The Philosopher’s Reflections on the Rosary

Sr. Lucia, the longest living of the three siblings who spoke to Our Lady at Fatima.

“I Don’t Know How You’ll Help Me, But I Know You Will”

Why would a philosopher go to bat for the Rosary? I’d better ‘fess up right off. I’ve never been able to convince myself that I’m a philosopher, even though I own a Ph.D. in that discipline, and have taught the subject for 49 years, not to mention publishing books and articles in philosophy. I even enjoy moments of philosophical reflection; you know, that’s when you ask yourself questions like “What’s the meaning of life?” or “Why do ATMs at drive-thru banks have instructions written in Braille?” All in all, if I don’t pass muster as a philosopher, I believe my credentials show that, at least, I’m not a poseur. How about a wannabe? I would hope that I’m a respectable distance north of a wannabe, and just a tad south of a philosopher. I would hope.

How do I measure up when it comes to writing about prayer, let alone about the Rosary? I’m no theologian, and hardly a saint. So, my plan for this introduction is to sketch the role of prayer in my family life, and then move on to write commentaries of the Rosary’s Mysteries.

“I don’t know how you’ll help me, but I know you will.” These words concluded a prayer my mother made to Mary as she stood before the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that hung on the wall in my parents’ bedroom. My mother had no money to buy groceries, and she was praying to Mary for help.

At the time, I was in the Navy. It may have been on the same day—and maybe at the same time (“maybe,” because all this happened sixty years ago)—that she prayed to Mary while I was at Sunday Mass on the naval base in Long Beach, California. And if it wasn’t also Mother’s Day, that day was close by. I remember that, during the celebration of the Mass, I couldn’t stop thinking about what might be a suitable Mother’s Day gift. I decided to send her a money order instead of my initial choice of flowers.

I’m not sure, but I like to think that on the same day that I sent the money order for $25.00 to my mother, via Western Union, its San Francisco office informed her over the phone that a money order for her was waiting there. Although memory fails me here, I’m assuming that a business like Western Union would have been open on Sundays. At all events, whenever my mother did get the call, she went directly to their office, and got the money order. Today, $25.00 isn’t much, but back then—in terms of mid-1950s buying power—it was a lot more money than it is today.

Was my mother’s prayer to Mary the reason that I sent a money order instead of flowers? Or was it a coincidence? I can’t say for sure, but I strongly suspect that Mary had answered her prayer.

Establishing the efficacy of prayer can be a difficult task. For the atheist and the deist, the question of prayer’s efficacy is a “no-brainer”—for the atheist, there’s no God; for the deist, God exists but his infinite, absolutely perfect being renders any awareness of creaturely

existence unworthy of him—so in either case there’s no possibility of any divine response. If a prayer seems to have been followed by the result for which we were praying, that’s because our praying created a mindset that produced hormonal forces in our body, that overcame our illness, or gave us a sharper focus on what had to be accomplished, in order to get the job promotion, or to persuade a family member to enter a drug rehabilitation program, etc.

One who believed in the Christian God could counter such skeptical explanations with the claim that the “mind-set” that causes those things is only the proximate cause, and that God is its ultimate cause. God prefers to act through things and events, not on them. Yes, establishing the efficacy of prayer intellectually can be difficult, but those who pray daily are convinced of its power. However, the reason for their convictions about prayer belong more under the category of lived experience rather than intellectual argument. In Mother Teresa’s words, “You cannot learn this from books, you must experience it in your life, that whatever you ask Our Lady, she will do…” To repeat my mother’s words, “I don’t know how you will help me, but I know you will.”

The genius of the Rosary is that its Mysteries start us praying in concrete situations, some of which are, to be sure, singular, and have never happened before they did happen, and will not happen again:

  • An angel informs Mary that the Holy Spirit has impregnated her;
  • She and Joseph search for their twelve-year-old son, Jesus, for three days before finding Him while he was lecturing the elders in the temple;
  • Twenty years later, He is humiliated by a kangaroo court, scourged, covered with spittle, and executed, all in a bloody, painful fashion;
  • And, three days after, God, the Father, raises Him from the dead!

Yet, despite the singularity of these events, they remain sufficiently concrete and “everyday” in order to draw us into their human drama. That is:

  • an unexpected or undesired pregnancy;
  • a lost or wayward child,
  • false accusation of criminal behavior, torture and execution,
  • becoming more Christlike in daily life, helping our neighbor in-need despite our own problems, and so forth.

At the same time, such confrontation with concrete, human events can lead us to transcend the concrete and “everyday” to a meditation on how the meaning of Christ’s birth affirms the dignity of all human life, and how our ability to procreate human beings reveals God’s desire that we emulate His creative power, and share His parental love and care for all of us. Moreover, praying the Rosary can lead us to an even higher form of prayer—contemplation, which simply means being with God, with Christ, or Mary, as one recites the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father.

I grew up in a home where prayer—especially the Rosary—was important. In the evenings, as we sat in our living room watching television, my Father would go into my parents’ bedroom, around 8 P.M. to pray his Rosary before returning to resume watching television. My Mother would wait, and later pray her Rosary in bed. I prayed the Rosary sporadically, when I wanted some “important” favor. But, in the last of my four years in the Navy, I started praying my Rosary every night. The years have passed since that auspicious beginning and, thanks to the grace of God, I’m still praying it. My wife joins me.

Since the title of this article promises discussion about how a philosopher regards his Rosary, I want to make clear that, given what I say in the above paragraphs, it might be supposed that I’m “going to bat” for that devotion because it sharpens the philosopher’s store of philosophical concepts. That too, but my primary purpose in going to bat for the Rosary is more fundamental: Prayer is ultimately the desire to be with God. Prayer is also how we ask God to fulfill our needs and desires, as well as to ask forgiveness for our sins. What it comes down to is that prayer is our confession of ultimate helplessness. Consider, for example, Lindsay Eastridge’s account of Galileo at prayer:

In 1582, while praying in a chapel, Galileo observed a lamplighter lighting the chandeliers. The lamplighter would pull the lamps nearer to him with a rod, and after lighting them, let them swing until they hung in place. Timing the swings against his own heartbeat, Galileo discovered the law of the pendulum. No matter how wide the arc was that the lamps made, the time it took to complete a cycle—swinging from one side to the other—was the same, even as the size of the arc decreased. (

The point I wish to make here is that Galileo was praying in a sacred place. That he happened also to discover the “law of the pendulum” while praying may or may not have been accidental. Even if he were praying to discover what governs the “to and fromotion of pendulums, his prayer did not differ in form from my Mother’s prayer to Mary for grocery money—Each was asking for Divine assistance. Galileo, the scientist, was praying for God’s help! Under different circumstances, he might have found himself praying to God for grocery money. Scientists need food, too.

My angle: I use the Rosary’s Mysteries to address our day-to-day challenges. Of course, as I already noted, the Mysteries call our attention to events that happened once, and will never happen again. But these events speak to us in ways that transcend time and place. To be sure, so do the writings of the ancients, and that’s why they are called “classics.” After all, we’ve learned a lot about how to respond to today’s challenges from Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics and Cicero, plus a long list of others who wrote in the past. The difference is that the Mysteries explicitly show, in a concrete and human way, the hand of God in our daily lives, not to mention giving us the ultimate word in how to behave.

Then, there’s the Hypostatic Union. God, the Son, chose to become a human being without any dilution of His Divinity, or any dilution of His human nature: two natures, the Divine and the Human, but only one person. If, on the contrary, He were two persons, then His relation to human nature would have been purely transcendental: His agony in Gethsemane, suffering and crucifixion, would all have been a sham— hardly something in which God would engage. It would be like someone who leaves a dwelling when its lease expires for better accommodations. We can’t understand how Christ can be both God and man in only one person, but its significance for us is magnificent beyond all description. Imagine: God so loves us that He chose to become our fellow human being, our brother. And He could have come down from Heaven as an adult human being, suffered and died for us, and then gone back to heaven as quickly as He had arrived. But, no, He chose to take the long, scenic tour from zygote to fetus, to infant, to adolescent, and to adult. In short, Christ chose to live the full human life—He was “like us in all things except sin.”

Perhaps we have become so accustomed to the teaching that God became man that we take the notion of Christ’s Incarnation for granted. But when we spend time thinking about what it means, the notion blows the mind! Think of it: Christ as a crying baby, as a child constantly asking his parents, Why this? Why that? And as a teenager! Think of Christ with His Apostles, sitting around a campfire, joking, telling stories, and singing. All this is not only the behavior of a human being, but of God Himself!

1st Joyful Mystery: God’s Not a Genie in a Bottle; The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary

My impression is that stories about genies generally have the same theme: the story’s main character finds a bottle, usually buried in the desert sands, or hidden in refuse; often, the bottle is not inviting as its smudged with dirt, etc., but its attraction may, for example, be the hope that it contains water that will quench the thirst of the desert wanderer. At all events, when he removes the bottle’s lid, a genie pops out who promises to grant his liberator’s every wish. How quickly one’s life can change for the better! Remarkably, the genie, despite all his miraculous powers, is at the service of whomever happens at the time to possesses the bottle.

Our relationship with God is quite different. He is not at our service, we are at His. It’s not as if when finding ourselves in an undesirable situation, we can pull the lid from a bottle, and God pops out, ready to make things right. As Christ tells us, God is our loving Father; being at His service always benefits us. But rather than promising to grant our every wish, He often answers our prayers with a big “No!” Just check out the number of books and articles on the topic, “When God Says No.” Christ reminds us that, if we, who are imperfect, know how to give good things to our children, how much more does our Father in Heaven know how to give good things to us? God does not cause painful, emotional, physical, or financial experiences to enter our life, but He often permits their entry as an opportunity for our spiritual and temporal improvement.

All of which has a direct bearing on Mary’s response to God’s invitation to her to be the mother of Jesus: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord!” The abandonment to the Divine Will that she expresses in this response would be lost by interpreting it as an enthusiastic acceptance generated by the prestige of the Divine offer. God created Mary free from Original Sin, so, given the darkening of our understanding, and weakening of our will that was caused by that Sin, is it not plausible to infer that the purity of Mary’s desire to serve God, and her clarity of intuition of things spiritual—especially of things relating to her mission as the Mother of God (Theotokos)—surpassed that of all other human beings? Whatever the degree of enthusiasm, her acceptance of God’s will sprung from a profound love of, and commitment to, the fulfillment of His will, no matter what He asked of her. Consider what William G. Most writes of Mary’s acceptance:

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord!” The word handmaid is but a poor translation of the original Greek word, doúlē. For us, the word “handmaid” means merely a hired servant. But doúlē meant a slave girl. Here is an obedient humility to balance the proud disobedience of Eve. (Mary in Our Life, Image Books, DoubleDay, 1963)

Regarding the freedom of Mary’s “Yes” to God, St. Luke’s passage about the annunciation of the angel, Gabriel, to Mary seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit had already impregnated her, and without her consent. But the Christian tradition gives the passage a different interpretation: “Many holy fathers (Sts. Jerome, Cyril, Ephrem, Augustine) say that the consent of Mary was essential to the redemption. It was the will of God, St. Thomas says (Summa III:30), that the redemption of mankind should depend on the consent of the Virgin Mary. This does not mean that God in His plans was bound by the will of a creature, and that man would not have been redeemed, if Mary had not consented. It only means that the consent of Mary was foreseen from all eternity, and therefore was received as essential in the design of God.” (

So, when the angel, Gabriel, presented Mary with God’s invitation to be the mother of Jesus, it was known “from all eternity” that she could have refused; she could have said “No” to God; but, enthusiastically she said “Yes”—“I am the slave girl of the Lord.” Looking at the big picture, Christianity is based on personal freedom. God’s freedom is absolute, which means that nothing compelled Him to create the universe, let alone the world. As a self-subsisting, absolutely perfect being, He is absolutely self-sufficient and requires nothing other than Himself for his perfect happiness. Because He is absolutely free and self-sufficient, His creation of the world was not inspired by any unfulfilled desire but was, instead, an act of absolute freedom, and perfect love. And because love is the willing of the good for another, it follows that love, absolute and perfect, must be freely given, as well as freely accepted by the beloved: Lucifer could have said “Yes” to God, but chose, instead, to say “I will not serve.” Adam and Eve de facto said “No” to God by choosing to eat from the tree of good and evil that He explicitly told them to avoid.

The freedom of Mary’s acceptance deserves a closer look. Like the sea of Homer, freedom has many voices. For example, when I was a graduate student, and the time had come for me to find a philosophy professor who would direct my doctoral dissertation, I visited the office of the faculty member who taught political philosophy. He asked me on what topic I wished to write my dissertation. “Political Freedom,” I replied. His reply to my reply caught me completely off guard: “Mr. Dennehy, the Syntopicon of the Great Books lists 30 different meanings of “freedom.” Which meaning did you have in mind?” My reply to his reply? “I’ll get back to you on that, Professor.”

My review of the various meanings of freedom led me to a renewed appreciation for the classical philosophers’ (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) view that the acquisition of virtue—using free will in accordance with the exigencies of human nature—amplifies one’s freedom; while the acquisition of vice—using free will in ways that frustrate those exigencies—diminishes it.

For example, in Plato’s Republic, Socrates claims that doing an injustice harms the one who does the injustice more than the one on whom the injustice is visited. How so? Socrates uses the example of the tyrant who has given in to his base desires—greed, lust, anger, etc.—so often that he no longer has control over them. These vices, moreover, dictate what kind of people he can associate with—to wit, other vice-ridden people. The irony in this is that, like himself, they are untrustworthy. He is, by necessity of his own choices, forced to surround himself with people whom he cannot trust. The Communist totalitarian leader of Russia, Josef Stalin, was apparently in constant fear of assassination from food poisoning by his lieutenants. One account claims that he regularly had three different meals served in three different ways from three different entrances at the same time, leaving any poisoners unsure of what meal to poison at any given dinner. Presumably, this ploy left the would-be assassin in fear of poisoning the wrong person.

The tyrant may have supposed that by doing whatever he wishes, rather than limiting his behavior to virtuous action, he has enlarged his freedom. On the contrary, he has, in fact, enslaved himself, blinded, as he now is, by immoral choices of action. Like virtue, vice is a fixed state of character forged by acts that, unlike virtuous acts, increasingly incline one to actions that are dehumanizing. One who is in the grip of the vice of lust, say, no longer sees human beings as persons of dignity, etc., but rather as objects of sexual gratification. Similarly, one in the grip of greed sees other people primarily as sources of fiscal enrichment.

All of which is why the classical moralists—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—saw that the primary, and most serious effect, of immoral behavior is the loss of rational control. And Medieval thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, taught that immoral acts were irrational, presupposing a theological matrix in which all actions either led to an ultimate end, God, or not. Because they saw that God was every creature’s ultimate good. Actions that caused one’s trajectory to veer from the goal of eternity with Him, were understandably seen as irrational.

Some people, like Candace Vogler, fail to understand why even immoral actions, performed without any theological considerations, cannot ultimately be rational. (Reasonably Vicious, Harvard UP)

And why not? A little parsing is called for here. To begin with, “rational” is an analogous term. If one means by it “logical and consistent planning that is based on evidence,” then surely immoral action can be rational. A lifetime of immoral behavior that has, more often than not, fulfilled one’s goals can, with respect to the actions themselves, be rational, but they remain irrational in the sense that they frustrate the more fundamental striving for humanization. Consider Immanuel Kant’s depiction of the heteronomous man who, from all outward appearances, is free insofar as he “chooses” what he wishes, but is, in fact, not free because his vices—greed, pride, lust— enslave him to those desires, so that he cannot “choose” other than what he does.

And the virtue ethics of Aristotle and Aquinas work the same way as Socratic and Kantian ethics: immoral acts are irrational because they lead to vice, a fixed state of enslavement. One does not have to be aware of one’s moral enslavement to be morally enslaved, a point famously dramatized by Aldous Huxley in his dystopic novel—Brave New World: “Everyone here likes what he gets, and no one likes what he can’t get.”

Frederico Fellini’s film, La Dolce Vita, an Italian comedy-drama produced in 1960, offers what I take to be a good example of this moral blindness and enslavement. Marcello, the film’s main character, is a reporter for a gossip column newspaper. His work understandably brings him into a world of morally confused and decadent people. Toward the film’s end, he is driving to a party at a countryside villa. On the way, he stops at a café for a bite to eat, and it quickly becomes clear that he and the waitress, Paola, are attracted to each other. They share warm words and inviting glances before Marcello drives to the party which is predictably populated by fitting candidates for a gossip column. The party attendees stay awake throughout the night, playing games, talking, and cavorting. As they emerge from the mansion into the morning sunlight, Fellini calls our attention to several fishermen trying to figure out how to extricate a large fish from a net. (A metaphor for the party-goers’ entrapment by vices of their own making?)

Inexplicably, Paola shows up on the beach next to the villa, and calls to Marcello. He sees her, and hears her voice, but the wind blowing across the beach prevents him from making out what she is telling him. He turns from her and walks away. Why didn’t he make an effort to walk towards her to hear what she was saying to him? Why did he just walk away instead? On the previous day, he was drawn to her, appreciative of her authenticity. But not now. Could it be that this was Fellini’s way of showing that Marcello had attended one gathering of decadent people too many, and had finally crossed the line, becoming decadent, himself, and thus now deaf to Paola’s authenticity?

Whatever message Fellini intended by his film, if he intended any at all, I believe that, de facto, it contains a moral tale: the freedom to choose is the freedom either to see with greater clarity what things are, and what is important about other people, or the freedom to become increasingly blind to what is, and is not, real. That’s how one loses freedom. By making immoral choices, one’s will increasingly rivets itself to dehumanizing objects of desire, thereby shrinking one’s range of choices.

Here, it would be well to point out that immoral choices can have powerful social consequences. Because not all immoral acts should be, or can be, made illegal, they persistently surround us with seductive examples, and harmful effects. In past centuries, Vatican City, Rome, had no laws against prostitution, despite the presence of prostitutes, and despite the Catholic Church’s teaching that prostitution is sinful (John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths; Sheed & Ward, 1960). But how do we decide which immoral acts are to be branded as “illegal,” and which should be legally allowed? The nineteenth century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, argued that society may prevent one from acting only when one’s action interferes with the legitimate interests of others (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty). This is a question that will not go away. Historian Richard Hofstadter writes that the founding fathers of our democracy understood that only a moral people could constructively possess the rights and liberties showered on them by a democracy. (Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life). By what right do a people kill the innocent unborn? By what right do they condone same-sex marriage?

When Mary accepted God’s invitation to be the mother of Jesus, she implicitly accepted the duties and burdens of parenthood. Did she lose freedom? Yes, she gave up the freedom that comes with not having children to raise and protect the child, Jesus. Did she also gain new freedoms? Yes, again. By accepting the invitation to be the mother of Jesus, she exercised her freedom to carry, give birth to, and raise a child. To be sure, to be childless has fewer duties than raising children, but fulfilling one’s duties can bring with it a freedom of its own. To appreciate this, it is necessary to grasp the distinction between negative and positive freedom.

Negative freedom is best defined as “the absence of external restraint.” Its most prominent advocate is, perhaps, John Stuart Mill. Positive freedom is more complicated, but a generalized version is “the freedom to do what is worth doing.” For the classical philosophers, such as Aristotle, it was the freedom to choose to act in ways that actualized one’s potencies to become more fully human; for Medievals, such as Thomas Aquinas, the desire to come closer to God energized that freedom, thereby conferring a clarity of intellectual and spiritual vision on us, allowing us to understand more perfectly what is real and true and, therefore, worth pursuing and possessing.

In terms of positive liberty, Mary’s acceptance of God’s invitation to be the mother of Jesus did, indeed, increase her duties, but, at the same time, it amplified her freedom by choosing to do God’s will. To reiterate, our abandonment to the will of God frees us from the more mundane attachments, and certainly leads us away from immoral temptations. As Father De Caussade writes in his classic work, Abandonment to Divine Providence, even when bad things happen to us, we must realize that God allowed them to occur, knowing, in his omniscience, that it will be for our betterment.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis offers a description of how people “go to Hell” mirroring the classical view of how immoral choices lead to moral blindness, and a corresponding loss of free will. According to his account, when one dies and stands before Christ, one beholds Christ’s greatness, beauty, and love, and is offered the choice of spending eternity with Him. Who could turn away from an offer like that?

Who? Anyone who has chosen a life of sin. Anyone who has lived an unrepentantly sinful life, although now beholding Christ in all His glory, finds it impossible to choose Jesus over himself. In the words of St. Paul, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The sinner’s Hell is eternal imprisonment within himself, the one he has repeatedly chosen over Christ. What is “Hellish” about his imprisonment is that, having rejected the absolutely perfect and loving Christ, he finds himself alone with his own finite, sinful self for eternity. Christ did not send him to Hell; he created his own Hell.

Mary’s “yes” to God imposed more responsibilities on her, thereby eliminating freedoms she would otherwise have had while, at the same time, leading her into a world of higher, more fulfilling freedoms: carrying the God-man in her womb for nine months, giving birth to Him (presenting Him to the world), nurturing and teaching Him in preparation for His public life, the culmination of which was to suffer and die for our salvation. What greater example could there be of a human being freely extending (opening) her uniqueness of self to the universality and magnificence of Him who would save the world? God has a plan for each of us. If we seek to discover and follow it, we, too, shall enter a world of higher, more fulfilling freedoms. But if we choose to walk along that road, we must be willing to say, with conviction, “Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.”

The First Glorious Mystery: Christ’s Resurrection

We’re born, we live, we die. We don’t ask to be born and, usually, we don’t ask to die; it’s the in-between, called living, when we start writing our “wish list.” Most people don’t want to die, but the number of those who do is increasing. It’s called “physician-assisted suicide,” a term that is often cloaked by euphemisms like “compassionate care.” I’ve debated supporters of legalized suicide on television and college campuses. As our society becomes more secular, living loses its luster. We see that life is “a vale of tears” and otherwise humdrum. We start relying on alcohol and drugs to get us through the days and nights. The film actor, George Sanders, one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s many ex-husbands, was found dead in his hotel room in Spain, leaving a suicide note containing the sentence, “You see, life has become so very boring.” That sentence is reminiscent of the song, “Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is.”

Sanders’ answer was “Yes, that’s all there is,” but perhaps the party and dance and booze couldn’t allay the boredom anymore.

My own experience with death has been, on the one hand, detached, and on the other hand, a bit too close for comfort. The detached experiences came from my Irish heritage. My father was from Ireland, and so were both my mother’s parents. Growing up going to funerals and wakes, looking down at dead human beings, was a common experience, as was listening to adults tell tales of having seen ghosts, and reporting visitations from departed relatives. I recall my mother expressing skepticism about this Irish lore, and my father replying: “Wasn’t I after hearing the wail of the Banshee when my father died?”

The “too close for comfort” experiences occurred twice. The first happened when I was in the U.S. Navy, a Radarman, Petty Officer 2nd Class, stationed aboard a heavy cruiser sailing in the South China Sea. Our ship was running from a typhoon, and we finally entered the harbor in Keelung, Taiwan in order to wait for the storm to pass. When our radar picked up the typhoon heading into our harbor, we knew we had to get out of there, and fast!

On that early morning, I was the petty officer in charge of the midnight to 4 AM radar watch. As we headed out of the harbor, our surface search radar blew a fuse. That radar was crucial to getting the ship safely out of the harbor, since the darkness of night, combined with the storm’s high winds and rain, reduced visibility to a dangerous level. Because the console with the blown fuse was in the ship’s superstructure, I had to go up a few decks to replace the fuse. (The Combat Information Center—our radar room—was four decks below the main deck.) Having replaced the fuse, and calling down to the radar room to make sure the surface search radar was working again, I found that I couldn’t exit the compartment. Some dutiful sailor from the deck force had apparently “dogged” the hatch while I was changing the fuse, and I would need the equivalent of a pipe wrench to open it. I managed to find a hatch that wasn’t dogged, only it took me outside into the powerful wind, heavy rain, and darkness. I won’t hide the fact that I was scared as I descended on the wet, slippery, metal ladder to the main deck. There, I had to walk gingerly on the rain-soaked, windswept, teakwood deck; I was praying with every cautious step, asking God to protect me from sliding overboard. Who survives going overboard in a typhoon, especially in the darkness of night? Finally, I came to a dogged hatch that I could open without using a wrench. And in a few minutes, I was back with my shipmates among the radar screens—damp but alive. Looking back on that experience, I’m sure my memory images exaggerate the size of the ground swells of the harbor’s dark waters, for they look 40 feet high, even now, over half a century later.

My second “too close for comfort” experience with death was really too close: I came within five minutes of choking to death. I awakened one Friday morning, a few years ago, with a strange feeling, and strange-sounding sore throat. After examining my throat, the physician diagnosed it as a garden variety throat infection, and was going to send me home with a supply of TYLENOL. Fortunately for me, my wife had the day off work, and accompanied me to the physician’s office. She expressed concern to the physician by explaining that I never got sore throats, and besides, my voice never sounded so “weird.” So the physician made an immediate appointment for me to visit the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department. That physician’s examination led to a different diagnosis: “Epiglottitis.” She instructed us to get me to the Emergency Room immediately, and that I should be prepared to spend several days in Intensive Care.

An Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon was waiting for me in the ER, and by then, I was struggling for breath. My wife recalls the hospital staff rushing me down the hallway in a gurney to Surgery, shouting “Emergency!” “Move out of the way!” After a failed attempt to intubate me so I could breathe, the surgeon succeeded at doing a tracheotomy. It was a couple days later that I learned I was then about five minutes away from choking to death.

What struck me about this second encounter with death was that, although I’m a Christian, I can’t recall myself, anytime during the ordeal, praying or thinking about God; all that was on my mind was running away. “Running away” from what? My choking? Good luck with that!

I’ve just described two examples where death was staring me in the face. But more often than not, it creeps up on us from behind. The philosopher, George Santayana, describes it this way: the animal is about to close its jaws on its prey when an avalanche buries it with its jaws still wide open (George Santayana, Skepticism and Animal Faith ; Dover Books, 1923). “You know neither the day nor the hour.”

But, no matter how it happens, each of us must die. When we’re young, we don’t think much about the inevitability of our death; we feel “bulletproof.” That illusion evaporates as the years unfold. Some of us accept the inevitability of our death with grace; some of us do not. In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, one of the characters attributes their dying uncle’s tenacious refusal to die, not to a will to live, but to a fear of dying.

It’s one thing if death means eternal life, and quite another if it means eternal oblivion. Imagine a young couple, recently graduated from the university, and recently married. They enjoy each other’s company immensely, move in “fun” social circles, and have leased a condominium on San Francisco’s Embarcadero that has a spectacular view of the bay. What’s more, they have entered “exciting” professions—he’s training to be a stockbroker, and she’s starting her own catering service. And a little more frosting on the cake is always welcome: they’ve managed to afford a snappy looking sports car (albeit “preowned”). Life is good, in fact, “great,” until…

Until what? Until his wife is permanently paralyzed from the neck down when an out-of-control “eighteen wheeler” truck veered into their sports car while they were driving home after a day at the beach. He escaped with slight injuries. But their fate was sealed: no more making love, no children, no socializing or going on the town, or having her own business… And he would have to take care of her. When he came home from the office, he would sit with her, and they would talk—when she felt up to it.

His view of life was mainly secular. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God, or immortality; he “supposed” that God and personal immortality were “probably” true; it was just that he didn’t think about them very much.

Despite his borderline agnosticism, it is possible that he might continue to love his wife, and maintain his commitment to stay and take care of her. But it is also possible—and perhaps arguably more plausible—that in time, he would leave her, divorce her, to regain the life that the highway accident stole from him, the life with a loving partner with whom he might have children, and would join him in moving in the social circles he loved.

The latter possibility comes with a primal rationale: What would he gain by remaining with his now paralyzed wife? His hazy view of God, and the afterlife, does little to stiffen any resolve he may have to stay by her side. In fact, practically speaking, his daily life may hardly differ from that of a professed atheist; he’s what the philosopher, Jacques Maritain, called a “practical atheist.” If his daily life and choices are pretty much the same as one who believes this life on earth is the only life he can count on, and that death will bring him no rewards or consolations for fidelity to his convalescent wife, wouldn’t it then make sense for him to echo these lyrics.

Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is, my friends,
Then let’s keep dancing,
Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball,
If that’s all there is

His response to the drastic change in his marital situation might well have been different had he believed in the reality of an afterlife. Then, he would have been able to see that enduring the hardships and pains of his life on earth would not go unrewarded, given that Christ offers everyone eternal happiness after death. Until His death and resurrection, the world “lay in sin and error pining.” Satan had a firm grip on things. Christ’s Resurrection did not end the consequences of Original Sin: sickness, pain, death, natural disasters, and immoral behavior. What His Resurrection accomplished was to terminate Satan’s control over nature, giving us the power to make a salvific difference in the world and, after death, to look forward to a life of eternal happiness: “What no eye has seen, and no ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians, 2) Before His ascension into Heaven, Christ instructed His Apostles to “go forth and teach all nations” in His name, and not to fear what others might do to them, for He would “be with them all days, even to the ends of the earth.” This was a proclamation that, thanks to His death and Resurrection, we will now have a power over nature previously unattainable, including the conquest of death.

But what should be seen as an alarming reality is that the influence of secularism continues to advance, while the influence of religion grows weaker, and concepts that are crucial to the rational basis of human dignity, happiness, progress, and democratic freedom, wither on the vine. What are these “crucial” concepts? Several examples: the existence of an all-powerful, all- knowing, all-good, and all-loving God; that all human beings are created in His image and likeness; that after death, each of us has a destiny with Him, and the opportunity to live in eternal happiness.

Absent those concepts, what’s left is the concept of a life that inevitably ends in a death that means eternal oblivion. Therein lies the greatest insult and demoralization of all: How did it happen that rational beings should exist at all, men and women who aspire to ever better things, who seek truth, justice, beauty, and love only to die, just as dumb animals die? One Harvard evolutionist claimed that thoughts of death don’t occur to animals, and that it is only when the brain sufficiently enlarges, as ours did, that such thoughts present themselves. And despite its message of complete and final termination, death is apparently just another item in our mind’s panoply of concepts. A common claim of materialists, e.g., Marxists, and other Humanists, is that the fact that our death means eternal oblivion doesn’t lessen the benefits that each generation of human beings can achieve for the generation that follows. So, we are to believe that the existing generation of human experience is a compensatory fulfillment from an altruistic sense of benefitting future human beings. To counterbalance the knowledge of forthcoming inevitable, eternal oblivion, they must gin up their altruism to match that of Sidney Carton, Charles Dickens’ character in his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, so they can say with some conviction, “It’s a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it’s a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Carton had hoodwinked the French guards into taking him to the guillotine rather than Charles Darnay, his rival for the hand of Alexandre Manette.

But neither celebrations of altruism nor “Live until you die” resolutions can palliate, let alone sweeten, the colossal insult and demoralization of offering rational beings—beings who are each unique centers of self-conscious, autonomous life—an ultimate future of eternal oblivion. In his book, St. Thomas and the Problem of the Soul in the Thirteenth Century (PIM, Toronto, 1934) Anton Pegis writes that the early Christians professed ignorance about our state between death and the General Resurrection, other than supposing that it was a time of sleep. This beats the breeches off eternal oblivion. To be a self, one who can say with conviction I am I, makes thoughts of immortality hard to shake off.

It’s worth noting that the eternal life that Christ offers us is not immortality but the resurrection of the body. What’s the difference? Simply put (but not unimportantly), it is the goodness of the body, and the rest of the material world, as opposed to the Gnostic belief that the material world, including our bodies, is the cause of all chaos and evil. The book of Genesis tells us that, having created the material world, God saw that it was “good.” And in the New Testament, Christ preaches the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of our spiritual souls. This differs profoundly from Socrates’ Orphic (Gnostic) beliefs expressed in Plato’s Phaedo, where he defines “philosophy” as the “art of dying” and takes death to be the liberation of the soul from the body. The positive connotation of the phrases, “art of dying” and “liberation of the soul” bespeaks the undesirability of living in a body, and being surrounded by a material world.

The following examples show how the Gnostic influence is gaining ground in today’s culture.

  1. Gender feminists claim that, although sexual differences between men and women are real, gender is a social construct, like the rules of grammar. For example, “table” in Spanish, la mesa, is feminine, but in German, its masculine, der Tisch; hence, while the transgender movement cannot plausibly deny the reality of sexual difference between men and women, since that is established from the moment of conception when sperm and ovum interact, each with the other, to produce an x or y genotype, they feel free to deny the ontological/biological and pre-social reality of maleness and femaleness.
  2. The same-sex marriage lobby.
  3. Abortion clinics selling fetal body parts for experimentation.

The Gnostic influence in these movements manifests itself in their implied assumption that the human body is a mere encasement or prison, impeding our effort to realize our true selves: asexual pure spirits, or pure intellects, living in bodies that have little or nothing to do with what and who we are.

In his Wednesday lectures at the Vatican on the theology of the of the body, the late Pope St. John Paul II, argued that the body is just as much the person as is the soul. I think I can relate this to an experience I had as a teenager. On the city bus I rode every weekday to school, a very attractive woman in her early twenties, I would guess, would also ride, as did a male student attending the University of San Francisco, who would transfer to the bus that went to the university. On one particular trip, he got up and was standing waiting for the bus to come to his stop. He was standing by the seat where the young woman was sitting while holding the handle that was on top of the seat in front of her. I could see her looking at his hand and smiling. She clearly enjoyed what she saw.

What has this to do with St. John Paul’s theology of the body? The pleasure the young woman got from looking at the young man’s hand did not mean that she wanted to have large, masculine hands like his, but it did mean that she was drawn to them. Similarly, the pleasure a man gets from looking at a woman’s hands does not mean that he wishes to have small, delicate hands like hers, but he is drawn to them. The feminine person that she is involves a body, as well as a soul, and the masculine person that he is involves a body, as well as a soul; more precisely, the body and the soul comprise not two substances, but one. He and she are not souls or intellects that use bodies, as Plato taught; each is an integral composite of body and soul. As Thomas Aquinas argued, to separate body and soul causes bodily decay, and spiritual/intellectual immobility.

What about the gender feminists, and the same-sex lobby, not to mention the transgender supporters? The clergy, academics, intellectuals, and politicians must be ready to give witness. But not to worry. Christ is risen!

The Second Glorious Mystery—Christ’s Ascension Into Heaven

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark”

The above imperative comes from the first line of a song in the Broadway musical, Carousel (later, a film), and is a secularized version of Psalm 23:4; “Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage.” The big difference, of course, is that the Psalm version gives a reason for not fearing “the Dark”– God’s providential love for us. Christ reiterates that Divine assurance in His post-Resurrection commission of His Apostles:

Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth; go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name ‘of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world! (Matthew, 28, 19-20).

Carrying out Christ’s command of missionary dedication would be dangerous, but He assured His apostles that, whatever the dangers, He would be with them—always. By His death and Resurrection, Christ conquered the world, ending Satan’s control over nature, and making all things new. His conquest didn’t erase the effects of Original Sin, but promised that they would not triumph. So how was nature made new?

Thanks to Christ’s triumph over fallen nature, we have a new power over that nature: democratic government, natural rights, and scientific advances are three examples of how Christianity conferred on us a clearer vision of man, nature, and the universe. To wit: Because God is the only absolute authority in the universe, western civilization arrived at the truth that no human being has absolute authority over any rational adult human; and generational meditation on Christ’s exhortation to love our neighbor as ourselves (even if he is our enemy) eventually led to the doctrine of natural rights. By His death and Resurrection, Christ conquered the world, won it back from Satan, and made all things new. By ending Satan’s grip on the world, we now have the power to make a difference on this earth, which, in addition to bringing Christ’s saving power to humankind, enables us to transform it, and its institutions, into a better place. While spreading Christ’s words to people in other parts of the world—the primary purpose of which is to show the way to salvation—scientific method and democracy were discovered. Thereby hangs a tale—a tale of two misconceptions, one an anemic construal of humility that leads to tempting God, the other an overblown self-esteem that promotes the illusion that we may take over from God.

Tempting God

The story is told of a man crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner. It seems that, having leaned too far over the guard rail to snap a better picture of the ocean sunset, he fell overboard. While treading water to keep afloat, he prayed, “God, I do not fear drowning, for I place my trust in you.” Several of the ship’s crew threw him lifesavers with ropes attached to pull him back to the ship. He shouted to them, “Lifesavers aren’t necessary; I put my trust in God”; next, a lifeboat came to him, which he also rejected, saying, “I don’t need a lifeboat; I put my trust in God”; then a helicopter hovered over him, dropping a rope ladder for him to climb; again, he rejected help, saying he didn’t need a helicopter because he put his trust in God; finally, he drowned. Once in heaven, the man said to St. Peter, “I don’t understand why I drowned, I put my trust in God.” St. Peter replied: Yes, we know, and God sent you three lifesavers, a lifeboat, and a helicopter.”

The moral of the story is that while prayer is always necessary, we must also use available and reasonable human means. It is important to bear in mind that Christ’s redemption of the world is Incarnational—He used human means. He chose to become human: the Holy Spirit fertilized Mary’s ovum, meaning that Christ began His human life as a zygote, went through the embryonic stage, then the fetal, infant, and adolescent stages, finally growing into a human adult. Along the way, “He grew in wisdom and knowledge,” and learned the art of working with wood from His carpenter father, Joseph. God does work miracles, but, since his Ascension into Heaven and the death of His Apostles, they are few and far between. The Catholic Church is very slow to label an event “miraculous.” Why? Because any event that qualifies as a “miracle” requires a suspension of the laws of nature. That is why, at the sacred shrine in Lourdes, where ailing people go, many of whom have illnesses that the medical profession judges to be hopeless, a team of physicians examine the patient before he or she enters the grotto’s waters, and if a cure is claimed, they examine the patient again for verification. As a matter of policy, every member on the physician’s team must be a certified atheist. I am told that miraculous cures are rare, but even then, the Church approves of labeling as miraculous only a fraction of the cures cited by the physicians. I remember giving a public lecture on physician-assisted suicide when, during the question and answer period, a member of the audience said that “the first thing a person with a life-threatening illness should do is go to Lourdes.” I replied that the first thing that patient should do is both pray and seek medical help. The Russians have an appropriate saying: “Pray, but keep rowing the boat.” Failing to take appropriate action when it is available comes under the heading of what St. Augustine called “tempting God.” Other examples would be praying for better grades in school, but failing to follow a reasonable study regime, or excessive drinking before driving home, but praying that God will protect one from having an accident, or getting stopped by the police, etc.

A Hostile Takeover

We’ve all grown up with warnings that too much of anything is harmful. Greek mythology tells us that Icarus fell to his death after flying too close to the Sun. He flew that high because he could, not because he should. What about too much freedom? Is that like flying too close to the Sun? There is a parallel: Too much freedom in a democracy can lead to anarchy, and even totalitarianism. Above, I said that Christianity discovered democracy. Granted, towards the end of the 5th Century B.C., democracy was established in Athens, but around 460 B.C., under the rule of Pericles, it started morphing into an aristocracy, leading to the evaporation of democratic ideals, as belief in the superiority of a one-man rule gained support.

The democracy that we in Western culture know has its source in the Christian doctrine that God is the only absolute authority, which means that no human being has the right to dominate absolutely the life of any other adult human being. Sailing to America from Great Britain in search of religious freedom in the 17th century, the religious dissenters formed a government that flowered into democracy. Note that the result of an atheistic culture—e.g. the former Soviet Union, today’s Cuba and China—is totalitarianism. This is a predictable result. Diminution of belief in a Supreme Being inevitably leads to a weakening in the rationale for human rights, leading government to suppose that it has license to enter ever more deeply into the lives of its people. (See the collection of essays in Does Human Rights Need God?, Elizabeth Bucar & Barbra Barnett, eds., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005) Christianity also provided the rationale for the universal doctrine of human rights. Meditation on Christ’s exhortation to love our neighbor—even our enemy—as we love ourselves led to the conclusion that we have a duty to respect the intrinsic dignity of all human beings.

What about technology? As per God’s command, Noah built an ark in anticipation of the coming flood. (Genesis 5:32-10:1) I have noted more than once that Christ’s death and resurrection, although atoning for Original Sin did not erase its consequences—death, illness, immoral behavior, etc.—but it did vastly enlarge our power over nature, which is to say, our ability to discover, albeit imperfectly, the natures of things, and to control them for our benefit. Consider the improvement of human life resulting from the advent of modern scientific method, empirical medicine, technology, and the emergence of democratic government.

The rise of technology provides a good example of how too much freedom leads to oppression. The “freedom of scientific experimentation” is a case in point. The infamous Tuskegee syphilis study extended from 1932 to 1972. Three hundred and ninety-nine African-American males were denied treatment for syphilis (e.g., some were not informed that they had tested positive for syphilis). The aim of the study was to examine, by autopsy, the effect of untreated syphilis on the human body. (See T. G. Benedek, “The ‘Tuskegee Study’ of Syphilis: Analysis of Moral versus Methodological Aspects, Journal of Chronic Diseases” 31 (1978) 35-50).

A utilitarian ethic (The greatest good for the greatest number of people) was at work here in addition to the so-called “scientific imperative,” i.e., if an experiment that promises important results can be done, then it ought to be done. Those engaged in the Study no doubt justified it by the belief that it could lead to better tests for syphilis, and more effective treatment for that disease, but by implication, they also harbored a willingness to cause innocent human beings to suffer and die in the name of scientific and medical progress. No matter how altruistic or humane the study’s goal, that could not erase the fact that it required the direct killing of innocent human beings, an evil fatal to democratic society.

Christianity does not hesitate to remind us that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” Unfortunately, as our culture becomes increasingly materialistic, thereby blurring the difference between material nature and human nature, the conception of man as a subject for science beckons. The current case in point is the biological revolution. Its magnitude signals a decisive breakthrough in our mastery over many of the limitations of our nature, and its message is that we can create more perfect human beings. While other revolutions, such as the Industrial Revolution, were confined in their influence on our environment, advances in the biological sciences bring with them the promise of manipulating human nature, even to the point of manufacturing designer humans. In the 1960s, when society gave its approval to contraception, and thus separated sex from conception, scientists quickly took the next step by separating conception from sex. What is the significance of that?

Its significance is that the production of human life by in vitro fertilization is close to becoming as commonplace as is the storage of frozen human embryos. Although some of the other projects that are frequently discussed (such as recombining DNA, along with other forms of genetic engineering and cloning) still remain far from application to human beings, their very prospect confronts us with the question highlighted in the title of Jonathan Glover’s book, What Sort of People Should There Be? (1984). The cloning of the sheep “Dolly” conferred increasing plausibility on the possibility of someday cloning humans. However fantastic, projects like the creation of computers with human brains (cyborgs), and computers with biological parts capable of replacing themselves, have proven to be “thought experiments” sufficiently fascinating to technocrats and their supporters to challenge traditional conceptions of human nature.

The urgent warnings raised by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, and Bertrand Russell in “The Science to Save Us from Science,” and Paul Ramsey in Fabricated Man, coalesce into a clarion call: just as in Greek mythology, the sweet voices of the Sirens led sailors to their doom, so the belief in the salvific benefits of laboratory reproduction comes with an ominous price tag: only the finest and most useful will be judged worthy of the petri dish. This consideration returns our attention to the question asked by the title of Jonathan Glover’s book, What Sort of People Should There Be? How do we determine what sort of people we wish to create in our laboratories? What properties must they display to qualify as the “finest” and “most useful”?

I’d like you to take a moment to conduct a thought experiment. Since the birth of Dolly, the sheep, in 1996, there has been much talk and debate about cloning, not only in scientific and other learned circles, but also by ordinary people over the kitchen table. The laboratory cloning of Dolly was a remarkable achievement, but the process has been going on in nature for thousands of years, as is shown by the birth of twins. Twins are clones. Now here’s the thought experiment.

Both the natural and laboratory means of cloning show that it is possible to produce two or more beings that are genetically the same; in other words, it is possible to produce two physically identical beings. But what it is logically impossible to do and thus will never be done is to produce two human beings for whom the personal pronoun, “I”, has the same referent. Every human being is unique. Check this out by asking yourself what you mean when you use the word “I” in reference to yourself. Can you even begin to answer that question? You can enumerate your likes and dislikes, beliefs, goals, memories, etc., but inevitably you must refer them to yourself. But who or what is “yourself”? Intuitively, you know that you’re unique, that there has never been, and never will be, another I that has as a referent that is the same referent as your I.

Imagine a pair of identical twins having the same goals, likes, dislikes, and the same first and middle names, as well as the same last name. And to top things off, they insist to each other, “I am you.” But no matter how dedicated each may be to proving that their respective I-s have one and the same referent, they would need a direct experience of each other’s referent I, i.e., one’s sense of self. Of all the people who have existed on this earth, and the billions who now exist here, and the billions more who have yet to be here, no two of them have ever had, do not now have, or will have the same referent, I. One might suppose that, at one point, the molds for producing unique referent I-s would be exhausted and duplicate referent I-s, selves, would start appearing. But, as noted above, it is logically impossible to have two referent I-s that are identical. On the other hand, unique selves are infinitely possible.

The problem with the laboratory production of the “finest” and “most useful” human beings is that our models are inevitably types, and because we are social beings, the types we admire are almost always socially conditioned. For example, a while back, a married couple placed an advertisement in Stanford University’s campus newspaper offering a large sum of money for the ovum of an athletic, Caucasian female under thirty years of age. I mention this because the lapsing of laboratory reproduction of humans into stereotypical models of the “finest” and “most useful,” and even the most profitable, is all but inevitable.

We breed animals according to type—Labrador Retrievers, for example, are prized for their ready compliance with the wishes of their human owners—as we have no reason for supposing that they are selves, acting autonomously from unique centers of conscious being. But the generation of human life tells an importantly different story. As with the production of brute animals, the production of humans involves uniting the contributed male and female chromosomes into a unique genetic combination. The possible number of these combinations is practically inexhaustible. We cannot therefore predict with any kind of certainty, aside from the confidence that they will be members of the human species, what our offspring will be like. Their intelligence, temperament, talents, and moral integrity, etc., remain a mystery until they are born, and more precisely until they attain maturity. This consideration is important with regard to the generation of human offspring. Because the source of human dignity and primary importance to society is his or her personhood, ontological uniqueness as a self, the attempt to valorize a human being according to a type necessarily excludes, to a considerable extent, the possible number of genetic combinations and thus, limits the range of persons that can be conceived. And that, in turn, must progressively diminish the possibility of the unique contributions of a Socrates, St. Teresa of Avila, Beethoven, Einstein, or Mother Teresa. The quest for the “finest” and “most useful” leads to the junkpile of mediocrity. (See Raymond Dennehy, “The Biological Revolution and the Myth of Prometheus” in Pope John Paul II Lecture Series in Bioethics, Vol.II, “Bioethical Issues” 1986, pp. 7-34)

Before ascending into heaven, Christ told the apostles: “I go now, but I send another in my place.” (John 16:7) That other would be the Holy Spirit, who enlightens our intellects, and strengthens our wills. Without the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we appear to be inevitably self-destructive: the more spectacular our achievements, the less do we feel the need for God. It’s the Tower of Babel all over again. Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas. The story is told of a man at the horse races who is desperate to bet on a winning horse to pay off a large debt. He puts all his money on the horse he decides has the best chance of winning. When the race starts, he begins to pray constantly to God for the horse to win. His horse pulls farther and farther in front of the other horses, and when it is clear that his horse is going to cross the finish line well ahead of the others, he looks up at the sky and says, “That’s okay, God, I’ll take over from here.”

It’s when we forget—or, more likely choose not to bear in mind—our constant need for God’s guidance, that we engage in projects like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, forgetting who put us here, who watches over us, and who cleaned up that colossal mess called “Original Sin” by Jesus choosing to suffer and die for us. That’s when we start to rebuild the Tower of Babel, again and again and again! Rather than thanking and praising God for our achievements, we decide to replace Him. On Wall Street, I believe that’s called a “hostile takeover.”

“That’s okay, God, we’ll take over from here.”

Raymond Dennehy About Raymond Dennehy

Raymond Dennehy is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy. at the University of San Francisco. He has written Reason and Dignity, Anti-Abortionist at Large, Soldier Boy: the War Between Michael and Lucifer, and Jacques Maritain's Philosophy of Action.