Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cherubic propulsion


I was talking last week to another American here in the village, younger than me. It transpired that he was on his way to church to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation, when Catholics are required to attend Mass.

For those not familiar with Catholic doctrine, the Assumption refers to the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the end of her earthly existence, was assumed bodily and uncorrupted into Heaven. The belief has an ancient history, but was only declared an infallible dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Whether Mary died before she was taken up is left vaguely undefined. In the many paintings of the supposed event, she looks plainly alive. In any case, she is surely animate in Heaven.

I asked my acquaintance: "Where is she now?"

His good-natured reply: "Even at the speed of light, she is not yet out of the galaxy."

Not necessarily good theology, but good science.

That little exchange aptly illustrates the difference between people of faith and –- well, me -– and perhaps you.

The fellow I was talking to was no doubt aware of the logical absurdities of his belief, but he embraced them without examination because they are part of a package that gives solace, comfort, and a meaning to life. A fair enough exchange, I suppose.

I, on the other hand, was early motivated for whatever reason to take the package apart, to examine each piece logically and empirically, to accept and reject. And when I was finished, there wasn't much left of the package. Which set me somewhat adrift on a lifelong quest, taking solace, comfort and meaning wherever I found it.

Meanwhile, there she goes, Heavenward, propelled at presumably much less than the speed of light by a battery of rosy-cheeked cherubs, and as much as I might like to believe in so delightful a story I cannot muster the cognitive dissonance that seems to come so easily to so many of my Catholic friends.