There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves – so much in men and women, so much in art and literature, so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful.
– Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island
Did you know that the ladybug (or ladybird) is named for Our Lady? In German, it’s Marienkäfer; in Dutch, it’s Lieveheersbeestje, “Dear Lord’s little bug”. Did you know tempura has its etymology in Quatour Tempora and was invented by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries in Nagasaki?1 Or that La Macarena is Our Lady of Hope, and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes is Our Lady of Ransom?2 And that “goodbye” means “God be with you”?3
God made Creation, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1). As Catholics, we are not Gnostics, who thought that the world of matter is bad, and we must be liberated from it into the realm of pure spirit. No – we affirm that Creation is good. Christ truly took on human flesh and He has sanctified it. Eric Johnston wrote on the Solemnity of the Assumption: “Jesus did not have to take Mary’s body into heaven. But in doing so, he proclaims that our whole selves fit into heaven. Our body is not the obstacle. Sin is not about our bodies; holiness is not about being less bodily, or less human. Jesus (the Word through whom all things were made) created us in the beginning in His image and likeness; He created us so that we, in the fullness of our humanity, can ascend to the presence of God.”4
Nor are Catholics pantheists. We know that God the Creator is transcendent; we do not confuse His omnipresence as Him being a deity wholly immanent in Creation.5 We love Creation as a gift from Him and exercise stewardship over it, just as Adam did in the Garden of Eden.
Anthony Esolen writes: “When, in Genesis 2:19, the Lord God brings the animals to Adam, the man exercises a godlike authority in granting them names, not, we are to suppose, based upon the dictates of his willful pleasure, but upon his insight into what they really are.”6 Similarly, Catholics down the ages – monks, missionaries and scientists – have taken the responsibility of naming animals, plants (Passionfruit, I’m looking at you), stars, lunar craters, diseases, places (Munich, San Francisco and the Whitsundays, anyone? We’ve got Novena in Singapore), food, beverages, you name it, we’ve got it.
I once read an article reflecting that in naming the animals, Adam formed a type of relationship with them; you don’t name things you don’t care about. Last July, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane gave a talk on mission, saying, “God wants us to cooperate with Him in His ongoing work of creation and salvation. He asked Adam to name the animals. God could have named the animals Himself, but He wants us, as the Body of Christ, to help Him in creating order out of chaos.”
So, the next time a ladybug alights on your arm, a Saint Bernard gambols up to you, or you drink some passionfruit juice while munching on a Filet-O-Fish, give thanks to God for His wondrous deeds, and take delight in the pure beauty of existence.
Our Lord had a divine sense of humor, because He revealed that the universe was sacramental… A spoken word is a kind of sacrament, because there is something material or audible about it; there is also something spiritual about it, namely, its meaning… In a world without a divine sense of humor, architecture loses decoration and people lose courtesy in their relationships with one another.
– Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “These Are the Sacraments“
And now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art mine.
– Isaiah 43:1
Image: Thanks to Catholicism.
1 Michael P. Foley, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything, pp. 31-32.
6 Anthony Esolen, “The Lovely Dragon of Choice: The Freedom Not to Be Free”, The Imaginative Conservative.