Catholic Exchange: On Being Human and the Need to Wonder

I stood on a cold, frosty afternoon looking out the window at my daughter playing in the snow. She was bedecked head to toe with winter gear to protect her from the bitter wind, a wind she hardly noticed. Her fuchsia snow pants insulated her knees from the icy snow and she sat contentedly eating snow. She examined each handful before placing it in her mouth. She was struck by the uniqueness of each new handful. As I watched her, I was drawn into her wonder. I was struck by the obvious joy of that moment for her.  I realized in that moment, children often have their priorities in order, while we adults grasp at all the wrong things.

A pile of dishes was awaiting my attention, textbooks for my graduate courses sat opened, reminding me of work to be done. My elliptical machine, cold and mechanical, stood in the living room corner as an oppressive force of health and fitness. My mind was running with an endless list of things that must get done. And yet, I stopped to see what my daughter was doing in our backyard on a bitter cold winter afternoon. She had been begging me all morning to go outside and I made her wait until it hit 25 degrees. I have grown soft living in Southwestern Virginia; away from the arctic subzero temperatures of my upbringing in Montana.

I couldn’t help, but stop. There she sat, engrossed in wonder and serene contentedness. The very same serenity that alludes so many of us in adulthood with our deadlines, duties, and responsibilities. I realized that my daughter’s work was probably much more important than what I felt bound to complete in a begrudging sort of way. She was examining the secondary causes of God’s free and self-emptying Creation. I stood watching her examine each snow crystal before she placed it in her mouth. I entered into her wonder, her total giving of self to the moment. How could I not be drawn in along with her?

She did not feel the cold or complain about the weather the way we adults often gripe. Instead it was an opportunity for joy, play, discovery, imagination, and love. It was a moment for her to experience God through the beauty of His creation. She was living the good, the true, and the beautiful. How often do we brush off our child’s excitement over something seemingly mundane? How often do we miss out on the opportunity to enter into their wonder and joy of discovering something new for the very first time, or even the twentieth? How much do we ignore that God calls us to fully live in the present? Our children teach us the presence of God, but we pay little attention.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Abandoning Utilitarianism to Embrace Transcendent Beauty

We live in an age marked by utilitarianism. If an item, building, or artwork does not serve some use it is easily discarded. It is also an age of secular humanism in which the person is the center of the cosmos, not God. These two philosophical undercurrents have impacted us as Catholics whether we like it or not. There is nothing wrong with a properly ordered humanism, just as there isn’t anything inherently wrong with using items for their utility. I clearly need to use a knife to cut an onion. The problem with utilitarianism is that it has come to dominate Western culture from how we understand the human person to art to religion to architecture. We do not use people, but utilitarianism tells us this is acceptable since the goal of life is my personal happiness. Beauty is of little use in this system. Beauty within itself serves no real purpose. It cannot be formed and re-ordered to my personal end, so I discard it. This is evidenced by the architecture and art of our day. It is largely devoid of transcendence and keeps us firmly, if not stuck, here on earth.

We are not at home here in this Fallen earth. We are called to come to know God and grow in further communion with Him through His Church and through His creation, but our end is not here. Creation is a window to God. It is one of the ways he communicates His beauty, transcendence, humor, creativity, and power to us. The earth is not the fullness of revelation, however, that rests with Christ. We are made for communion with God. In fact, we are made in His image and likeness, so that we could bridge the gap between the material and the immaterial. We were meant to unite the gulf between the spirit and matter. Our vocation before the Fall was to bring creation into communion with God. Through the Fall we failed and Christ had to come to complete that vocation for us. If we look at the architecture and art of the last decades, do we see our call to transcendence or do we see a desire for comfort for the things of here and now? Are we uniting Heaven and earth as Our Lord has done?

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Surprised by Beauty for Friday: Countryside

The next few days will be busy for me with papers due and reading to be done so I won’t be online much, but I wanted to put up a beauty theme because of how important I think beauty is in the spiritual life and in daily living. My husband and I have begun our search for our dream home in the country and we have spent a lot of time driving through the rolling hills and Appalachians of our area. That means the theme I have selected is: Countryside. None of these images are mine and were found on Google Images. Pax.

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Monday Beauty Theme: Quiet Places

The last few days have been very busy. I have been going almost non-stop. We also found out that my brother-in-law is very sick with what appears to be meningitis. So it’s been a hectic and disconcerting time. When I sat down to do this week’s beauty theme the word that came to me was: quiet. I decided to search for images that depict quiet to me, or at least I would sense quiet if I were where the pictures were taken. None of these pictures are mine and all were taken from Google Images.

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Epic Pew: 11 Great Catholic Scientists

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I recently became a contributor for Epic Pew and today is my first piece, which is a collaboration. In honor of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, we wanted to remind people that the Church is a great contributor and lover of the natural sciences. Of course, the Church does not make pronouncements on science, as that realm is left to scientists, but she is a great contributor.

When it comes the Catholic Church and science all we tend to hear about is the Galileo affair. St. John Paul II apologized for various aspects the Church’s handling of Galileo, but it is a lot more complicated than post-modern scientists like to let on. Galileo is a way for Rationalists to assault faith. It is to paint the Church as anti-science and superstitious. To be sure, there are some Christians who are anti-science, who have accepted a false concordism. That is not the Catholic Church’s position. In fact, the Church has its own scientific wing, namely the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which not only welcomes the work of Catholics, but people of many faiths, including atheists. For now let’s abandon this tired narrative and look at 11 groundbreaking Catholic scientists, many of whom were priests.*

Read the rest over at Epic Pew.

Friday’s Beauty Theme: Birds

Beauty is one of my favorite topics and it has a profound impact on my Catholic faith, so I have decided to keep the Beauty Theme going on Mondays and Fridays unless I am being published at Catholic Exchange or another website. In a world marred by suffering, chaos, and confusion, I enjoy looking over sites that showcase the beauty of Creation amidst the brokenness of the world. I’ll come up with a catchy title eventually, but for now I will stick with “Monday’s and Friday’s Beauty Theme”.

The older I get the more I enjoy watching the birds in my yard. It’s 5am here and I can hear them singing to the soon-to-be rising sun. Every year Red-Headed Finches move into my hanging baskets to have babies. There are eggs waiting to hatch in one of the baskets of geraniums now. So for for some beauty and wonder today, I scoured the Interwebs for images of beautiful birds. I hope seeing images of the beauty of God’s Creation brings you closer to Him. There were so many beautiful options that these are just a few that I found. I think that hummingbirds are my favorite. God bless.

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Mumma duck leading the family. Nikon D1x file
Mumma duck leading the family. Nikon D1x file

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Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus) adult, perched on stem beside flowering dogwood, U.S.A.
Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus) adult, perched on stem beside flowering dogwood, U.S.A.

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Today’s Beauty Theme is Spring

I have finals over the course of the next two weeks, so most of my time will be taken up with my primary vocation and study. I then get a month off from classes, so I will begin writing regularly then. It will be Easter, so there will be plenty of material. Until then I will just post beautiful images that I find in order to focus on God’s beauty and goodness. The vernal equinox began last Friday, so for today, I will share pictures of spring from around the Internet. I hope you have a very blessed Passiontide.

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