families or even a Memorial Day barbecue.
          So this tension wells up in many of us this last Monday of May.  We honor the countless sacrifices of our fallen countrymen, while living in a country that we often struggle to be proud of.  What is the solution?
          For me it was self-reflection.  I have never seen combat overseas.  I have never been fired at in a war zone.  How can I honor the sacrifices of those we celebrate on Memorial Day?
          They fought for the rights and freedoms that are under attack today.  We must do the same.  How?  We will certainly not take up arms.  But we are called to be soldiers for Christ.  And as Americans, we have to make this country Ground Zero of this spiritual war.
          It is easy to throw up our hands when we see elections whose outcome we wonder if we can trust; or we’re told that the redefinition of marriage is inevitable; or businesses are warned that as of August 1, they will be forced to provide immoral coverages in their health insurance plans; or universities (some even blasphemously using the name ‘Catholic’) insist on mocking Christian values.
          But we can not.  Many Christian businesses are fighting the HHS mandate in court.  The pro-life movement is out there fighting for every unborn life and to heal women so deeply wounded by abortion.  Grassroots organizations continue to fight the same-sex “marriage” lobby at every step.  Average Americans are answering the call to start small businesses, run for political office, be faithful to their families, and influence their communities to hold fast to the values that made our country great.
          If we want to honor the sacrifices of those we remember this Memorial Day, let us take stock of our own lives.  Do we sacrifice to stand for the values they died for?  Find your local pro-life group; volunteer for a politician who still embodies integrity, or become one; learn about groups like Patriot Voices, and others, that try to bring American ideals and honesty back to our civic and electoral processes.
          Most of all, as Catholics, we must be men and women of Faith.  We must evangelize, be active in our parishes, and live lives that mark us as unashamedly Christian.  And we can all support the effort of our bishops this summer by participating in the second Fortnight for Freedom.  In these ways, we will truly be soldiers for Christ and the best of patriots.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Archbishop Lori on the Fortnight for Freedom

Archbishop Lori on the 
Fortnight for Freedom

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The following is an excerpt from an article written by Archbishop William Lori for Columbia, the magazine of the Knights of Columbus

          There is an increasing tendency on the part of many in our society to reduce religious liberty almost solely to freedom of worship.  This we must resist.  Religious freedom surely includes freedom of worship, but it also includes the freedom for private individuals to live their faith in the workplace and to advocate in the public square those truths and values that flow from faith.  Moreover, authentic religious freedom includes the freedom of churches and church organizations to conduct their schools, social services and other activities in accordance with their beliefs and teachings.
          Precisely because of this tendency to reduce religious freedom to freedom of worship, we need to come together in prayer.  We need to pray as individuals and families…And we…need to make every effort to participate wholeheartedly in the national and local activities of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom.
          May we unite in protecting our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty!