Posted October 02, 2009 in My Dear Family:
The Spirituality of Machines

by Catherine Doherty.

Catherine wrote this for the repairmen of Madonna House, but it can speak to anyone. For who does not use machines?

God the Inventor, God the Creator, looked at man, smiled, and found him very good. Man understood that he was created in the image and likeness of God and that always, through the mercy of God, he has divine life in Him and is co–creator with Him in the measure that God wills.

This is a great mystery. From the dawn of history, men co–created with God in giving life. It takes three to bring forth a child—God, man, and woman.

But man was capable of more. In the twilight age of his reason, man did not yet perhaps realize that he could also shape matter into new forms—"re–create matter."

God had created matter originally, but he had given to man the intelligence, the ability, the genius to work with that matter—to give it new forms, shape it for new uses. The Lord remembered (even if man had forgotten for a while) that He had made him Lord of creation and had subjugated to him not only animals but all of nature.

True, man had to find this out through much labor, by the sweat of his brow, through trial and error. He discovered it through all the frustrations, anxieties, sorrows, and pains that accompany creative efforts.

But slowly, while paying his debt to God through all those sufferings, man moved into this new creativeness of his, into his ability to rearrange and give new shape to matter. The invention of the wheel was a great leap forward. So also was the taming of the wild seeds of wheat and oats and other herbs and grains.

Time marched on. Thousands of years melted into eternity as man slowly walked the road of years and grew stronger in his creativity, in his knowledge of the wealth he had been given. New possibilities for the rearranging of matter appeared as man continued to probe nature’s secrets deeper and deeper.

The day came when man invented a machine. From then on, progress in creativity and discovery, in wrestling from nature its secrets, absorbed him.

One man watched a boiling kettle on the stove and conceived the idea of the steam engine. An apple falling from a tree helped another to formulate the law of gravity. A priest discovered that the earth rotated around the sun. Someone observed the flight of a bird and wanted to fly himself. And so it went.

The truth of man being a co–creator with God should have become a reality at this point. It did for some, but not for all.

Alas, as nature yielded its most hidden secrets to man (because such was the will of God), the Tempter came around. Strangely enough, his techniques had not changed very much. Even though the Tree of Knowledge in the midst of Paradise was gone, he was still dealing with knowledge.

He still sought to corrupt man’s desire for knowledge and tempt him once more to deny in his heart that he was only the co-creator and not the creator himself.

Many men fell once again for his temptation, hoary with age. They imagined that the machines they were creating were exclusively their own creation.

So machines are with us. One important part of our Madonna House Apostolate, especially for its men, is to go into the marketplace and snatch Satan’s apples from the mouths of men, teaching them that they are only co–creators of machines, that behind every machine lies an intelligence greater than theirs: the incredible, infinite intelligence of God.

This is one of the jobs that Christian men are called to do. They must look at all the machines they deal with, first with infinite reverence, and secondly with awe.

Perhaps I mean fear, the fear that is the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they are dealing with a creature of God, touched by the intelligence of God through the intelligence and handiwork of man.

Everything in the world contains God and is touched by God. Who is there among us who would dare to use the chalice of the Eucharist for some ordinary purpose, let alone for some menial purpose?

A chalice and a Host are visible realities of God’s presence. But to the eyes of faith, other realities are signs of his presence as well. These can be desecrated as well.

The cars we drive, the truck, the electrical motor or fan, the chain saw, the heater, the tractor—these too are chalices of God’s creation, transmitting his intelligence, love, and tenderness through the minds of men.

It follows, therefore, that, in a manner of speaking, when we abuse a machine we are guilty of blasphemy and desecration of a creature of God.

This means that we must think ahead, recollect ourselves before we even put our foot on the starter, or touch a button, or put into motion any machine that man co–created with God.

We have no right to mishandle a creature of God in any way. When we do, we challenge God, laugh in his face and say, "I couldn’t care less that you are in this creature."

In fact, we almost add, "I don’t really believe that you are in it. It was created by me, a man. It is my slave. I couldn’t care less what happens to it. It has no life of its own. Man and man alone is its master, and I am a man."

Or, we can mishandle machines in another way. We can take out on this creature of God all our frustrations, hostilities, and emotional disturbances, not realizing that the only thing we hurt is ourselves. It is just as bad to manhandle a machine because of our emotional disturbances as it is to take out our hostilities on a dog by kicking it for no reason at all.

If you are able to, it would be better to wait until you are feeling better to use the machine.

Or, if you are working in a situation where this is possible, to have the humility and courage to say, "I am upset today. It would be better if somebody else worked with this machine today." This would be better than to challenge the Lord himself by abusing his creature.

The same applies to the repairman or anyone else who is fixing anything. He may have to handle the result of somebody’ else’s mishandling of a machine.

In some cases, he will be repairing the result of a fragmented man, a thoughtless man.

Yes, all these broken machines will come to the repairman. The workshop, therefore, must be a place of prayer, of atonement, of mortification, of silence and recollection.

It is not enough to simply repair a creature of God with the knowledge of one’s mind and the skill of one’s hands. One has to repair also the harm done to the creature of God and the slight done through it to God himself.

Yes, the men in charge of the machines must learn to be victim souls before God. A victim soul is one who has been given the grace to atone not only for his sins but for those of others. This is a great grace. These men can easily associate themselves with Gethsemane.

On hot days, greasy sweat will run down their faces and bodies. It won’t be bloody, but if they accept it lovingly for others it will mingle with the bloody sweat of Christ.

The eternal dirt and grease on their hands, so hard to get off, will remind them of the dust and dirt that must have added much agony to Christ’s body when he was carrying his cross. His wounds were filled with the dirt of the road, with spittle, and with all the things that are usually found on the roads of the East.

Mechanics often have to assume strange and difficult positions to work on or repair the creatures of God. These postures will tire their back muscles. Then they will know how tired God’s muscles were when he was crucified. They will know in some small way of God’s sufferings for them, and God will accept that, lovingly, passionately.

Adapted from The People of the Towel and the Water, pp. 87-91, (1991), temporarily out of print.


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