Monday, August 2, 2010

Rosary, Land Mine, Miracles and Coincidence

From today's news:
"Rosary Beads Saved My Life, British Soldier Says"
FOXNews (August 2, 2010)

"A British soldier says that rosary beads given to him by his mother saved his life after he stepped on a land mine while serving in Afghanistan.

"He also claims that his grandfather was saved the exact same way, The Daily Mail reported Monday.

"Now home from a seven-month tour of duty, 19-year-old Glenn Hockton was on patrol when his rosary beads suddenly dropped from his neck. He bent down to retrieve the chain and realized he was on top of a land mine.

"Hockton stood still for 45 minutes while his colleagues worked to secure the land mine...."

Miracle? Coincidence?

I've heard and read variations on the quip that 'coincidences are miracles God performs anonymously.' There may be something to that. Particularly since God "upholds and sustains" his creation on a constant basis. I've written about that before. (More to the point, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301)

So, in a way, every moment is a miracle.

But when we say "miracle," we generally mean something that doesn't happen every day. Like a rosary falling - by remarkable (coincidence?) - at exactly the right moment to keep a British soldier from tripping a land mine.

That has to be a coincidence, at least in some American circles.

If that rosary dropping when it did was 'just dumb luck:' all we're looking at is a statistical oddity.

On the other hand, if that rosary dropping to the ground was not an unlikely coincidence - 'serious thinkers' might have to start considering the possibility that their sanitized, carefully religion-free world has a few more dimensions than they like.

Decades ago, I ran into a quite clever and well-researched discussion of how the journey from Egypt to the promised land didn't involve a single miracle. Moses and the people he was leading simply encountered perfectly natural phenomena, like dry watercourses and stuff like that.

No miracles at all.

What about this passage?
"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left."
(Exodus 14:21, 22)
Well, 'obviously,' if miraculous events are excluded, this takes a bit of explaining. As I recall, the Israelites were supposed to have been walking across a sort of marsh during a windstorm. We're supposed to pay attention to the "dry" parts of that passage, not the "wall" parts.

Okay: but even then that must have been a strangely selective wind, to let people walk while water was pushed aside.

Never mind what kind of wind could do that. Let's say that every one of the wildly convenient events in Exodus was simple coincidence, from the plagues of Egypt to that remarkably obliging cloud.

Sometimes God Loads the Dice?

The way I see it, if you take a pair of dice and roll snake eyes, that's a sort of coincidence - an event which might happen, and in that case did. If you keep rolling the dice and keep getting snake eyes: there's something odd about those dice.

Which, in the case of God and His creation, is okay with me. His house, His rules - and what higher authority could I appeal to?

Why Miracles?

For me, the question isn't whether or not that British soldier was saved by a miracle. The question is - and I think this applies to all of us - why?

The 'why' for all people is that we're created to "share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 356) That, I don't have a problem with. What has puzzled me, off and on throughout my life is just exactly what it is I'm supposed to do with this life God gave me.

And that's another topic.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.