Staring Into History: Finding the Beauty of Catholic Teachings in The Stars

In my fifth grade science class, we learned about “light pollution.”  It didn’t make sense until seven years later when I left for college.  I visited home one weekend and went to a friend’s house and finally understood the “light pollution” that my science teacher had talked about years earlier.  I’d become so used to seeing a night sky full of stars that when I looked off from her house to the nearby city, I saw an aura of artificial light surrounding the city.

Benedictine College is in a fairly rural area. One of my favorite quiet spots was the scenic outlook right behind the Abbey.  My friends and I would regularly go there to smoke cigars, share wisdom, and joke around.  At one point, somebody mentioned that when we look at the stars, we are looking into history.

In February 1987, a supernova, the explosion of a star, was visible to the naked eye.  Astronomers identified this supernova as SN 1987A.  The star in question was approximately 168,000 light-years (the distance a beam of light travels in one year) away from Earth.  While this supernova may have been visible to us only then, it actually happened thousands of years ago.  Because of the space between the Earth and a given star and the speed at which a beam of light travels, when we look up at a clear and beautiful night sky, we truly are gazing into history.

What does this have to do with Catholic teachings and tradition?  Quite a lot, actually.  Follow me on this. 

Before Pope Francis was elected, the media was in a natural frenzy.  Many dissident advocacy groups, such as Catholics for Choice, the Women’s Ordination Conference, and others voiced their usual hopes that the Catholic Church would about-face on long-held controversial teachings on things such as abortion, contraception, male-only priesthood, gay marriage, and sex. 

In response, I said that these are dogmas and cannot be changed.  I also posed this question: Even if Holy Mother Church could change these sacred and fundamental positions, if the post-1960s world defines “modern”, why would the Church adopt these “modern” positions?  However, when you get down to it and really begin to understand these teachings, you see that there’s more to it than “it can’t be changed”.  There’s also a very deep beauty to them.

“If you wish to be my disciples…”

Take, for example, the most beautiful, and perhaps most embattled institution in today’s culture, which is marriage.  A man and a woman who have formed their lives after the Heart of Christ realize the true and objective purpose of marriage, which is to unify them into one and to bear and raise children.  If they contracept to avoid pregnancy, they are using each other for sex.  They have freely and consciously chosen to love each other, whereas many other couples today rely more on “sexual compatibility”.  They have given themselves in marriage to each other and as such do not give their whole hearts or their bodies to others.

Sure, compared to the modern world, the Church may be stuck in the past, but there is an intrinsic and unimaginable beauty to what we believe. In remaining faithful to what we have believed over the centuries, we behold the untold beauty of the life of Christ. All it takes is a few minutes away from the modern world gazing up at a clear night sky in order to see what is promised to us.

And just for old time’s sake, I can’t help but post this video once more…


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