Letter to Moses “Mo” Derniste
continued: “Why I remain a Catholic”
Why am I a Catholic? I am a Catholic because God made the world in seven days. I can hear you saying, “Is this loon a medievalist who also believes in a flat earth?” No, friend, I believe the world is round, or actually it bulges at the equator making it a bit pear-shaped as are many of its inhabitants. It is technically an oblate spheroid. So all you round earthers are actually WRONG. (This according to Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.)
“Well,” I can hear you retort, “Isn’t the universe actually 14 billion years old? Wasn’t that proven by those young scientists on that sitcom on the TV? How can you believe that the world was made in seven days?”
Let me tell you the story of the five blind men who went to see an elephant. A circus came to town and five friends who were totally blind went to see the elephant. Upon arriving, one of them walked smack dab into the side of the elephant and exclaimed, “Why, an elephant is like a great rough wall!” Another, grabbing the trunk of the elephant, said, “Nonsense! An elephant is like a firehose.” The third embracing the leg of the mighty beast said, You are both wrong! An elephant is like the trunk of a tree.” Another, grabbing the ear of this patient creature said, “No, clearly an elephant is like the leaf of a large tropical plant.” The fifth, at that end of the elephant incapable of facial expression opined that the elephant was like a rope. You, standing at a distance and seeing the whole, know that an elephant is like nothing so much as an elephant!
So it is with heaven. We see elements and theories and parts and all rightly so, but God, looking at His universe, sees the number SEVEN. The number seven is the most important part of the story. In Hebrew the number seven is “shevah”. It is spelled exactly the same way as the word “seven”. In effect you don’t swear that something is true. In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, you “seven” that something is true. God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow, and for Him, “…one day is like a thousand years.” (2 Peter 3:8) He sees the universe as a thing of seven days. This means that creation itself is His oath of faithfulness and love. I believe that creation itself is all about covenants. We sinners are all about contracts.
A contract is a temporary relationship between people. I will give you this money or that thing in exchange for goods and services rendered by you. When the business is over we will say goodbye. I give to you that you may give to me.
A covenant is quite different, though it has contractual elements within it. A covenant says that I give you myself that you may give me yourself. Since the self has been forsworn, I cannot take it back or give it elsewhere. An example: Physical intimacy is the subject of both marriage and other relationships. Marriage is highly esteemed because it is a covenant. Those other intimate physical relationships are contractual and are not highly esteemed. Politicians in particular don’t want to be caught in these kinds of relationships. Marriage is permanent. To make it temporary is to make it, well you know what they call temporary intimacy.
Our civilization is built on covenants. Judaism and Christianity believe that Heaven has made a covenant with us, though the third monotheistic religion does not believe this. They hold that the god they worship would never stoop to make covenants with mere creatures, and so they do not hold covenants in the same esteem that Judaeo-Christian civilization does. Catholicism is built on covenants. The very word sacrament is a Latin word that means oath to the death.
Every time we go to Communion we are swearing most solemnly to live for Christ and, if need be, to die for Christ and His Bride the Church. The mother of St. Louis of France famously said to her son on the day of his First Communion that she would rather he die than ever commit a mortal sin. When we bring our children for Baptism or Confirmation or Holy Eucharist, we are actually swearing to the same thing. It isn’t just a rite of passage followed by a swell party. In Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony we pledge to remain in a certain relationship until death do us part. It is impossible to get unbaptized, unconfirmed, unmarried or unordained. Even the sacrament of Penance demands a firm resolve never to sin again, God’s grace prevailing. Even in the Anointing of the sick we unconditionally place ourselves in God’s hands.
So it is that we Catholics regulate our lives by these seven covenants, an oath of oaths, a seven of sevens, understanding that Heaven wants to belongs to us and wants us to belong to Heaven. I am a Catholic because the Catholic Church is that original covenant Church, despite the fact that people are currently trying to redefine the most basic covenant of marriage and family. I don’t think they will prevail, because God Almighty is all about covenants, not about one night stands.