April 15, 2020 | Fr. Patrick Wainwright, MC
A very common concern that I encounter among young men and women, both in high school and even more in college, is that they begin to doubt the existence of God. Even if they have been brought up in a Catholic or Christian environment, attending Sunday Mass and praying frequently, there is a moment when these truths of faith become shaky, or at least they are seriously doubted.
A very profound argument to help us accept that “God is”, is the one (or ones) provided by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (Part I, q.2, art.3). It is also described in the Catechism, n.31-35.
We have to initiate our reasoning starting from the things that we evidently perceive with our senses: all the natural world around us. There is a very simple philosophical principle that we must apply here—that there is no effect without a cause. For example, if you arrive to your neighbor’s house and you hear barking, even though you have not seen it, or even if you didn’t know about it before, you will unequivocally conclude that there is a dog in there. Why? Because there cannot be “barking” if there is no dog that is barking.
In that same sense, we see the “beings” around us—trees, the earth, the sun, the stars, the galaxies. And we realize that they are beautiful, that they have an interior law, that they move, and that they “are”. However, all these things cannot actually be unless there is some cause that brought them into being, just as there couldn’t be “barking” without a dog.
That cause that gave being, beauty, order and power to all those things either is the final ultimate cause, beyond which there is no other cause, OR it has itself been moved and caused into being by another ulterior cause. In any case, that chain of cause and effect cannot continue infinitely—on the contrary, it has to reach a point where there is a final, ultimate cause. And that final (or first) cause must not need any other cause to make it move. It is this “first cause” the one that we call God. A first cause that must surely be rational, have infinite power, infinite beauty and must have been and continue to be forever. This is basically what St. Paul was saying to the Romans, that God has made himself visible to all men:
Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. (Rm 1:20)
The Book of Wisdom, in the Old Testament, already stated that
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. (Wis 1:5)
So not only should we recognize that God exists because we see the effects of His action in creation, but from a spiritual point of view, we should try to elevate our minds and hearts to God every time we see something beautiful in nature: a waterfall, the snow-capped mountains, the immensity of the ocean, a beautiful sunset, a rich landscape, etc. This is how we can know and give glory to God through His creation.
Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever. (Dan 3:57)