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19 May 2022

Tipperary Star Column: Fr Vincent Stapleton pens a letter to 'Doubting' St Thomas

In the pursuit of God, science is quite blind and out of its depth. And yet, in our scientific perception, such things are often discarded because they don’t meet with scientific standards of importance.

Tipperary Star Column: Fr Vincent Stapleton pens a letter to  'Doubting'  St Thomas

MOST ILLUSTRIOUS ST THOMAS
Greetings from the twenty-first century! Dear Thomas, you would have loved it here. We live in the scientific age. Your mantra is the mantra of today – unless I can touch it, unless I can put my finger on it and measure it – unless I can prove it … unless I can take it in my hand and it is useful to me, I refuse to believe anything else.


You said – “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in the hands of Jesus and unless I can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”


This is the scientific attitude, to which we owe so much. I am sitting here at my computer typing a letter to you, something your age could never possibly imagine … a marvel of modern science. During our recent pandemic, as a Priest, I would have been completely unemployed without the marvel of webcam and live-streaming. And all this has come from the power of science to measure, direct and multiply the power of nature.


Sadly friend, it is not all good news. It was this same scientific genius that invented dynamite and split the atom. Unfortunately, those great powers were used as much to destroy as to build up. At times, the mentality can seem to be – if we can do it, why shouldn’t we? As a wise person once said, with great power comes great responsibility.


The many different problems that we face in the twenty-first century, from war to pandemic, to climate change, are often rooted in the human misuse of the scientific power we have harnessed … as if we weren’t a dependent and responsible part of a wider ecosystem.


It is hard for me to put my finger on the malaise that I feel about our scientific mentality. But with many people I share the worry, that my life and our lives nowadays are too dominated by technology. I lament, with many others, the dependence that we have on smartphones, computers, apps and the like. Technology was intended to provide more free time for us to enjoy each other’s company. But in many cases, the opposite effect has come about.


Science is intended to be our servant. But in several instances, it is fast becoming our master. How many of us can do without our smartphone? It is sad to walk into many institutions and rather than meet a smiling face, we now have to swipe or scan or push the buttons in a machine.


I’ll finish my letter to you St. Thomas with a little example to illustrate my point – the cake that we bought for my mother’s birthday. It was delicious. It could be analysed from many different angles – the ingredients; the correct mixture and timing; The right level of heat in the baking; even the proportion and colour co-ordination of the icing. It was a cake with a high-level of scientific perfection (sadly digested now! But there will be more cakes).


However, the true meaning of that cake belongs to a higher order of life altogether. The cake is a symbol of a family’s love for its mother. Such an ingredient as love cannot be measured or analysed exhaustively by science alone. Its taste is a different quality of flavour. It is a mysterious product of the connection of souls which pours forth from the well-spring of trust and love. In such important matters, as in the pursuit of God, science is quite blind and out of its depth. And yet, in our scientific perception, such things are often discarded because they don’t meet with scientific standards of importance.


Let us recognise that there are other measures of value that our world sorely needs to rediscover.


As for you Thomas, it was not ultimately the prodding of your fingers into the wounds of Jesus’ hands that won the day for you. It was the encounter with his tender and merciful face, looking at you with profound love and compassion and saying – peace be with you. This encounter drove you to your knees and inspired you to say – My Lord and my God.


Thank you for your doubt and thank you for your faith. And pray for us all as we strive to rehumanise this technologically saturated world.
Farewell.

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