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I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Veni, Redemptor gentium

It's been a while since I posted, and its been a REALLY long while since I did a long Latin translation. They take a while for me, even short songs, like the one I'm about to post. It can be frustrating, irritating, and annoying. Translating, that is. I've never been that good translation. Latin is the the only language I can sort of translate (I should be able to, having taken 5 years of it!) and even that is usually riddled with errors. The last translation I did, back in March 2010, was proofread and reviewed by other friends of mine, notably Sheila, helped review for accuracy.

No one has checked over this but me. :P

About 1600 years ago, St. Ambrose, bishop and Doctor of the Church, wrote several hymns, including this one for Advent/Christmas. The title, like any decent religious song, comes from the first line of the hymn: Veni, Redemptor gentium. Though rarely sung today, it is sung today in the song Savior of the Nations come. Martin Luther (yes, that Luther, the guy who led to the destructive splintering of the Church and Western Civilization) translated Ambrose's song into German, which was then translated (from the German) by William Reynolds. Most translations in English are variations of Reynold's from German translation. Here. Listen to how the song sounds:

I know no German. I know Latin.

So I went back to the Latin and translated the song into sort of English. I tried to have meter within the stanzas, and even tried to keep the rhyme scheme of the original song. I made some changes in the translation from the original, literally poetic license, to fit such schemes. It may not seem pretty, but hey, do you want it to be pretty or do you want it to be accurate.

Well, this one might be neither, but oh well.



VENI, redemptor gentium,

ostende partum Virginis;

miretur omne saeculum:

talis decet partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine,

sed mystico spiramine

Verbum Dei factum est caro

fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit Virginis,

claustrum pudoris permanet,

vexilla virtutum micant,

versatur in templo Deus.

Procedat e thalamo suo,

pudoris aula regia,

geminae gigas substantiae

alacris ut currat viam.

Aequalis aeterno Patri,

carnis tropaeo cingere,

infirma nostri corporis

virtute firmans perpeti.

Praesepe iam fulget tuum

lumenque nox spirat novum,

quod nulla nox interpolet

fideque iugi luceat.

Sit, Christe, rex piissime,

tibi Patrique gloria

cum Spiritu Paraclito,

in sempiterna saecula. Amen.


O Come, redeemer of the earth

Reveal to us the Virgin’s birth;

Every age is thus amazed:

For so fitting a birth God has made.

Not from a man’s conception,

But by mystic exhalation

The Word of God is made flesh

And in a womb, fruit prosperous.

The Virgin’s womb soon expanded,

Her monkish modesty defended,

The banner of the angels fluttered,

In this temple God thus abided.

She thus proceeded from her chamber,

Modest palace of the queen mother,

A giant thus with natures two

Eager to run his course right through

Equal to the Father eternal,

Girded in the fleshy armor,

In the weakness of our bodies

Strengthening all the virtues lasting.

Now your crib still shines bright

And newer light blows into the night,

for no night can falsify

what faithful faith can clarify.

Thus, Christ, most faithful king,

To you and the Father, glory we sing,

With the Spirit, the paraclete,

In eternal eternity, complete. AMEN!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


It’s been a while since I posted parts of my paper concerning the Origins of Man. Life happened again.

Here is the concluding parts, where I offer my relatively original (though not completely original, I found) solution to the disagreements between the Genesis account of Man’s origins and those proposed by scientists. It’s a weird solution, but then again, so is the whole debate to begin with. It’s important, of course, but weird.

Pius concluded his three points by emphasizing, “the impossibility that the first man could have been the son of an animal, generated by the latter in the proper sense of the term” (Fr. Hardon’s phraseology).[1] Pius speaks in the realm of theology and philosophy, where the distinction between man and animal appears not in the morphology of the two creatures but in their radically different souls. Animals have a material soul that dies with the animal; human beings, on the other hand, have a rational, immaterial soul created by God that survives the body after death. A man is a composite of the soul and the body, the body being the soul’s potential waiting to be actuated. A body produced through sexual reproduction by pre-human hominids, the biological mother and father of Adam, would not be human, as Pius points out.

There is, however, a way in which God could use the normal generative power of the pre-human hominids to create the body of Adam. A successive sequence of evolutionary developments would have occurred over the thousands, if not millions, of years since God began this process. He worked with the natural causes of life, having in the living beings the “seeds” of future developments, as described by St. Augustine. God worked with these secondary causes until the right moment, when the body of the first human, perfectly designed to accept the immortal soul, developed. This perfect body would have been the product of two pre-human hominids (Homo erectus is the most likely candidate, following the evolutionary family tree). It formed within the womb of this animal mother. God then provided the rational soul. In the words of Philip Fothergill, “If these cells acted by the virtus of God to ‘receive’ a human soul when the requirements for the formation of a body fit to be human had been biologically fulfilled, then, in a sense, God would be the actual ‘father’ of Adam.”[2] When did the infusing occur? As with the infusing of souls today, there is still some debate over the exact moment of ensoulment. Conception would be the most likely case, so that at the very first moment of life, the first human was uniquely different from any other creature in existence. This first human, with a body derived from an animal but with an unevolved soul from God, was Adam, the first human. This spiritual soul puts man above all other animals, following Pius’ first condition. Man, likewise, is not the natural product of two animals but is rather a special creation by God. The theory fulfills two of the three criteria while explaining the evolution of Adam without falling into polygenism.

What about Eve? Does this theory provide for her emergence from Adam’s body? It can, though it involves a miraculous intervention on the part of God. The theory is as follows: as the cells of the single, fertilized zygote that was Adam began to divide and multiply, as is normal in animal embryonic development, the zygote split into two parts, two bundles of cells, producing twins. This is called monozygotic twinning (the opposite of which is dyzygotic twinning, where two eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm cells), and it normally produces identical twins with “the same genetic structure.”[3] The theory is that Eve is the second of the twins, formed from the side of Adam. God would have repeated the ensoulment as done in Adam, producing the first two humans. From this original pair stemmed the rest of the human race. There is one problem with this theory: Monozygotic twinning universally produces same-sex twins.[4] To accept such a theory, a scientist might say, would be to claim that God worked against nature, that he forced Adam’s human body to do something it could not do naturally. The chromosomal differences between a man and woman make it impossible for such a twinning to take place.[5] A Catholic scientist, however, remembers that such a change in the natural order is in essence a miracle: God working with nature so that nature works beyond its normal processes, though not against the natural process. This would not be the only instance of miraculous human reproduction. One simply turns to the virginal conception of Christ. Though there are examples of parthenogenesis (conception without a male) in several animal species, usually insects or reptiles, the resulting offspring is always a female.[6] Nature does not allow for male offspring through virginal birth; the Y-chromosome needed is not available in females.[7] The Catholic Faith, however, requires us to believe that Mary, a virgin, conceived and gave birth to a male offspring, Jesus. Just as God intervened in the conception of Jesus, so also He must have intervened in the special creation of Adam and Eve. The virginal conception of Christ becomes a miracle foreshadowed by the creation of Adam and Eve. This theory, therefore, provides not only an explanation of man’s creation through evolution, but it also provides a beautiful meditation on the first man (Adam) and Christ (the New Adam).[8]

If Adam and Eve are in fact twins, or even simply the first two humans, how did the human population propagate? Polygenic theories explain this problem by providing an already varied gene pool. Multiple first parents means a variety of genes, and therefore little to no risk of inbreeding. Monogenism, on the other hand, faces severe moral implications. If Adam and Eve are siblings, then their sexual propagation is incestuous. If they somehow had relations with other non-human hominids, no matter how human-like they are, they are guilty of bestiality. Scripture condemns both sins (Deut. 27:20–23). Of the two, incest would seem the lesser of two evils, since bestiality rejects both aspects of the sexual act (unifying and procreative, as concerns the promulgation of the human species).[9] However, incest’s tendency towards genetic deformities remains at the heart of the issue. How was the monogenic couple to reproduce with such a dilemma?

The answer lies in perspective. For modern man, incest is immoral. It violates the natural law and the law of God. For Adam and Eve, however, not only was incest allowed, it was essential for the propagation of the species. This is not an example of moral relativism. Rather it is an example of a moral teaching clarified or adjusted by Revelation. In the early days of man’s existence, the species needed to use incest to be fruitful and multiply because there were not any other humans. What God would later forbid was instead the norm. A similar clarification arises in the apparent conflict between the Mosaic prohibition against the unclean (discussed throughout the Old Testament) and the allowance of mixing with the unclean in Acts 10. The original law was to preserve and protect the faith of the Israelites. With the fulfillment of the law, such distinctions between clean and unclean are no longer necessary. Likewise, God forbade the Israelites from producing graven images of God (Exodus 20:4 and Deut. 4; 5:8). Christians, on the other hand, use religious art not because they reject the one God, but rather because the Incarnation made it possible to depict God visually, since God took on flesh.

A similar process occurred with incest. Today, due to “the accumulation of bad mutations during the centuries,” man’s genetic makeup is imperfect.[10] Genetic imperfections, even recessive ones, shared within families are more likely to manifest in cases of inbreeding than in cases of mixed marriages.[11] At the dawn of humanity, however, such imperfections did not exist. J. W. G. Johnson notes, “Adam and Eve were bodily perfect. In the early stages of the human race there was virtually no genetic load.”[12] Therefore, inbreeding among the children of Adam and Eve would not cause severe defects. As the human race expanded, genetic changes occurred, much in the same way that genetic changes allowed for the body of Adam in the first place. Some of these changes were beneficial while others were harmful; the genetic variances made it so that inbreeding became harmful, as genetic imperfections stood a greater chance of being passed down to future generations. God, in His divine wisdom, forbade incest even though it was necessary earlier in human history.

The debate between Creation and evolution over human origins continues and will continue despite efforts on both sides to reach a mutual agreement. There is, fortunately, hope. New discoveries draw scientists and theologians closer to an agreeable conclusion, one that allows for evolution and God’s creative power. God could have created the world and man as described in Genesis; He could have also used evolution, perhaps in a manner similar to the one described above. Any theories on this matter cannot contradict truth, no matter how convenient the results. It is the judgment of the Magisterium that is the final say on truth, and to this Magisterium one must give assent.

[1]John Hardon, The Catholic Catechism (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1975), 92.

[2]Philip G. Fothergill, Evolution and Christians (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1961), 319.

[3]Dennis Bonnette, Origin of the Human Species (Atlanta, GA: Rodpi, 2001), 117.

[4]Fothergill, 327. Fothergill does not subscribe to the monozygotic twinning theory, instead favoring dyzygotic twinning as the origin of Adam and Eve. The issue with dyzygotic twinning is that Eve does not come from Adam, instead forming in the same way he did.

[5]All mammals have two sets of chromosomes, X and Y. Females have two sets of X chromosomes (XX), where as males have only one X and one Y (XY). These chromosomal differences determine masculine and feminine traits. This chromosomal difference would require, in the hypothetical Adam and Eve monozygotic twinning origin, that Adam come before Eve, as there must already be Y chromosomes for a male. The female XX chromosomes could not spontaneously produce Y chromosomes.

[6]In the first scientifically recorded example of mammalian virginal birth, a laboratory mouse in Japan developed from an unfertilized egg, eventually growing to maturity. The virginally conceived mouse was a female (Tim Radford, “Virgin Mouse Gives Birth,” The Guardian [22 April 2004], available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/apr/22/science.highereducation, accessed 7/19/11). See also Fothergill, 321.

[7]Recent evidence, however, shows that scientists in a laboratory can manipulate the genes controlling gender. God, of course, can do on anything a scientist can do in a laboratory, and one wonders if such a genetic manipulation occurred with Christ. Hannah Devlin, “Scientists find single ‘on-off’ gene that can change gender traits,” The Times (December 11, 2009), available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/genetics/article6952050.ece, accessed 7/21/11.

[8]Bonnette, 117.

[9]John Paul II, before he became pope, toyed with the possibility of Adam’s relations with a pre-human hominid, and the ethical allowance given to such a relationship (Leyshon, 7).

[10] J. W. G. Johnson, Evolution? (Los Angeles, CA: Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Inc., 1986), 133.

[11]Gareth Leyshon, “The Problem of Original Sin in an Evolutionary System,” (2011), available at www.drgareth.info/Polygenism.pdf, accessed 7/12/11, 4.

[12]Johnson, 133. Emphasis in the original.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Since the end of August, myself and the guys at Mirandum Pictures have been working on a series. Entitled Fruitcake, the series will premiere online, with new episodes premiering every Wednesday from now until Christmastime. Today was the premiere of Episode One.

Go here and watch it.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Here is the next part of the paper on Human Origins. In it I discuss the Church's contributions to the debate, particularly in the writings of Pius XII, the first pope to deal extensively with this issue.

When the Church addressed the theory of scientific evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin, She did so with the belief that evolution could not counter the Faith. In the words of Bl. John Henry Newman, “Mr. Darwin’s theory need not be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a large idea of divine prescience and skill.”[i] The Church allows for both Creation and evolution, as long as scientists and theologians retain several key doctrines. In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission enumerated the doctrines that Catholics must hold:

The creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil’s persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future redeemer.[ii]

Though not explicitly named, one sees in the Commission’s response a veiled reference to evolution. If there is a ‘special creation” for man, does that mean man did not evolve? If he did evolve, did the soul evolve with him? Could there have been more than one Adam and Eve? The Commission did not answer these questions, though the tone of the response implies the negative.

It was during the pontificate of Venerable Pius XII that the Church ruled on evolution, particularly the evolution of man. Pius was well aware of the abuses of evolution’s anthropology, especially as incarnated in communism and Nazism.[iii] It is therefore not surprising that he addressed problems concerning evolution and man’s origins. In his encyclical Summi pontificatus, Pius reaffirmed the ancient teaching that all of humanity stems from Adam and Eve (Dz. 2280). In a 1941 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he briefly discussed human evolution: “Only from man could there come another man who would then call him father and ancestor; and the helpmate given by God to the first man came from man himself and is flesh from his flesh, made into a woman and called such because she came from man.”[iv] He continued his reflection by examining the superiority of man over other animals, but then stalled his reflection, stating, “We must leave it to the future to answer the question, if indeed science will one day be able, enlightened and guided by revelation, to give certain and definitive results concerning a topic of such importance.”[v] Nine years later, however, he took up the issue again in Humani generis. Towards the end of the encyclical, Pius mentions that,

The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church.[vi]

It is a reasonable proposal. Catholics may freely discuss and debate evolution as far as it involves animals and the human body on the condition that those discussing evolution remember that it is still a theory, not a fact. The Church likewise reminds the faithful that the soul cannot evolve, that it is “immediately created by God,” and it is therefore off limits to scientific discussions.

In the next paragraph, however, Pius changes his tone. Here he comes to the issue of polygenism, about which he forbids discussion and debate:

When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty [of debating]. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[vii]

It is an oft quoted paragraph, and rightfully deserves the attention granted it. Pius places a limit on debating evolution, namely that Catholics cannot hold that a) some men after Adam could not trace their biological ancestry to him, or b) Adam and Eve represent a “certain number” or group of first parents. The first point refers to the theory of so-called pre or co-Adamites, men living before or during Adam’s time that are not his descendents.[viii] The second point refers to the actual word “polygenism,” which means “multiple sources,” indicating that the human race stemmed from multiple sets of first parents.

The average theologian could consent to this teaching with little to no discontent. If polygenism is correct, then there were people who lived after the Fall of Adam that did not descend from him, and therefore did not lose “the state of justice, integrity, and immortality” enjoyed in “the original happiness of our first parents,” as expounded by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. When discussing this problem, Pius cites the Council of Trent’s doctrine on original sin, which teaches that “the sin of Adam” is passed down “by propagation, not by imitation,” meaning that the biological descendents of Adam suffer the curse of original sin (Dz. 790). The sin of Adam would not have affected other hypothetical humans living around his time. Only those who descended from Adam would share his wounded human nature. This theology of original sin is crucial not only to Christian anthropology, but to the very theology of the redemption. If some men did not descend from Adam, then Christ’s redeeming act, His sacrifice on the cross, was not for them. The theological foundation for Christ’s mission, for the sacraments and the Church, and the entire Christian faith rests in the reality of original sin. As truth cannot contradict truth, the thrust of science cannot contradict the Church’s teaching on original sin. The Faith takes precedence over scientific theories.

Could both the Genesis account and the theory of evolution be true? In other words, can a Catholic balance the theory of evolution with the Catholic teaching concerning original sin and the creation of Eve? How would a monogenic theory of man’s origins work in reality, without implying widespread immorality, such as bestiality or incest, or genetic deformity? Several Catholic thinkers have tried to get around these problems by citing the Church’s relative silence on the issue of human origins as proof that She no longer forbids adherence to polygenic theories, adopting instead a more symbolic interpretation of Genesis.[ix] This interpretation rejects the teaching of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the Church’s Tradition. Such an approach does not satisfy the above questions, and so a more thorough evaluation is in order. Three provisions, noted by Fr. John Hardon in The Catholic Catechism, highlight the essential doctrines required by Pius XII and the Pontifical Biblical Commission:

1) the essential superiority of man in relation to other animals, by reason of his spiritual soul.

2) the derivation in some way of the first woman from the first man.

3) The impossibility that the immediate father or progenitor of man could have been other than a human being, that is, the impossibility that the first man could have been the son of an animal, generated by the latter in the proper sense of the term.[x]

By keeping these three points, the theologian plants his foot firmly in the Church’s Tradition while incorporating the findings of science.

How could one preserve the belief that man evolved without falling into the error of polygenism? It is a tight rope to walk, where one misuse of a word spells disaster for the theory. Theologians have attempted several formulations to explain a monogenic evolution of Adam, yet many remove one or more of the essential teachings enumerated above, most frequently the one involving Eve.[xi] There is, however, a theory that seems to follow the requirements set out by both Pius XII and evolutionary science. More striking is that this theory might have the backing of recent scientific discoveries.

[i]Quoted in Christopher T. Baglow, Faith, Science, and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge (Woodridge, IL: Midwest Theological Forum, 2009), 190.

[ii]Pontifical Biblical Commission, “The Historical Character of the Earlier Chapters of Genesis,” (Rome, 1909) in Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari (Powers Lake, ND: Marian House, 1955), 2123. Emphasis added. All citations from The Sources of Catholic Dogma are from this edition and are henceforth cited parenthetically in the text by paragraph number as follows: (Dz. 2123).

[iii]The main purpose of his encyclical Humani generis was to deal with certain errors developed by these perversions of anthropology.

[iv]Pius XII, “Address to the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences” (Rome: 30 November, 1941), available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p12plen.htm, accessed 7/15/11.


[vi]Pius XII, Humani generis (Rome, 1950), available at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html, accessed 7/11/11, 36.

[vii]Ibid., 37.

[viii]Anthony Maas, “Preadamites,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 12 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), available at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12370a.htm, accessed 7/13/11.

[ix]Karl Rahner, “Natural Science and Reasonable Faith” in Theological Investigations, Vol. XXI, Science and Christian Faith, trans. Hugh M. Riley (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1988), 41; Mark Shea, “Interesting Conversation on Polygenism” on Catholic and Enjoying It (February 17, 2009), available at http://markshea.blogspot.com/2009/02/interesting-conversation-on-polygenism.html, accessed 7/15/11.

[x]John Hardon, The Catholic Catechism (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1975), 92.

[xi]Jean De Fraine, The Bible and the Origin of Man, (Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 1967), 41 – 52. De Fraine interprets Eve’s creation symbolically, rejecting the belief that Eve was physically drawn from Adam.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Here is part three of the series. It is much shorter than the other parts, but I felt that it was better to give a short part here than to have a crazy long one. The next part will present the Church's declarations concerning evolution. For now, here's some thoughts on Genesis.

Genesis includes two accounts of man’s creation. The first account is one of the most familiar and beautiful passages in Scripture:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.[i]

Though simple, this passage overflows with spiritual depth, particularly the beautiful phrase “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” In this verse, Scripture refers to the divine origin of man’s soul, the center of Christian anthropology. This soul, the Church teaches, is “immediately created by God.”[ii] The second creation account emphasizes this ensoulment. God creates Adam by forming him out of the earth and then breathing life into him (Gen. 2:7). He places Adam in Eden, a paradise-like garden. Adam is lonely, so God makes animals for him, but none provide the companionship he needs (Gen. 2:20). The creation of Eve follows, where God puts Adam to sleep and forms from one of his ribs the first woman (Gen. 2:21-22). Thus God created the first humans.

The paradise of Eden does not last too long. Through deception Satan convinces Eve to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the one prohibition God had place upon Adam and Eve. Adam ate it too, and thus humanity fell, for all of humanity comes from these two individuals. God banishes Adam and Eve from Eden. These first humans soon start having children. In their sons, Cain and Abel, one sees the inheritance of Original Sin, as Cain murders his brother. Cain goes into exile, taking with him his wife, and he starts his own family line. Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, and “other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:4), and the human family spreads, taking the curse of Original Sin with them. All of humanity can trace its lineage to the original pair divinely created by God.

Though strongly in favor of a monogenic creation of man (as recorded in Genesis), the Church has little to say about evolution. Catholics are free to agree or disagree with the theory. Some early Church Fathers supported a sort of proto-evolution, what some call “theistic evolution.” St. Augustine, for example, argued that God created “spiritual seeds” at the beginning of time that eventually developed into living things. God triggers the secondary causes:

For neither at that time [the Creation] were those seeds so drawn forth into products of their several kinds, as that the power of production was exhausted in those products; but oftentimes, suitable combinations of circumstances are wanting, whereby they may be enabled to burst forth and complete their species.[iii]

This belief preserves God’s involvement in creation, working primarily through secondary causes, while retaining the theory of evolution and natural selection.[iv] St. Thomas Aquinas subscribes in part to Augustine’s teaching, likewise excluding “divine interference,” that is, “constant unnecessary interventions on the part of the Deity.”[v]

[i]Genesis 1:26-31, RSV. All citations from the Bible are from this translation and will henceforth be cited parenthetically in the text.

[ii]Pius XII, Humani Generis, 36.

[iii]Augustine, On the Trinity, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3, trans. Arthur West Haddan, ed. Philip Schaff (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), III.8.13, available at http://newadvent.org/fathers/130103.htm, accessed 7/11/11.

[iv]Baglow, 189; John A. OBrien, The Origin of Man: Light from Modern Science (New York: The Paulist Press, 1947), 30–31. See also J. A. Zahm, Evolution and Dogma (Chicago: D. H. McBride & Co., 1896), 279–284.

[v]Zahm, 284–305 (quote on 304).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE DEBATE OVER HUMAN ORIGINS: Evolution and Polygenism

This is the next part of my examination of human origins. In this part, I give a quick summary of the theory of evolution involving humans (with a, I think, fascinating digression to discuss Neanderthals). Then I explain some aspects of polygenism. More to come!

Polygenism has its roots in the evolutionary theory of man’s origins. The traditional evolutionist account holds that the human species (Homo sapiens) evolved from the same simian ancestors that produced the “great apes.” Along the path to humanity, one finds a host of characters, all ancestors in the evolutionary family tree. The first, a sort of great-great-grandfather for humanity, is Australopithecus afarensis, the first bipedal primate. It lived about 3.3 million years ago (the oldest fossil of this species, nicknamed the Dikika Baby, dates to that time).[i] Part human, part ape, Australopithecus features a body structured for walking, like a modern human body, but with arms designed for climbing. It’s skull bears a closer resemblance to an ape than a man, and scientists now agree it is, at best, a human ancestor, but not a human.[ii] Australopithecus’ evolutionary descendents, according to the current scientific theory, are a series of progressively more human creatures, each one giving a small contribution to the development of the human race: Homo habalis chipped pebbles into tools; Homo ergaster developed more elaborate tools, as well as forming “a family structure in which fathers protected and provided for the mothers of their children.”[iii] Homo erectus developed weapons, putting stones on sticks. Following this line of descent, Homo erectus’ descendents eventually evolved into two branches: the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens).[iv]

Though often cited as such, due in large part to their human-like body and their apparent ritual of burying their dead, recent evidence proves that Neanderthals were not ancestors of modern humans. A debate still rages over the exact relation between humans and Neanderthals. Some scientists argue that the Neanderthal is a separate species from the modern human (hence the scientific name Homo neanderthalis), while others argue that the Neanderthal is a sub-species or race of humans (whose scientific name would be Homo sapiens neanderthalis). Scientists who support the two species theory point to the genetic differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, information unavailable prior to the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome.[v] The project found “3 million base pair differences between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens,” far fewer differences than that of a human and its closest genetic match, a chimpanzee.[vi] At the same time, there is also evidence of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals. A recent study found that “Between 1% and 4% of the Eurasian human genome seems to come from Neanderthals,” providing equally compelling evidence that the Neanderthals and humans are of the same species.[vii]

Homo sapiens share many traits with earlier hominids, but there is one unique, crucial difference: Homo sapiens can talk. Anthony Zimmermann notes that the earlier hominids “could not have spoken a human language as fluently and as richly articulate as we are able to do. Our advanced type of speech organs would not have fit into their skeletal forms.”[viii] Verbal communication is a key to proving man’s rationality and immortal soul.

The evolutionary process described above assumes a theory of polygenism. Scientists normally list two supports for a polygenetic origin of the human race: “A) One human pair would be too narrow a base genetically for mankind and would imply a genetic weakness of an inbreeding type” and “B) The emergence of any new species normally takes place in numerous individuals about the same time.”[ix] Evolution does not provide a model for individual specimens arising alone, as a theory of monogenism requires. Adaptations happen in groups. These changes often happen in specified places where the conditions are most ripe for adaptation, and because of this, most scientists follow the theory of monophyletism, that is, that Homo sapiens evolved in one isolated region of the world, in one specific population, and from that population spread throughout the world. Support for Monophyletism comes from the discovery of “mitochondrial Eve,” the most recent common female human ancestor who lived in Africa about 143,000 years ago, as well as the “Y-chromosomal Adam,” the most recent common male human ancestor who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. Both individuals lived in East Africa, supporting monophyletism; at the same time, scientists could use the discovery as evidence for polygenism. As Dr Gareth Leyshon notes,

There may have been other women accompanying Mitochondrial Eve; their sons would breed with Eve’s daughters and produce offspring with Eve’s mitochondrial DNA. The other women would also produce daughters, but no humans alive today are descendents of these daughters down the purely female line. . . . And similarly, other men could have been around at the time of “Y Chromosome Adam”; any line of descent from them including a female would lose their Y chromosome. All we know for sure is that no direct male lines of sons survive from these fellow men.[x]

The genetic “Adam” and “Eve” are not the Biblical Adam and Eve. In fact, the genetic “Eve” might represent one individual of thousands sharing a similar genetic makeup, thereby lending credence to polygenism.[xi]

Polygenism’s disregard for God’s hand in creation has placed this theory at odds with many Christians. Those that oppose this theory usually cite the story of Creation in Genesis as a counterargument. There is a fear in some circles that a truth of science will somehow counter a truth of faith. The Catholic should hold no such fears, for, in the words of Bl. Pope John Paul II, “We know that the truth cannot contradict the truth.”[xii] Any truth of science compliments Theology, the Queen of Sciences. One should not fear comparing the theory of evolution to the Creation account, for in doing so the truth shines forth.

[i] Christopher T. Baglow, Faith, Science, and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge (Woodridge, IL: Midwest Theological Forum, 2009), 242–243.

[ii] Ibid., 251.

[iii] Ibid., 252.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Baglow, 252; Fiorenzo Facchini, “Man, Origin and Nature,” translated by Barbara Zanotti and Eva Bruno, available at http://www.disf.org/en/Voci/121.asp, accessed 7/7/11.

[vi] Jacqui Hayes, “DNA find deepens Neanderthal mystery,” Cosmos Online (16 November 2006), available at http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/853/dna-find-deepens-neanderthal-mystery, accessed 7/8/11. Humans and Chimpanzees differ by 30 to 50 million base pairs (Ibid.).

[vii] Paul Rincon, “Neanderthal genes ‘survive in us,’ BBC News (6 May 2010), available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8660940.stm, accessed 7/8/11.

[viii] Anthony Zimmerman, Evolution and the Sin of Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998), 12.

[ix] Ervin Nemesszeghy and John Russell, Theology of Evolution, vol. 6, Theology Today, ed. Edward Yarnold (Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers, 1971), 52.

[x] Gareth Leyshon, “The Problem of Original Sin in an Evolutionary System,” (2011), available at www.drgareth.info/Polygenism.pdf, accessed 7/12/11.

[xi] Jozef Zycinski, God and Evolution: Fundamental Questions of Christian Evolutionism, trans. by Kenneth W. Kemp and Zuzanna Maslanka (Washington DC: CUA Press, 2006), 205.

[xii] John Paul II, “Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: On Evolution” (Rome: 22 October 1996), available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM, accessed 7/8/11.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to School

School starts up again next week. This week, however, marks the return of teachers. We worked in our classrooms, eager to see the new faces that will light up (hopefully not darken) the school with their joyous grins. Posters sprang against the walls, desks shifted into place, textbooks got counted and place in their proper place.

We are ready.

I'm teaching both Social Studies and Religion for the junior high (6th through 8th grade), as well as one section of 6th grade math. I'm excited.

I don't know about the students, but I am.

Hopefully there won't be terrible teacher stories, but you never know. Maybe I'll post HAPPY stories, for a change.

And the Seventh-Day Adventist student from whom I borrowed that book will be back, so maybe I can borrow her book again, and then finish the series.

I will also work on posting the rest of my paper discussing Human Origins.


Monday, August 22, 2011


This summer I completed the last class necessary for my MA in Theology from NDGS (I still need to take my comps and complete my Master's Thesis, which will be fodder for many blog posts, I'm sure). The class was, ironically, the first one in the curriculum: THEO 601 - God the Father. The course, to put it simply, covers the first part of the Apostles Creed (from "I Believe. . ." to "and Earth"); more specifically, the course covers, doctrine and dogma, Revelation, infallibility, the ad intra actions of God (basically how the Trinity works) and the ad extra actions of God (basically God and creation). The creation of the world and God's relationship with the created order formed a central part of the course. The creation of man holds an obvious place of honor in this discussion, and since I'm always interested in intersecting science and theology, I wanted to do something with creation and evolution. My professor suggested I examine the debate over human origins, namely between polygenism and monogenism. I liked the idea, and the more I research, the more obsessed I became with the topic. The result was my paper. I have decided to be merciful and have divided it into parts. That's right, you don't have to read all 15 pages in one sitting.

You can if you want. :D

We begin with an introduction. . .

Man has always pondered his origins. Once the study of philosophers and theologians, the question of human origins has in the last century become the study of scientists. Life on Earth, these scientists say, evolves, morphs, and adapts as needed. Humans are no different, and there remains an ongoing project among scientists of varying disciplines to trace the evolutionary pedigree of humanity. Standing against them are those who believe in a special creation of man as described in the Bible. At stake is nothing less than the sanctity of the human person. If man evolved from an animal, the reasoning goes, he is no different from other animals. On the other hand, if Genesis depicts man’s origins correctly, then man has a more elevated dignity, since God created him in his image and likeness. There have been many attempts over the last hundred years to explain human origins, resulting in the theory of polygenism, or the belief that man has a multitude of ancestors; its opposite is monogenism, or the belief that mankind stemmed from one original pair. Polygenists point to fossils to prove their theories. Monogenic supporters hold fast to the Bible and Catholic Tradition, the two streams of Revelation, and condemn polygenism. Can there be union? Is it possible for science and theology to agree on this matter? Upon examination, it is clear that polygenism, though often incorporating theology and science, is not only wrong but also gravely dangerous to Christian theology. At the same time, there is a way to reconcile monogenism and science, a theory that allows for special creation and evolution in the origins of man.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Warren H. Carroll

This post should have been posted two weeks ago. It wasn't. But better late than never, I suppose.

One of my great heroes was a simple man, externally nothing spectacular. Yet he changed my life, and I am who I am today because of his influence. I am speaking of Dr. Warren H. Carroll, founder of Christendom College, which I attended for my undergraduate and graduate work. Carroll is best known for his historical books. Any Google search of his name will return infinite booksellers who offer to another customer some of the best works of historical scholarship in 20th century Catholicism.

He died on July 17. He was 79, survived by his wife Anne, also known for her works of history.

His legacy remains the alumni of Christendom and his works of history. Search his name, if you aren't familiar with him. Read his works, or read some articles you find by him, or articles about him.

He was a history maker in the truest sense of the word.

Barring some major setback, like a rejection by the academic board, I intend to write my dissertation on this great man and how he affected history.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me post this first.

Alumni of Christendom were asked to write some memories of Dr. Carroll, which would be included in a book for Mrs. Carroll. I took a crack at it, hoping it wouldn't come out too prideful, or too much about me. That was part of the problem with remembering Dr. Carroll. He would always deflect someone else as the center of attention.

But I'm getting sidetracked. Here's what I sent in as my memories.

I never had Dr. Carroll as a professor, but I still had him as a teacher. My Junior year saw Dr. Carroll's return to campus to give monthly lectures. I sat in the overcrowded Chapel Crypt with what seemed like most of campus, absorbing like sponges Dr. Carroll's account of Malta and its staunch defense against attackers, be they Turks or Nazis. He mentioned how he had hoped to write a history of Malta, even in his youth, but he never had a chance. He mentioned that he still wanted to write it, but that he was getting old and was unsure if he would be able to write the volume. He then charged the history majors in the room to do what he not might have time left to do. It was a jarring thought, a world without Dr. Carroll. I had just begun to know him, barely, in reading his works for school. I would know him a little better over the next year, but nowhere near the intimacy that others could claim. At the same time, Dr. Carroll made you feel like you were important, that he knew you well. This was all in the first moment of meeting him.

One of the features of Dr. Carroll lectures was his attendance at dinner immediately following the talk. He would sit at a table near the entrance and students would come and talk with him. Some would sit with him, conversing on anything. He would linger and talk and sign books when he was finished eating. His reaction to signing books wasn't a irritated "who do I make this out to" attitude. He would ask the person if they had read the book, did they like it, etc. He livened up when he signed his favorite book (The Guillotine and the Cross) and even made a sort of joke when I asked him to sign a copy of Seventy Years of the Communist Revolution (the Commie Rev book that was outdated). "You do know this is out of date," he said, smiling a little.

The greatest memory I have of Dr. Carroll was through the Teacher Apprentice Practicum. I did my Apprenticeship at Seton in Manassas, and had the honor of student teaching under Mrs. Carroll in her World History class. For the first few days, I would sit in the back of the room and observe Mrs. Carroll's teaching. It was in the morning, second or third period of the day. About five minutes into the class, in through the door came Dr. Carroll, carefully walking over to the arm chair set up in the front of the room, where he would sit during his wife's class. As Mrs. Carroll would lecture, he would call out "in the back left." I had no idea what he was saying; I soon found out he was telling Mrs. Carroll which students had questions. They were teaching as a team.

One day it was my turn to teach. Mrs. Carroll had given me the task of discussing Napoleon's Russian campaign. Dr. Carroll was still in his armchair when I came to the front of the classroom. There I stood, teaching high school students about a great military disaster with Dr. Carroll, who obviously knew more about the event then I will probably ever know. At the end of the class, he was happy, and commented that it was a good class. I nearly fell over.

Mrs. Carroll gave me three optional areas of history to teach. One was the history of Ireland from 1798 onward, and I jumped on it. Dr. Carroll seemed to enjoy the classes. A prime example was the class discussion of the 1798 Uprising, which involved, in true Christendom style, singing Irish war songs. At the end of that class, Dr. Carroll commented that we sang his favorite song, either "Rising of the Moon" or "Roddy McCorely," and commented, "Did you know I used to teach Irish history at Christendom?" I knew, and he smiled with a laugh, and said he enjoyed it.

The man was truly great. He was like a bulldog in his defense of truth and the Church.

I pray that Bl. John Paul II might present Dr. Carroll before Christ praising his work for the Church; that the heroes of History, whom he spent most of his life extolling, may swarm to him and greet him as one of their own; and that Christ will welcome him into Paradise with His words of praise reserved for a deserving servant.

Eternal Rest grant onto him, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Monday, July 25, 2011


Thursday, July 21, 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run (aka, the First Battle of Manassas). The battle marked the first large-scale battle of the Civil War. Last year, I posted a section from my history thesis concerning the Battle. This year, I would like to post a story I wrote in honor of the occasion. Its an ok story, but I hope it conveys the depth and seriousness of the battle.

Without further ado. . .


Smoke clung to the earth, releasing its grip only when the stray soldier punctuated the shroud. The air screamed, echoing the screams of men dying, wrapped in darkness. Men who just two hours earlier joked about quick victory and “beating the Rebs” littered the ground. Few moved, either out of fear for or because of Death, whose anorexic head blinked here and there amongst the fallen men. His shadow darkened the sky.

I was there. I remember.

My leg was numb. I soon saw that it had been blown across the field, becoming its own casualty of war. Today I walk with a cane and a wooden leg, a reminder of that day, that ugly July day, when Hell and Heaven both stepped aside and let men regress to their inhuman roots.

I had joined the Army of the Union expecting a brief exchange of serious glances, without the accompanying violence. Yet violence reigned supreme back then. It still does. I may be old, but I’ve heard the news about the horrors in Europe, about those boys just killing to kill. I heard a rumor of a revolution in Russia, and that they burned Moscow to the ground. Maybe that was another story.

Moscow burning jumps into my mind when I think of violence. I remember a story my mom would tell me years ago. It involved that great Archbishop of New York. I remember he had that nickname: Dagger John. His enemies called him it first, but it became a sign of affection in my family. My little sister, when she was much younger, met the Archbishop after Mass one Sunday. She slipped on the wet cobblestones, and the Archbishop was there to catch her. She smiled at him and said, with out hesitation, “Thank you, Dagger John.” The Archbishop laughed, patter my sister on the head (she by now had realized what she had said and was blushing, making the Archbishop laugh even more), and went down the street. He glanced back once, as my mother was lecturing my sister on how to address bishops. We could hear his laugh echoing down the street, and my mother turned the same color as my sister. I laughed and my mother gave me a box on the ear.

That was not the story I wanted to tell. This story involves “Dagger John” and his stand against those Prodies who sought to pester us out of the city. The churches were burned. Children were not able to go to school without being insulted and mocked. Then Archbishop John gave a speech. Stop the violence, he said, or else New York would burn like Moscow. My mom did not understand what he meant, so I asked him one day. He said it was something about Napoleon. I do not recall exactly what he said, but he came alive as he described it, his eyes burning the same way Moscow did, I imagine, and he ended with a forceful “Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy!”

Nowadays, Moscow burns again.

Just like that field. How I wish I could forget. Yet at the same time I know I can’t.

As I said, I joined the Army expecting a quick finish to the war. My friends Colm, Dominic, and Daniel went with me to volunteer. Archbishop John stood outside, shaking our hands and patting us on our backs, thanking us for serving God and our country. The Army man explained to us what we already knew: New York would have an official brigade made up of Irish boys from the city. We wanted to join, and so we did. We ran home to tell our mothers. Colm’s mother cried, Dominic’s hit him, and Daniel’s smiled and hugged him.

My mother was silent. She looked at me for a moment, then went into her room.

I smelled whiskey on her that evening.

When we left the city to march south, there was a great parade. Everyone came out to send us off to the front. I kissed my mother and sister goodbye. Mother’s eyes were red with suppressed tears. I could tell. My sister could not control her eyes, and her face gleamed. Both gave half smiles as I kissed them, but I saw their fear. Then we all lined up and turned towards the Archbishop. He seemed tired, but he still stood smiling, his face alive with a faithful hope in us, in our brigade. Everyone had hope in us. We had hope in us. We were the sign of change, the sign that an Irish Catholic from the city was just as American as those Know-Nothing idiots.

As I laid on the bloodied field a couple months later, I saw that all that hope was gone, was worthless. And I wept, not for the fact that I was missing a leg, but because I had failed everyone. I had failed my family, the Archbishop, my friends, everyone.

I was failure.

Some dirt hit my face, the product of a wayward cannonball. I shut my eyes a second too late, and I felt the burning sting as some sort of dirt or another snuck into my eye. I tried rubbing it out, but that did nothing, so there I stayed, eyes closed, unsure of what else to do. I tried to remember what had happened that day. At first, all I could hear was guns and cannons; that, and screaming. Then I started to block out those sounds, and I found myself remembering the day’s events.

What day was it? Sunday? July 21. We had been to Mass that morning in the camp, the whole Brigade. We received Communion; the priest reminded us of how God would help us if we trusted in Him. I remember praying for my mother, knowing she was doing the same.

As soon as Mass was over, we heard the trumpet. It was the call we had longed to hear, and at the same time dreaded: to arms. “Fighting on a Sunday,” Daniel muttered, his thick accent making his comment almost unintelligible. I agreed, and we moved to where the troops gathered.

I remember how beautiful the morning was. The rising sun bathed the world in changing colors – pink, orange, and even a hint of red. One soldier mumbled about sailors, or something. Colm laughed at him. Colm’s father had been a fisherman from County Galway, or maybe Mayo. The story changed over the years. Once, when we were younger, we were joking about how Colm liked Mary Dubh, a girl who lived on the other side of the alley. “Don’t insult a Kerry man,” Colm retorted in the face of our jokes. “You’re from Galway or Mayo for sure,” Dominic jabbed, and the two began to fight, myself being a sort of referee.

The two of them stood there, with the other troops, not the boys we were ten years before. They had changed, maybe even became men. Their eyes were stoic, listening to the command. I never would have expected it from them, yet there they were, standing with fierce attentiveness. This was their life, or death, and they were determined to see it to the end.

I whispered an Ave, because I felt some dark prophecy that we would not see each other at the end of the day.

Meagher told us the generals’ plans. Meagher was a big hero among the men. He had fought in Ireland in ‘48, when O’Connell did his great work. He came here like my father, a fugitive from an English arrest warrant. Now he was in charge of our rugged band of nobodies, all dreaming of being somebodies. We knew what was at stake, not just for America, our mother, but for Ireland, our grandmother, as well. We had to win, not just this battle, but the whole war.

The battle plan went like so: the other Union regiments would be sent in first, attacking the main line of the Rebels. We were told to hold until the first wave fell back. We would then replenish the soldiers who retreated, would route the remaining Rebels, drive them back, and then chase them back to Richmond.

That was the plan.

That didn’t happen.

The Union army had shrunk even before the battle had begun. The campfire rumors had been true: enlisted men left when their time was up. They served their time, received their pay, and left. Some stayed. Most of us Irish stayed a little longer. There was just something about leaving a job unfinished that seemed unbearable. Wives waited for some, but they knew, you could tell, just how important it all was. Those who stayed did so with honor and pride. I myself knew a man, not Irish, who stayed after his term was finished. His name was Archibald Jefferson, a Prodie, but a good Prodie, the kind that would not hate someone based on your Catholicity. We talked about home, and he talked about his wife, Rebekah. She is the greatest woman in the world, he would repeat. He wrote letters talking about everything in the camp, from marching to eating to sleeping. I know because he let me read over one. He kept a bundle of them folded together in his pack, which he kept with him at all times. He feared death if he lost the letters. We laughed and sang together, and when his time of service ended, he shocked everyone by not returning home. When I asked him, he looked at me, a sly twinkle in his eye, and responded with a sentiment I have not yet forgotten: If you love your wife, you love your country. You fight for both.

It was not the most compelling sentiment, to be sure, but I have remembered it now for over fifty years.

He died that day, fighting with us. His regiment had failed, and he crossed over to help ours. He saw our flag had fallen, and he picked it up, and then dropped again. A bullet had burst his heart.

I remembered him at the Requiem Mass.

We stood that day, awaiting the start of the battle. The first shots happened soon after we had heard Magher’s orders. Down the field from where we waited, smoke filled the plain, and soon it floated over to our position. We could no longer see the battle, but we could hear it fine. Our cannons would fire, then the Rebels would respond in kind. At first we waited wearing our packs and coats, but as the day wore on, we got warm in the July heat, and tossed the coats aside.

The messenger came unexpectedly. He was a drummer, one of the young aides to one of the generals. He told us to move out; the plan had failed. We were no longer the second wave. We were the emergency reinforcements. We grabbed our guns and charged. It was only after we charged that I realized we were missing our packs and coats.

We’ll get them when we get back, I thought then.

As we charged, I glanced to the higher hills that flanked the plain. Earlier that day, the hillside had been filled with civilians who came to watch the battle, as one pretty girl giggled to Dominic. He joked with the girl about the battle and about he would wave to her as he killed a Reb, and I felt a sick feeling. War was not a playhouse affair. This girl came to watch death rape the battlefield, all while enjoying her delicate lunch.

It still disgusts me.

Onward we charged. Bullets stung the air. Men dropped around me. There was a horrible thickness in the air, suffocating our movements. At one point, I tripped over a body, or rather, part of a body. It was some poor soul’s torso; the rest was gone. I saw Dominic to my left. He dropped to the ground, followed by an explosion from canon fire. I ran over to him, terrified that I would find him another lifeless corpse. I was relived to find him alive. He pulled me down next to him, behind a make-shift wall built of human remains.

“I’ll outlast the battle here,” he shouted, the only way to communicate when gunpowder starts exploding. I mentioned cannons, but he waved me off. I angled right, but then flew down. I didn’t realize at first what had happened. A cannonball had landed just to the left of Dominic. The earth sprayed, and Dominic joined the company of his building materials. I never found his body.

Forward, cried Meagher. He stood on the ground, his horse a mound of flesh behind him. His saber cut through the smoke, somehow finding the last glimmer of sunlight in the midst of the hellish battle. His blade flashed, and his shouts for Ireland and Victory sounded clear above the cannon fire. I ran towards him, as did many others. We fell back, regrouped with more of the Brigade, and charged again as one. Few of us remained, none of us sporting the eager smiles that danced on our faces earlier that day.

Ahead! Ahead! We charged towards the Rebel line, meeting their forces at full speed. Down fell our flag bearer. For a moment, a panicked confusion grasped my chest. Then, as if in a dream, the flag reappeared. It was Jefferson, who had made it over to the fallen colors and was now hoisting them into the air. He shouted something about the Irish and their Church, and charged towards the Rebels. He too fell, a bullet piercing his chest.

He too clung in my mind during the Requiem Mass.

Am I repeating? Oh well. Some things bear repeating.

We fought on the same way, first charging, then falling back, then regrouping and charging again. I myself took out my fair share of men. It is an unsettling feeling to kill a man. I have never known a worse condition. At first, I felt nothing. My first kill fell a good distance from me. I never saw his face. I shot two more from that same range. Then two came, side by side. One fired, then affixed his bayonet. The other raised his gun to shoot. I shot him first. The other paused a second or two, realizing his friend had fallen. I charged. He turned, saw me, and likewise charged. I somehow deflected his weapon, then hit him with the butt of my rifle. His body sank, and almost without thinking I stabbed my own bayonet into his chest. His eyes rolled in their sockets, and he shook a couple of times. I stabbed again, and he moved no more. It was as if the battle had stopped. I looked down at the soldier and saw a man my own age. I heard shouts for retreat, along with the accompanying bugle call. I turned and ran back, running away from what I had done.

Then I fell, tripped again over a body. It was Jefferson, his face pale, his body soaked in its own blood. His hand was on the pocket where he kept his letters. They were still there. I slipped them into my own pocket. I heard the whistling sound; then there was silence.

Then I awoke.

I was on my back. My leg was gone, as I mentioned earlier, and I could see very little. The screams and gun shots were further away, and I suddenly felt very alone. I touched my pocket, satisfied with the presence of Jefferson’s letters, and tried to sit up. I couldn’t. The explosions continued for what seemed like hours. I heard someone shout my name. Turning, I saw Daniel running towards me.

“Oh God,” he said when he saw me. Daniel never spoke like that, and I felt a wave of terror ripple through me. He heaved me up, leaning on his shoulders. It felt like fire ignited beneath my skin.

“What happened,” I gasped.

Daniel dragged me along, grunting as he went. “We lost,” came the punctuated answer. There would be no discussing that topic today.

We made it to a dejected camp of haggard men, shells of the fine soldiers who stood and fought earlier. Here were the survivors. Here were the poor souls thrown into war, but neither Mars nor Hades wanted them. Here were the warriors who fought like heroes from Norse legends, but the valkyries rejected them. They were rejects, broken and shivering. Evening started to sneak in as the bloody-red sun slipped away, as if the sun was ashamed at what he seen.

The doctor, or what passed for a doctor in a camp, looked at my leg. “Lucky lad,” he said. “Lucky you ain’t dead,” he said, cleaning the stub that once formed my left leg. “Peg leg,” he snorted. “Should limp around alright.”

I didn’t thank him.

We sat in the camp; more men came, some bringing more wounded, others wounded themselves. A general came and thanked us for our bravery. It made us feel a little better. Melancholy suffocated us. We needed to breathe. Some tried singing, but each song fizzled out at the end.

Daniel sat quietly alone. I moved over to him.

“They’re gone,” he said without looking over at me. I didn’t ask who he meant. I knew. We sat, just us, wanting to scream, neither of us speaking.

Then came the chaplain. He was wearing black vestments, the most perfect, pristine vestments I have ever seen. They weren’t flashy or exaggerated, nor were they ugly and unsophisticated. The priest set up a little altar, his back towards the setting sun. Men walked over, most limping. One came carried on a stretcher, his mouth moving without sound. The sky bathed us in warm colors. Sweat clung to our faces. Daniel and I made our way over to the impromptu congregation. The priest turned and looked at his flock, then turned back to his altar, inhaled deeply, and began chanting the Introit for the dead. I closed my eyes, and prayed for all of them, for Jefferson, for Colm and Dominic, for all of the boys who died that day.

I whispered the prayers, hoping for life, hoping and praying.

Years later, I went back to the field. Between the day of the battle and the day of my return, much had happened. I had watched Jefferson’s wife weep when I gave her the letters. I saw the end of the war. I was working in New York when the riots happened, and I saw “Dagger John” give one last speech. I saw fear and pain, love and hate, more than any man should have seen in a lifetime twice the length of mine.

I am old now, and I know I have little time left to me. My prayer now, crippled in my old age, is one of sorrow for my sins, relief in virtue, and happiness in hope for the hereafter. My prayer is simple: that Jefferson, Dominic, Colm, Daniel, and I might chat again, like we did the Saturday before the battle, when we laughed at the thought of death.

I went back to the battle field. I looked out at the grass, the trees, the dirt. I felt dead again. I felt the loss I hadn’t felt since that day. I felt empty, and yet at the same time, I felt completeness. I know that, if I die tonight, after telling you this story, that it will be the end of another story, one more grand and beautiful than any I could ever tell, and at the same time it would start another story, one brighter and more alive than any I have ever lived.

But now I’m tired, and need to sleep. We can talk in the morning.