25 Nov

Ye of Little Faith

To people who doubt the existence of God and of Catholicism, using science as their reason, I would encourage a survey of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century.

Albert Einstein, though he did not believe in a personal God, did, nonetheless, believe in a "superior mind" and a higher order. God, to him, was a principle of intelligibility and rationality.  Einstein's colleagues, who developed quantum theory, had a more advanced image of God…

Max Planck, who was the originator of quantum theory and the domain of subatomic particles, believed not only in God and a personal God, but also in religion.  "Religion is the link that binds man to God," he said, "resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe."

Werner Heisenberg, the originator of the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics, was an active Christian and defended the existence of the soul and the need for faith. 

Arthur Eddington, who confirmed Einstein's general theory of relativity from an astronomical standpoint and established other theories about the conception of the universe, has a chapter in his book on quantum theory titled, "A Defense of Mysticism." God draws us continually to new heights, be it in the field of art, spirituality, or science.  Our minds are not reduced to our brains.

Kurt Godel, a leading mathematician, demonstrated that the human capacity to understand the rules of mathematical principles and algorithms cannot be explained or grounded in the algorithms themselves.  This friend of Einstein said, "I am convinced of [the afterlife], independently of any theology. It is possible to perceive, by pure reasoning that it is entirely consistent with known facts. If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife]."

 

18 Nov

The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

The Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft has a very simple proof of God, which he calls 'The Argument from Aesthetic Experience." It goes like this: 

            There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

            Therefore there must be a God.

            You either see this or you don't.

Bach will not be the topic of our discussion.  Franz Joseph Haydn, a contemporary of Bach's, will be, however.  The Austrian composer, born in 1732 (Bach died in 1750), is known as the "Father of the Symphony." He ushered in the musical era known as the 'Classical Period,' while Bach was of the 'Baroque Period.'  Haydn was a devout Catholic.  He prayed daily, received the Eucharist, and relied on God for strength both in his work and in his life.  In fact, he once said about his relationship with Mary, "If my composing is not proceeding so well, I walk up and down the room with my rosary in my hand, say several Aves, and then ideas come to me again."

Haydn arranged 14 Mass settings.  The Missa Brevis in F is perhaps his most famous. His Missa in tempore belli (Mass in a time of war) is also worth a listen.

Mass settings in classical music are very different than the ones we hear today at Mass at a typical parish.  The five parts of the Mass set to elaborate choral and orchestral composition are the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.  Each part could be five to ten minutes long!

Now, one would think composing the Mass over and over again (the words do not change) would eventually grow boring and monotonous, but not for Haydn.  Each musical composition was a prayer for him.  And he made the glory of his profession add to the glory of God. 

11 Nov

A Short History of World War I

World War I ended one hundred years ago today.  There are many anecdotes relating to Catholicism from this cataclysmic event we could invoke to inspire us.  There are also lessons from the conflict, which took 20 million lives, which we could apply to the spiritual and moral life to help us grow. With this in mind, allow me to quote at length an insight about the Great War from the historian James L. Stokesbury in A Short History of World War I

04 Nov

Exercising Patience

An old eastern legend tells the story of a stranger who sought shelter for the night in another's tent. He awoke in the middle of the night and blasphemed God because he could not fall back to sleep. Awakened by the stranger's profanity, the scandalized tent owner drove the man from his home. In the morning, an angel appeared to the owner, exclaiming: "I sent a stranger to you for shelter. Where is he?" "I would not let him stay," explained the owner, "because he blasphemed God." "For forty years," replied the Angel, "God has been patient with that man. For one single night could you not bear with him?"