Today we celebrate St. Dominic, who went to God from this little earth in 1221, just fifty years old. It is said that he spent his nights listening to God, and spent his days sharing with others what he had heard the night before. Contemplatio et praedicatio: to contemplate God’s wonders, and then to preach God’s wonders, has been motivating the Order of Preachers (the “Dominicans”) for the last 800 years. To “contemplate,” we must focus, and that’s hard these days with a thousand distractions and countervailing ideologies constantly besieging us.
When riding my bike over the crowded Golden Gate Bridge, I usually focus on the road, not the people. Sometimes I look up in wonder at the beauty of the Bridge itself. The other day the GGB was packed with more visitors than usual. It was the second day of San Francisco’s biggest rock concert, which takes over Golden Gate Park and fills the entire the city with extra cars, bikes, and monowheeled gyroscopes. It’s tempting to despise tourists when they stop their rental bikes in the middle of the narrow bikeway to take a picture. The other day, however, rather than shaking my head in disgust, I looked into the face of the offender. He looked like quite a likable fellow. And I began looking at the faces of all the people I normally zoom past on my bike.
The Golden Gate Bridge is fascinating, but far more fascinating are the people who built it—people like you and me, people like those tourists parking their rental bikes at the very narrowest part of sidewalks. After all, one person is worth more than twenty Golden Gate Bridges. The least interesting person is vastly more fascinating than anything made by man, or for that matter, any other order of the natural world made by God.
These days, it is fashionable to despise the human race. In a fit of self-loathing, one of my neighbors scrawled these words on a 7-foot plywood board in front of his house: “Save the planet. F— the human race.” I suppose Marshall (normally a nice enough chap) had seen one too many news reports on climate change or Monkeypox or some other proof that “we” are the enemy.
People are a problem, to be sure, ever since the disaster in Eden. Every one of us is selfish and dishonest and hypocritical. I’m writing this on a jetliner where the flight attendants talk about “recycling” our soda cans to save the planet while the throbbing engines beneath us burn through 26,000 pounds of carbon fuel per hour. Not one of us, from Al Gore to Donald Trump, is willing to significantly sacrifice our wants to “save the planet,” and anyone who claims to “care for the planet” while flying about on jetliners is also a liar (well, perhaps just clueless). Every last one of us desperately needs a savior. Could we even just admit that we cannot save ourselves? But the good news is that every human being is also an image of God: a wondrous act of creation, providing endless discovery and fascination for biologists, physicists, psychiatrists, poets, philosophers, and theologians. Every human person has been given the potential to bestow godlike gifts upon the natural order. People are the problem, but people are also the solution, by the grace of God. I have to remember that, to look at people rather than just zooming past them on my very fast bicycle.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a thing of beauty, but consider how much more beautiful the creatures that made it, by the grace of God.
Full story at Father Illo’s Blog.