Don’t just do something – be.

Avatar

I just returned from the Catholic Leadership Conference — or, as I like to call it, “the best three days of the year.”

In the midst of the current crisis in the Church, it was truly inspiring to spend several days with holy, committed lay leaders who are ready to do whatever we can to heal the broken body of Christ.

And boy, did it inspire me.  We talked about what we’re going to do, together and separately.  We talked about “swinging for the fences,” about winning souls for Christ.  I left all fired up and raring to go do something.

I suspect that I am not alone in this.  Those of us who love God, or at least profess to, are always thinking about the great things we’re going to do for him.  We’ll bring a scorecard to show him on Judgment Day.  We preached.  We served.  We converted.  By golly, we did a whole lot of stuff!!

But then, a little voice inside asks me, “But what are you going to be?”

It has become increasingly apparent to me that this crisis was brought on in no small part by men on many levels who may have, at some point, had good intentions.  Maybe there was a time when some of them actually wanted to do good for the Church or for the world.  Maybe not.  But either way, it’s clear that they were, in the end, not holy men.  Some of them did unspeakably horrible things.  Others made very poor decisions in the wake of those unspeakable things.  Many, in myriad ways, placed power and prestige over the good of the faithful.

Not the actions of a truly holy man.

So, if the lack of holiness led to the problem, what do you suppose the solution would be?

I think that, above and before all, the solution is for all of us to become holier.

Remember why Christ came.  It wasn’t to tell us to do stuff.  Of course, He did tell us to do stuff.  And to avoid doing other stuff.  But all of that was to flow out of what were to become. In him, we become new creations.  New men.  New wine that won’t fit in old wineskins.  We are to be changed, converted.  We are to decrease while he increases in us.

It’s those “New Creations” he wants out there doing things.  Holy, converted men and women who hear his voice, answer his call, and bring his love into the world.

I don’t know about you, but on my own, I am capable of achieving very little.  And even less am I capable of discerning what I should be doing.  What will be most effective.  Where my talents can do the most good.

When it comes to this realm, he knows what is best, far better than I do.

He can’t operate in us if our agendas and our egos keep getting in the way.  He needs us to be committed to him, profoundly changed, ready to be led by the One who is the source of all true healing.

Fortunately, for me and for the world, the Catholic leaders I was with last week are those people.  They are humble.  They are holy.  They are completely “sold out” for Christ.  These are the men and women we want swinging for the fences, acting on his prompting, doing their part to restore his Church.

As for me, I’m doing my best to keep up.  Trying to grow in holiness, trying to listen to his voice.

How do we do that?  How do we grow closer to Christ?  How to we let him convert us?  Through prayer.  Through the sacraments — especially confession and the Eucharist.  Through the Mass.  Through reading about the lives of other men and women who were on fire for him — namely, the saints.  Through studying the Word and getting to know the One who loves us most, whose Spirit brings us to new life. And through surrendering to him.

So, if you’ve been sitting around wondering what you can do for the Church in the midst of this crisis — or even if you haven’t — how about starting there?  Work on growing in holiness, on really submitting your life to him and letting him convert you on a deeper level.

And then hold on tight, because he will undoubtedly take you on the ride of your life.

COMING UP: Getting beyond Darwin

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Bishop Robert Barron and others working hard to evangelize the “Nones” — young adults without religious conviction — tell us that a major obstacle to a None embracing Christianity is the cultural assumption that Science Explains Everything. And if science explains it all, who needs God, revelation, Christ, or the Church? To be even more specific: if Darwin and the Darwinian theory of evolution explain the origins of us (and everything else), why bother with Genesis 1-3 and Colossians 1:15-20 (much less Augustine’s “Thou hast made us for Thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”)?

That’s why “Giving Up Darwin,” an essay by David Gelernter in the Spring 2019 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, is both a fascinating article and a potential tool in the New Evangelization.

No one can accuse Dr. Gelernter of being an anti-modern knucklehead. He’s a pioneering computer scientist, a full professor at Yale, and a remarkable human being: a package from the Unabomber blew off his right hand and permanently damaged his right eye but didn’t impede his remarkable intellectual, literary, and artistic productivity.

In his Claremont Review essay, Gelernter gives full credit to what he calls “Darwin’s brilliant and lovely theory” and readily concedes that “there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape.” But Darwinian evolution can’t “explain the big picture — [which involves] not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones.” What Darwin cannot explain, in short, is “the origin of species” — the title of the British naturalist’s first, revolutionary book.

The argument is complex, so it’s important to read Gelernter’s entire article carefully, and more than once. But to be desperately brief:

First, Darwinian evolutionary theory can’t explain the so-called “Cambrian explosion,” in which, half a billion years ago, a “striking variety of new organisms — including the first-ever animals — pop up suddenly in the fossil record.” How did this “great outburst” of new life forms happen? The slow-motion processes of Darwinian evolution can’t answer that question. Gelernter concludes that “the ever-expanding fossil record” doesn’t “look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified.” (This gaping Cambrian hole in the Darwinian account goes unremarked in the otherwise-magnificent new David H. Koch Hall of Fossils at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.)

But there is more. For “Darwin’s main problem….is molecular biology:” a scientific field that didn’t exist in his era. Given that he knew nothing about the inner-workings of cells through proteins, Darwin “did brilliantly” in explaining species adaptation. But Darwin and his Neo-Darwinian disciples can’t account for the incredible complexity of the basic building-blocks of life: for as we now know, “genes, in storing blueprints for the proteins that form the basis of cellular life, encode an awe-inspiring amount of information….Where on earth did it all (i.e., all that “profound biochemical knowledge”) come from?” From random mutations? Maybe, but very unlikely, for as Gelernter puts it, “You don’t turn up a useful protein by doodling on the back of an envelope, any more than you write a Mozart aria by assembling three sheets of staff paper and scattering notes around.”

Put the Cambrian fossil record together with the high statistical improbability that the information-dense building-blocks of life happened through random mutations and you’re forced to consider what amounts to cultural heresy: that “the explosion of detailed, precise information that was necessary to build the brand-new Cambrian organisms, and the fact that the information was encoded, represented symbolically, in DNA…” falsify the Darwinian explanation of the big picture.

David Gelernter is intrigued by “intelligent design” approaches to these evolutionary conundra but also suggests that, “as a theory,” intelligent design “would seem to have a long way to go.” But to dismiss intelligent design out of hand — to brand it piety masquerading as science — is, well, unscientific. The fossil record and molecular biology now suggest that Darwinian answers to the Big Questions constitute the real fundamentalism: a materialistic fideism that, however shaky in dealing with the facts, is nonetheless deeply entrenched in 21st-century imaginations. Thus, Gelernter asks whether today’s scientists will display Darwin’s own courage in risking cultural disdain by upsetting intellectual apple carts.

The empirical evidence suggests that the notions of a purposeful Creator and a purposeful creation cannot be dismissed as mere pre-modern mythology. That may help a few Nones out of the materialist bogs in which they’re stuck.