One of the things that fascinates me about the history of science and physics is the way we keep pulling back layers of our universe. There was a time when a rock was just a rock. What’s that rock made of? It’s made of rock. You could smash up the rock, and you’d just have smaller rocks. Then we figured out that rocks are made up of smaller minerals and elements. Modern chemistry was born when we discovered that everything’s made up of a number of elements. It was like peeling back a layer of existence: where we once saw rocks and wood and water and air, now we detected nitrogen and oxygen and carbon and hydrogen. It seemed we’d found the constituent bits of the universe, out of which everything is made.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
A few months ago I was contacted by a concerned mother. I say ‘concerned’ but a better word might be ‘desperate.’ Her son, we’ll call him Ryan, was enrolled in their parish’s confirmation class but had announced that he didn’t want to be confirmed. It was becoming a big fight in the house. She was concerned not only for him, but for his younger siblings who look up to him. His grandparents were beside themselves.
She asked if I would please talk with him, if he was willing. I said sure, and we met halfway between here and their parish. Ryan is intelligent, articulate, charming, and has no intention of making Catholicism any part of his life after he moves out. I saw evidence that he doesn’t understand Catholicism quite as well as he thinks he does, but neither does he seem show the slightest bit of curiosity about it.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
I have this hypothesis that the most transformative part of getting older is the accumulation of goodbyes. They add up, and it changes you. Part of it is learning appreciation and gratitude. You stop taking things for granted when you find out they’re fragile and might go away. It can also make us more focused on eternal things, as our experiences prove so incredibly fulfilling and yet awaken in us a yearning for something this world cannot give. Something beyond all the goodbyes. Some kind of oneness that doesn’t break apart and drift away.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
I spoke last week about what you might call keeping an eternal perspective. We can get pretty short-sighted sometimes, and there’s a fun and effective way to help people think that through. I call it the “what next?” game. Say you ask someone about to graduate, “what do you want to do when you’re finished with school? What’s after that?” They may reply “I hope to get a good job” or “I want to travel” or “I’m going to join the circus.” Don’t laugh, one of my college roommates and best friends did it and it’s worked out great for him. I’ve watched him juggle fire while riding a bicycle on a tight-wire. There’s got to be a sermon there somewhere, but I can’t find it right now.
Anyway, there’s some plan or idea about what happens after graduation. We only hope that, at some point, it may include gainful employment... great! What next? And you can see where this is going. Maybe there’s family in there, career, service, you keep asking “what’s after that?” until eventually you get to retirement, and eventually, if you keep asking long enough, “what’s after that?”, eventually you’ll get a hesitant admission that, “well, I suppose after that I will die.”