Evolution

Confession from the administrator of BeopentoGod.com

Since I was a youth, I have always struggled with the idea of creation and wrote it off as a “man made” idea. As a youth growing into adulthood, I came to learn about evolution as a possible beginning that was explained through science. The following text summarizes a possible end to this mystery.

 

What difference does evolution make?

We must distinguish three meanings that evolution can have.

First: it can mean simply a theory about what happened – more complex species appeared on earth – and when, as shown by the fossil record.

Second: it can mean a theory about how this happened: by “natural selection,” “the survival of the fittest.”

Third: it can mean the absence of a divine design, as distinct from God using natural selection.

This third sense is not scientific at all, but philosophical and theological. One can accept evolution in sense 1 but not 2, or 1 and 2 but not 3. There is certainly a contradiction between the Bible and evolution in sense 3. But evolution in sense 3 is not a scientific theory at all.

If we evolved simply by blind chance, not divine design, then our lives have no overarching meaning, no preset divine plan, no script. The only meaning, purpose or values that exist are the ones we invent for ourselves. These can never be right or wrong, justified or not justified by a higher standard than our own desires, which created them. Thus there is no real reason to prefer Christian ethics to Stalinist ethics, for instance, except one’s own desires themselves. Desire (volitional faith) becomes its own reason, its own justification.

There is no logical contradiction between the Bible’s claim that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1 NIV) and the claim that once the earth was here, species evolved by natural selection. Science is like the study of the inner ecology of a fishbowl; the Bible is like a letter from the person who set up the fishbowl. Far from being logically exclusive, the two ideas of creation and evolution easily include each other or suggest each other. On the one hand, the Bible does not say that God “created” each species by a separate act, but that he said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures” (Gen 1:24). On the other hand, a theory of evolution that confines itself to empirical science does not claim to know whether or not there is a divine Designer behind these natural forces. But surely such an elegant and ordered design strongly suggests a cosmic Designer.

There is also no logical contradiction between the Bible’s claim that the human soul (the “image of God”) is “breathed” (“spirited”) into us from God, and evolution’s claim that our body evolved from lower forms. Genesis 2:7 even suggests just such a double origin.

— Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. (2003). Pocket handbook of Christian apologetics. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

 

Recently I was asked “if you could describe yourself in one word, what word would you choose?” My reply was that I am “developing.” So are our scientific discoveries, developing, in hopes that we may know someday. Believing that God is Creator, we still seek to understand how he creates. The relationship between faith and reason give us the freedom to explore this fullness of creation.

Faith and reason.

 

Our Search for God

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

Creation is an expression of God’s will that we are able to experience in more than just a human way. Its vast, seemingly incomprehensible and interlocking mysteries are more than biological or chemical luck, and reason alone cannot uncover the ‘why’ of our existence. Love is expressive of itself. God expresses this super-overabundance of
love in His simple act of Creation.

Space and time are the canvass upon which He paints this masterstroke of Creation. What is immeasurable and boundless He contains for the sake of His finite creatures created out of love. We cannot look upon time as anything less than an ally. Time may seem constricted or fleeting as we try to accomplish our tasks, and it can exasperate and bore us. At the same time it heals, forgives, allows for growth and change and gives us a beautiful
reckoning and grounding for this inexpressible gift of life.

Time is also an expression of God’s patience. While we may not be as patient with His patience as we ought or could, do we not see that in the inexorable manner in which time presses forward we are invited to do the same?

Our lives are a quest for self-awareness. We see it plainly in gurgling babies trying to figure out their hands or the way their mouths work. They grow and mature, undergoing massive change before they even reach adolescence. All of us follow the same route to our last day, changes that aren’t just physical; they are emotional, intellectual and spiritual as well. This quest for self-awareness finds its home and comfort in the person of the God-made-man, the Savior who comes to us.

The search for Him who resides in our hearts is the only way we reach our full potential. We may falter and stumble, reject our faith at times, omit and commit, but because Christ comes to us, we can always reconcile with the true desires of our hearts and the purpose of our Creation: to love and be loved.

This is why we are implored to remain vigilant and reconcile ourselves to God. Our greatest contentment and surety is experienced when we express ourselves according to the identity we possess as sons and daughters of God in accord with the dignity that flows from this identity. God’s love is expressed in this way, and we are fully self-aware and realize fully our potential when we in turn express this given love in our thoughts words and actions.

So the Savior comes to teach us by word, example and obedience to His Father’s eternal plan played out in time. Use this time of Advent preparation to hear His voice beckoning you to love. By Christmas morning you’ll see how wisely this time was spent.

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Search 2013 – Be one of God’s troopers

Ephesians 6:10-17

Battle against Evil.

10  Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.

11  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.

12  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.

13  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.

14  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,

15  and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.

16  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.

17  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

To all you holy men and women out there – a journey of a man in search of something greater than himself:
I want to be a Saint

Finding True Hope and Joy in Christ

Posted by Fr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral

These last days before Christmas were absolute torture growing up. The expectation, coupled with the struggle to stay on Santa’s good list while trying to tame our excitement meant each minute passed with excruciating length. As we grow older, the shoe is on the other foot…nothing seems to be ready, time flies and the shopping isn’t finished! On top of that, we continue to seek and find meaning to the words ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘joy to the world’. This final Sunday of Advent is the perfect time to intensify our prayer and search for the coming Christ amidst the promptings of decorations, shopping and cheer.

Our true joy springs from the hope given to us from God through the simple, humble birth of His Son. He has come to us, visible in His humanity; the reality of His Spirit manifest in His deeds, authority and power.

In earthly measure, we reckon that joy is experienced when we have arrived at a goal…there is a certain finality involved which sets off celebration and happiness. Our Christian joy lies in the fact that our salvation is at hand, a moment of truth we accept and practice because it leads to the bliss of heaven. The ‘already, but not yet’ of our pilgrimage is not a joy of finality, but promissory joy that springs from the hope of eternal life through the certitude we have in Christ and experience through His grace. This is why hope must be a part of our everyday life as pilgrims.

The virtue of hope is one of the theological virtues, one we receive by God’s good grace. It helps us to integrate our daily lives with the Gospel call of Christ and the promise of eternal life. Thus we are fortified and prepared to see the frustrations, difficulties and happiness of this life in terms of our final goal and destination, which is heaven. True hope and joy does not lay in earthly wealth, achievement or physical pleasures because we are engaged in a spiritual endeavor that necessitates a close identification with Christ and His Gospel. He experienced all the physical and emotional hardships we encounter, and remained steadfast and true. The joy of this season springs from the fact that our salvation is at hand, and it emboldens us to live as we ought because it is made possible through His love.

Enjoy your time with family and friends and celebrate well the birth of our Savior!

Encounter

As we were doing a cost benefit analysis of atheism vs. faith in my philosophy class the other day, I realized that Christianity just doesn’t make sense without an experience of God. This isn’t to say that Christianity isn’t reasonable, since it brings together faith and reason in a beautiful way. However, as I looked at the list of benefits on the board, I wasn’t really attracted to any of them. None of those reasons inspired me to give my life to faith. The only one that slightly drew my attention was the cleverly labeled, “cosmic companion”, which really does not do justice to what God is and wants to be for us. This still didn’t seem to satisfy my desires for something deeper.
It seems to me that as human beings we have this great desire to be caught up in something important. We are naturally drawn to a relationship, but we also want that relationship to be the greatest relationship ever recorded. This desire sprang a whole genre of music in the 1980’s including many Journey songs. That desire for relationship is deep within us and echoes into every ounce of our being, even if we do not realize it. Pope Benedict XVI explains our faith as “not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”. Without Jesus, we don’t have our faith.
This is as true today as it was in the beginning. All of us are called to a relationship with a personal God who came and died for us. He is more than some cosmic companion. He is God who is Father, Brother, Spouse, Spirit, and Love meant to be encountered daily in the sacraments, in the word, and in daily prayer. This encounter plants a seed in our heart that blossoms into a “new horizon and a decisive direction”. Only with an encounter of Jesus can our lives find meaning and purpose. In this year of faith, we must seek to encounter the Person of Christ, who is the essence of our faith.

Are you excited for the Year of Faith?

I have to say ever since I read Porta Fidei which can be found here http://bit.ly/OC2iNt I have been incredibly excited for the Year of Faith. I am not sure why I am surprised by this, but I can tell you two reasons I am excited:
1. It is not another program! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love programs and I think they have done great things for the church and our communities, but there is just something about a program which in my opinion stifles the Spirit.
2. If you are baptized then you are good to go with the Year of Faith. It isn’t like that excuse some people use about needing to get in shape before they join the gym. Not that I have ever used that excuse, but I have heard people do say that. You see, I think there are people who would say the Year of Faith isn’t for them because they are not spiritually in shape; they haven’t been to church in a while, they do not know the Faith very well, or do not have time for another thing in their lives.
You see this is the beauty of what Pope Benedict XVI has ushered in for the whole world over these next 13 months. He isn’t asking us to do anything. He is simply asking us to “rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”
He is simply asking us to reflect on our faith life. Not our neighbor’s faith life, not our parent’s faith life, not the faith life we wish we had or think we should have. No, he is saying to each of us right now, stop everything and take a moment to reflect.
Ask yourself this question, “When I think of God what comes to mind?” An all-loving Father, a distant dictator, an absentee landlord, nothing, pain, joy, happiness, emptiness. The list could go on and on and we could each add are own thoughts, feelings, desires, or words to this list. But honestly when you close your eyes and think of God what comes to mind?
Now ask yourself if you are satisfied with this. Do these thoughts, feelings, and desires elicit joy or happiness? I have begun to realize that for many of us we have never really taken time to do this. We have never really stopped to reflect on the idea that God is a Person; actually three Persons and He desires to encounter me on my journey.
You see this is what the Year of Faith is all about; baptized Christians being invited to reflect on their personal encounter with Christ. So our goal this year is to first reflect on our encounter with Christ and then to ask the Lord to deepen this encounter with Him through “feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples.” (Porta Fidei 3)
He goes on to say that “The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world.” (PF 6) This is about our own conversion, which is a lifelong process that will not be complete until we are united with God in heaven. It is about being purified of our own defects in ourselves through our constant encounter with Jesus Christ.
Now here is where things will get tough for you and for me, but I believe if we truly desire to know the love of Christ more we will be willing to do this in spite of our fears. The Pope goes on to say that once we have reflected on our encounter with Christ, been fed on the word of God and nourished by the bread of life we must share this with someone.
Why is this so hard for us to do? Have you ever gone to a movie, read a book or seen a play that touched you and then thought, “I better not share this with anyone because they might not have the same experience I had.”? No, we go around telling everyone about how great it was and even if they don’t agree we don’t ultimately care because it did touch us deeply.
Here is one reason I think we don’t share it; we have never had that sort of encounter when it comes to our faith. Sure we know we are supposed to go to church and learn about our faith, but for many of us we have never been told that we are to encounter Jesus Christ. So, when it comes to our faith we hesitate because we feel like we are a fraud since we cannot articulate any encounter with Christ. Or we still see our faith as a set of rules we have to follow or a list of things we need to do.
The reality is I think many of us are like the disciples on the road to Emmaus but we are still walking and we have not really had Scripture broken open to us nor have we come to understand the fullness of the Eucharist. So we are still talking about how disappointed we are with the whole thing; how we thought He was the one. The whole while the One is walking with us, we just have not opened our eyes and hearts to see Him.
Can you imagine what would happen if everyone who goes to Church on Sunday or opens their Bible this week would become aware of how much God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit not only love them, but abide in them? Now you can see why I am so excited for the Year of Faith. Heck, even if only one person would have their hearts set on fire this whole year would be worth it, but something tells me there will be more than one.
So let us not work for another program, let us not say we need to get things in order, let us simply ask the Lord to open our eyes and notice our hearts burning with zeal for the love of God.
This is going to be a great year!

Blessed Mary, Victorious Queen

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

 The mystery undergirding the Fifth Glorious Mystery in Our Blessed Mother’s Most Holy Rosary, the “Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth,” is commemorated liturgically each August 22nd, the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary. (In The General Roman Calendar previous to the current one, this Feast was known as the Immaculate Heart of Mary.)

 The Queenship of Mary is a logical extension of her close collaboration on earth with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ the King. That the Coronation follows the Assumption (the Fourth Glorious Mystery) is clear and what one would expect.

 During his seventy Marian discourses that he gave in Vatican City during his Wednesday General Audiences from September 6, 1995 to November 12, 1997, Blessed John Paul II (1978-2005) touched upon the theme of Our Blessed Lady’s Queenship.

 In his fifty-sixth discourse, which he delivered on July 23, 1997, the Holy Father acknowledged that in the context of popular devotion, Our Blessed Mother is venerated as “Queen.” This title was attributed to her as early as the fifth century. “With this further recognition of her sublime dignity, the Christian people want to place her above all creatures, exalting her role and importance in the life of every person and of the whole world.”

 The Holy Father made reference to Venerable Pius XII (1939-1958), who, in his Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam of October 11, 1954, cited as the basis for Mary’s Queenship her Maternity as well as her cooperation in our redemption. Blessed John Paul II maintained that the Encyclical of Venerable Pius XII “establishes an analogy between Mary and Christ, which helps us understand the significance of the Blessed Virgin’s royal status. Christ is King not only because He is Son of God, but also because He is the Redeemer. Mary is Queen not only because she is the Mother of God, but also because, associated as the New Eve with the New Adam, she cooperated in the work of the redemption of the human race.”

 The sovereignty that Mary enjoys comes from her Son, Jesus Christ. As Queen of the Universe, she exercises dominion to the extent that it has been granted to her by Christ the King.

 Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878), in his Papal Bull Ineffabilis Deus of December 8, 1854 with which he solemnly defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, asserted: “Having a motherly affection for us and being concerned for our salvation, she (Mary) extends her care to the whole human race. Appointed by the Lord as Queen of Heaven and Earth, raised above all the Choirs of Angels and the whole celestial hierarchy of Saints, sitting at the right hand of her only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, she obtains with great certainty what she asks with her motherly prayers; she obtains what she seeks and it cannot be denied her.”

 Blessed John Paul II urged us to be careful lest we think that due to Our Lady’s grandeur and our lowliness, we have a Queen who is far removed from her subjects. “One can conclude that the Assumption favors Mary’s full communion not only with Christ, but with each one of us. She is beside us, because her glorious state enables her to follow us in our daily earthly journey. As we read again in Saint Germanus I (of Constantinople): ‘You dwell spiritually with us and the greatness of your vigilance over us makes your communion of life with us stand out.’”

 Furthermore, the Bishop of Rome contended, “Mary’s glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness. She knows everything that happens in our life and supports us with maternal love in life’s trials. Taken up into heavenly glory, Mary dedicates herself totally to the work of our salvation in order to communicate to every living person the happiness granted to her. She is a Queen who gives all that she possesses, participating above all in the life and love of Christ.”

 O Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, pray for us!

 

God’s Love Revealed Through Creation

From a sermon by St. Alphonsus Ligouri

“God has loved you from eternity, and through pure love, he has selected you from among so many men whom he could have created in place of you; but he has left them in their nothingness, and has brought you into existence, and placed you in the world. For the love of you he has made so many other beautiful creatures, that they might serve you, and that they might remind you of the love which he has borne to you, and of the gratitude which you owe to him. “Heaven and Earth,” says St. Augustine, “and all things tell me to love thee.” When the saint beheld the sun, the stars, the mountains, the sea, the rains, they all appeared to him to speak, and to say: Augustine, love God; for he has created us that you might love him. When the Abbe de Ranee, the founder of La Trappe, looked at the hills, the fountains, or flowers, he said that all these creatures reminded him of the love which God had borne him. St. Teresa used to say, that these creatures reproached her with her ingratitude to God.

While she held a flower or fruit in her hand, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to feel her heart wounded with divine love, and would say within herself: Then, my God has thought from eternity of creating this flower and this fruit that I might love him.”

Cited from Magnificat, August 2012

Fortnight for Freedom

Last night began our “Fortnight for Freedom” where Catholic Americans around the country united together to defend the rights guaranteed by our Founding Fathers and endowed by our Creator: the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Believing that all people possess inherent dignity, our Founding Fathers listed numerous human rights that cannot be violated.  At question currently is the right to freedom of religion.  Oddly enough, the aspect of our religious freedom that is at the greatest risk is the duty to defend and care for the human person’s right to life.  This right is at the foundation of all other rights.  We are guaranteed human rights based upon the knowledge that every person possesses dignity regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.  Now the very nation which was founded to safeguard our freedom and protect our rights has asked us to violate our duty to protect life and subsequently to violate our consciences.

If we as Catholics and citizens of this country no longer value our duty to care for human life, we can no longer expect any other human right to be held sacred.  If we become passive, we may discover that our morality and beliefs, so long protected by this nation, may continue to be compromised in greater ways.

As this Fortnight for Freedom begins, we are called to stand up for the moral truths that enable us to witness to love, the love which unceasingly cares for every person, the love which profoundly expresses our own dignity: the love revealed in Jesus Christ.  While we cannot expect every person in this nation to profess the Christian faith, we can and must expect that this nation will allow us to practice our own faith.  We can and must love in the way that Jesus loves.  This means caring, in a holistic way, for every person, whether that may be a patient, employee, or stranger.  Our government asks for us to create within ourselves a false dichotomy where we believe in our minds but do not let that faith bear fruit in our actions.  What a limit to our freedom and an unfortunate expression of the state of our society.

During this Fortnight, let us exercise our freedom of religion through prayer, penance, and enriching our understanding of the issue at hand.  May God continue to bless America.  May he help us to develop a society that promotes true social justice where the rights of every person are protected and where we may work as a community to help every human life flourish.