A Better World   Leave a comment

I’m part of a group of young Catholics who meet monthly. We are slowly studying Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi (saved in hope), and it’s given me a lot of food for thought. The paragraphs we’re reading now are about how some people place their hope and faith in science and “material inventions,” thinking that science alone can lead to a better, more perfect world.

This piece of the encyclical especially struck me:

Hence, while we must always be committed to the improvement of the world, tomorrow’s better world cannot be the proper and sufficient content of our hope. And in this regard the question always arises: when is the world “better”?

I think most of us would imagine a better world as one where people everywhere have affordable health care, enough food, enough money, just government, and basic human rights. It’s a lot to ask from a world of imperfect people who go on to create imperfect governmental and political structures and fall victim to sin and all the other pitfalls of being human.

Undoubtedly, science and technology have improved many lives, but placing our ultimate hope in such things is faulty because they are the imperfect products of imperfect humans. Having all the benefits science and technology can bring would indeed make the world a less disease-ridden, less hungry place… but it is human nature to constantly want more, better, quicker, easier, and in our quest for that, we may do more harm than good.

Then you think about placing hope in something that goes beyond life, something more permanent than the technological structures that we put in place on earth. For Catholics/Christians, God is that permanence. Of course, nobody wants to be miserable when they’re on earth, but if you believe in Heaven and in another life that will last forever, you want to put your ultimate hope in that, and you want to build up treasures to help you reach that.

A good moral foundation (perhaps that “inner voice”) spurs humans to make the material world “better” for everyone living in it. This may mean using science, and science is in no way intrinsically bad. It can help us reach the “end” of a better world, but it is only the “means” by which we get there, not an end in itself. I think that humans should do what they can to make the world better by improving the human condition, but they should also realize that these same people who are living in this imperfect world have immortal souls that will outlive their bodies. Paying attention to a person’s soul, not just his body, and filling his soul with hope, will help make the world “better” in terms of creating a foundation on which to build our scientific and technological achievements.

I may have gone pretty far from what Pope Benedict meant, but to make a long post short, science alone can’t make the world “better.” As much as you should care for people’s physical needs, you should also care for their spiritual needs. That includes giving people a sense of hope for the future beyond their earthly lives.

Posted April 18, 2015 by Maggie in Religion

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The Thursday Three #4 (Books)   7 comments

I sometimes read more than one book at a time, which often leads to confusion unless the books are extremely different in their subject matter. These are three (very different) books I’m getting through:

1. The Country of Ice Cream Star – Sandra Newman. This book was recommended to me by an awesome person who reads my blog. It’s a post-apocalyptic literary “thriller” about a 15-year-old girl who goes on a quest to find a cure for the disease that killed pretty much everyone in the United States. So far, it’s like a mixture of Lord of the Flies, the Fire-us trilogy (a very enjoyable YA/middle grade series), and even The Stand. The voice of the narrator is what sets this book apart from others in its genre; reading it is like reading an extended poem in broken English. This is a beautiful experience, but I find that the narrator’s voice tends to ring in my ear after a while, so I have to put the book down and go on to something else.

2. Watching My Language – William Safire. I have no idea who the author is or what his credentials are, but I gather (without doing an Internet search) that he is (or was) a journalist and a perfectionist when it comes to English grammar and usage. The book is a compendium of newspaper columns (arranged alphabetically) about words or phrases that have been misused or misconstrued, mostly in politics. This kind of nitpicky stuff would be boring to someone who doesn’t read or write a lot, but I find it pretty interesting (even though the book is somewhat old), and it’s making me rethink the way I use certain words.

3. Practicing Catholic – James Carroll. A few years ago, I read A Concise History of the Catholic Church, which was exactly that: a history, boiled down and a bit dry. Practicing Catholic is also a history of the Church but filtered through the lens of one man’s experience and vision. I’m only on the second part of the book so far, but it’s proving to be insightful and not biased in the sense that the author defends the Church against all reason. He presents an open-minded examination of the history of the Church, its faults, its strengths, how precious it is to those who love it, how misunderstood it is to those who believe only the media’s portrayal of it, and how it could be reformed and improved to touch more lives.

What are you reading these days?

Poetry Time: Fox   Leave a comment

your hand splays in yellow light
(sweet kind yellow),
keeps me from tipping

into eye-slitting red
that hisses against the glare.

yellow beckons through trees,
slants over the ridge of your hip,
but somehow it’s wrong,

it’s tearing, passing by,
wrong to cross at the red light.

i am gone,
buried in the red that is
a heart-skip at hello,

and there you sprawl,
darkening to umber
as red flickers over every unspoken.

(originally written on September 11, 2009, but was heavily revised before posting here)

Posted April 14, 2015 by Maggie in Writing

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