In Google We Trust

Posted: 12 June 2014

213 GoogleI love Google. I use that little search bar numerous times every day. If I want to know what to cook for dinner, study the history of sandpaper or find out the time in Nigeria the method is always the same…Google. And it is a rare occasion when Google lets me down. Sometimes I have only fragments of information but sure enough, more often than not, Google knows what I am after. There are even times when I know the information I need is written somewhere very close by, but instead I’ll search for the information online. There is no doubt that our ability to find information so quickly on so many popular and obscure topics is one of the primary advantages of life in the 21st century. But just as every cloud has a silver lining, so every silver lining has a cloud.

Google was given its name as a derivative of googol which is the number one followed by a hundred zeros. The mission of Google’s two founders was to organise the seemingly infinite amount of information on the web. And it would seem that they really have succeeded. With over 2 trillion searches made through Google last year it’s clear that the world is keen to get its hands on as much information as it can. And rightly so, for information is a wonderful thing. The word ‘information’ is derived from the Latin stem informare meaning a sort of “formation of the mind”. This etymological meaning helps us to see that information is not only stuff we surround ourselves with, but in a much more profound way it shapes our very thoughts and thus the way we respond to situations. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is going to Hell?

Posted: 11 August 2013

signheavenhellDeath, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. No matter who we are, where we live or what we do, we will get to experience three of these four options, with heaven or hell being the final destination. Interestingly, in any poll that is taken, belief in heaven always rates higher than belief in hell, but I wonder if most people have a slightly skewed understanding of both locations.

I was reading a small devotional book the other day and in the section on eternity it stated that those who have done their best in life will be “rewarded” with heaven, and those who have disregarded God’s laws would be “condemned” to hell. That is of course the most basic way to explain these destinations, the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell. I have no problem with belief in either place, the founder of Christianity spoke at great length about both so to disregard them is to really disregard the faith in general. However, I fear this simplistic way of describing eternity is sticking around far too long in the faiths of those who haven’t been to Sunday School for many years. It also makes belief in eternity seem even less believable to those who profess no faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Lent and the Cross

Posted: 5 April 2013


crossWe are rapidly progressing through the season of Lent and if we have been taking the season seriously, the physical and spiritual efforts we have undertaken are probably being felt. This exercising of the spirit is much like exercising the body.  Initially when we start a fitness regime, maybe running or swimming or a particular group sport it can be tough, we cannot go as far as we would like, but as we keep working at it, little by little, our ability becomes greater, the distractions and bothers fall away.  This is the Church’s hope for us, that by now we are starting to grow stronger in virtue, but we must keep the cross before our eyes to remind us of why we are suffering and of whom we suffer with. Everything done in Lent has to be done for Christ and with Christ. One might live on bread and water for forty days but if that suffering is not united with Christ’s suffering then all that has been achieved is most probably significant weight loss.

Each one of us is called during this Lent to wait on the Lord, for our sufferings are not meaningless, but the very opportunities that God allows to unite us to him. Sure, we were not created to suffer but we live in a fallen world and now the only way to overcome our fallenness and be united with the Trinity is through the cross. There is no other method; no pill, no book, no website, no self-help DVD and not even another person. By allowing himself to be hung nailed to a tree Christ wanted to show us that happiness in this life – and salvation in the next – comes through waiting on God.  The cross is the exact opposite of what happened with our first parents in the garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Secular Society Should be Grateful for Confession

Posted: 9 December 2012

So once again we see the inner workings of the Catholic Church being dissected by an audience that has little understanding of, or care for, matters of faith. Interestingly while commentators are usually quick to point out perceived trespassing by the Church into the domain of the State, there doesn’t seem to be quite the same concern about calls for the State to come wandering into the inner sanctum of the Church. With a Royal Commission having being called into the sin of child sexual abuse, the latest target is – somewhat ironically – the very sacrament that exists to forgive sin, confession.

The criticism stems around the thousand-year-old Church law which binds priests to never disclose anything that they learn from penitents during the course of the sacrament. This confidentiality between priest and penitent is the oldest kind of confidential communication that exists. It has been upheld by priests down the ages and around the world regardless of where they may sit on the theological spectrum. It doesn’t take much logic to consider why the seal of confession is essential to the integrity of the sacrament. Without anonymity people would simply not pursue sacramental forgiveness. While some might respond ‘who cares’, the truth is confession has a greater potential for effect on the citizens of a nation than a hundred Royal Commissions. Read the rest of this entry »

How Free is Our Free Will?

Posted: 12 February 2012

What are we to make of ‘free will’ in our lives, the ability to choose our own direction? The classic Catholic response is that human beings are created free because without freedom they could not choose to love God or love others. I was recently talking to a friend who was questioning how real this freedom was. Her point was that while we may say that we have free will, at the end of the day the choice is to love God or go to hell. For example if you ask a child whether they would rather eat chocolate or get stung by a bee, then they would obviously choose the least painful option but can we even call that a choice? I have certainly thought that same thing at times in my own life, but if I am honest they were always times when I did not feel that life was treating me so well and I began to resent ‘having’ to do the right thing lest I break a commandment.

We can fairly easily fall into the trap of being a bit tough on God though and legalistic on the concept of freedom. It is an unfair comparison to think that we either love God or go to hell, and I do not believe it is completely true. Those who are in hell are those who have fundamentally rejected truth, beauty and goodness in their lives. Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and was later killed by the Nazis, is quoted as saying, “all who seek truth seek God whether this is clear to them or not”. Inversely she is saying that all who reject truth reject God whether this is clear to them or not. To complain that we are ‘forced’ to choose the right path is akin to complaining that we are ‘forced’ to avoid drinking poison because if we do we will die. And in that sense it is true, we are not completely free as human persons. If I walk out in front of a moving train, I will die. If I pull off my fingernails with a pair of clippers, it will hurt (a lot). Our freedom is certainly limited but to go down the path merely thinking ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ will only lead to complete frustration and eventual insanity. Read the rest of this entry »