November 14, 2011


My early-morning walk to the Poor Clare monastery for Mass on Mondays is one of my favorite moments of my week. The peace and quiet, the slow progress and regress of the dawn over the course of the year, the contemplative mood of the early morning, the summo mane as the rubrics of the Liturgy of the Hours call it, I find it all deeply refreshing.

This morning as I was walking down one particular street I started to look at the walls of a building off in the distance. The rightness of the right angles, the straight flatness of the outer wall, all of it spoke to my mind of the reasonableness of what exists, the benevolence of the ultimate Order and Reason that grounds it and from which it came, and the affinity of the created, reasonable minds of the builders and architects, along with mine as an observer, to the Word that is the Wisdom and Eternal Art of God.

It reminded me of one of the important moments of preparation the Holy Spirit worked on me before I came finally to confess Christianity: for a brief period, in my later teen years, I got really into math. I had always struggled with arithmetic as a child. I still have trouble adding and subtracting. (Years later, to my delight, when I became interested in mathematical logic and, I have to admit, computer folklore, I discovered that the mental and logical errors I had been making since the first grade were well known and even had names.) It was a great liberation, as I made my way through high school, to arrive at geometry, higher algebra, and the calculus. I started to love it. The math spoke to me in an obscure way of some unadorned but orderly beauty at the Heart of everything. I even went to college with the half thought of becoming a math major. For better or for worse, as my religious quest became more explicit in college I got sidetracked into philosophy and religious studies, and ended up majoring in them instead.

Nevertheless, today I am grateful to be reminded that one of the first ways that I began to love the God who was loving me and calling me all along was through the mysterious and stark beauty of number.


Statius said...

Thank you for sharing this reflection, Brother Charles.

I have always wanted to be good at maths and have always wanted to better appreciate its elegance, but unfortunately it's never quite clicked with me the way it did for you.

Jordan said...

Beautifully written. . . alas a don't share the sentiment when it comes to "number". For whatever reason Geometry, Algebra and Calculus could have all been associate equations to Fermat's Last Theorem. I got lost in the story of people and the cold number seemed stoic to me. But I do relate to having God call you through your passion and . . .thank you for sharing Br Charles. Blessings.