Thursday, August 19, 2004

Magic and mystery

You may have read the story of the little New Jersey girl with a serious wheat allergy who received her First Holy Communion from a sympathetic priest with a rice-based wafer.

Apparently church law requires that communion wafers be made of wheat, and the bishop of the diocese refused to validate the sacrament.

Traditions can be lovely things, but what we are talking about here is magic. I'll let you discover the probable origin of the word hocus-pocus.

There was a time during the earliest centuries of Irish Christianity when magic was repudiated in favor of the idea that all of nature is sacred -- rice as well as wheat, presumably -- an attitude not inconsistent with a healthy scientific skepticism.

Present church authorities might profitably read the sermons of such revered Irish saints as Columbanus, who suggested 1500 years ago that the surest way to God is through the study of the natural world.