by Ray Martin
Halloween is almost here and kids start getting all freaked out about ghosts and all of the evil characters from horror movies, but we can confidently say as parents that there’s no such things as ghosts, right? After all we’re just organisms that developed over time from other species, but wait that’s evolution…and the bible says God created us, and then there’s the bible stories about angels and they’re okay, but when we die we die…except for the saints…who went to heaven and we pray for their help, but they’re not ghosts…I’m so confused!
Creation Vs. Evolution
There’s a seven step marriage book and video series called The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Pardisus Dei, the same company who made That Man is You. Step four of The Choice Wine focuses attention on the conflict of science and reason versus religion and spirituality. This is a highly argued topic that folks like to debate as if the right answer is one or the other, but there are scientists who wrestle with faith and have started out as atheists who then become believers through their research.
Charles Darwin’s writing in the late 1800’s on evolution are notably accepted as an explanation of how life developed on earth over millions of years, but this is not at odds with the creation story in Genesis. Unlike the other animals and things created before, God both made and created man whom he “formed out of dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” Nobel laureate Dr. John C. Eccles was a scientist from the 20th century who is credited with our current understanding of the brain and how thoughts travel across neurotransmitters. We have a brain full of tiny paths, but the electrical currents traveling across those paths which are our thoughts come from our mind. The brain is physical, but the mind is spiritual. We can be made up of physical matter which evolved over time, and also be spiritual creations formed by a spiritual being, God.
Bollman in The Choice Wine goes on to share an analogy he heard to explain this using a cell phone. All cell phones are tuned to a specific frequency. We can see the phone, but not the cellular waves. My phone is specifically tuned to my number, so it only rings or alerts me when someone calls or texts my number. The brain & mind work like this as well. The brain is activated by the mind which is tuned specifically to that person. Evolution and biology can explain where our bodies come from, but not the origin of our minds. Now back to the phone analogy, the frequencies tuned specifically to my phone exist even though they aren’t visible and if something happens to my phone like it breaks or is destroyed, people can still send text messages to my frequency. My phone isn’t going to receive them anymore because it’s broken, but the frequencies tuned to me are still there. This is a good way to think about what happens when we die. Our mind is not made up of elements or matter. It’s spiritual and so our body dies and returns to dust, but our spirit, our unique radio frequencies still exist. They’re still out there.
Communion of Saints
This brings us to saints. In the creed that we proclaim every weekend during Mass we say that we believe in the communion of saints. St. Paul taught that we are one body in Christ both the living and the dead and so as Catholics we believe our spirits are in union with the spirits of those who are no longer living on earth. How can we do that? Even though their cell phones died and aren’t able to receive a call anymore, their unique frequency created by God is still out there among us and we can still call upon them through prayer. We have to use a different means of spiritual communication but we acknowledge this when we come together as a community at Mass and you hear the priest say, “in union with all the angels and saints we exalt and bless your name and sing the hymn of your glory as without end we acclaim…” In that moment we are placing our minds in the company of the minds of those saints and angels. We do that at every Mass!
So, if you can accept that we are more than biology, that we have a brain and a mind, and that even when our brain dies that our spirit continues to exist, then it’s not so hard to believe that there are other people who have died, but lived such virtuous lives that we know without a doubt that they had to have gone to heaven. Those people are the saints of the Church. Is it a stretch then to think that through prayer we could ask those servants of Christ who have gone before us to still help us out? This is why we honor saints through celebrations and feasts. Their lives are examples to us of how to live the Christian virtues in our faith journey and we consider our minds to still exist in a spiritual along realm with theirs.
Saint of the Day
There are a ton of resources out there on saints, but one in particular that I have been enjoying is the saint of the day from Franciscan Media. There is a link to it on the homepage of our website as well as in our mobile app. There is an audio file that you can listen to or you can simply read their article on the featured saint of that day. Our Catholic calendars that we get every year also have feast days of saints listed on them and you will note if you go to daily Masses or watch ours streamed online that the vestments worn by priests will often reflect a special feast from a saint who may have been a martyr. You’ll see a priest wear red on that particular day. Our priests will often talk about saints during their homilies. Fr. Michael in the past two weeks has mentioned St. Faustina and St. Augustine.
Quick story- I was reading 33 Days To Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux referred to as the Little Flower. She is known as a Doctor of The Church because of her writing on Divine Mercy and her philosophy called the Little Way which is a path for us to get to heaven by recognizing our littleness, trusting God, and striving for holiness. While alive, she said that when she died she wanted to shower the world with flowers, roses specifically, so she is known for roses and people often think of her and ask for signs from her in the form of roses. While reading about her I began to pray her novena which has reflections weaved into the 9 days of rosaries. One day during that novena, a woman came into the office here at the Parish and asked if we could do anything with these roses that she had left over from a wedding and we gladly helped her bring them in…box after box, hundreds of roses made their way into our Parish office! What’s even better is that I had been praying specifically for one of my children and she brought one of the flowers to my office which I dried and kept as a reminder that St. Therese heard my prayer.
All Saints Day
We celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st. We will have Masses throughout the day and I highly encourage you to attend, not out of obligation because I really dislike that term, but come because you want to celebrate this rich history of heroic people who lived here on earth just like us and left us an incredible witness of how follow Christ all the way to heaven. If you want to start learning more about saints, start checking out the saint of the day that we link to from our website and app. Perhaps there’s one that you may want to read more about? The 33 Days to Merciful Love was a terrific read, so maybe that would be a good one to start with. We are so lucky to have the Hall of Fame of Holiness as Fr. Michael likes to refer to the saints.
Hopefully the next time people are talking about creation and evolution you will feel more comfortable being okay with both. There’s nothing wrong with believing in science and religion! And as we celebrate the feast of All Saints, I pray that you will start to talk about and learn more about the many saints of our Church.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman and 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley