Going ‘back to school’ always involves a transition for families and educators, but this year it will be even more challenging. Families returning to traditional, in-person schooling will need extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes, in addition to the usual school supplies and back-to-school clothing. Families transitioning to new modes of schooling—whether online instruction, homeschooling, or “pandemic pods” (i.e., education co-ops)—will need to develop new routines, practices, and relationships to make learning both effective and sustainable. And educators, regardless of who, where, and how they will be teaching, will need both creativity and grit as they flexibly adapt to changing conditions when teaching and connecting with their students. Given all this, something everyone will need and benefit from taking back to school this year is hope.
Editorial Note: This post is part of our #FaithAndScience series exploring the relationship between science and religion.
The fact that nature is “red in tooth and claw,” to borrow a famous line from Tennyson, can create an apparent conflict between evolution and Divine Providence. The seemingly arbitrary death and destruction that is inherent in the evolutionary process can be hard to reconcile with a providential loving God. Even a cursory glance at the evolutionary timeline indicates that our current state has been shaped by numerous violent environmental upheavals: floods, meteor impacts, volcanic eruptions, plagues, famines, etc. In particular, the natural evils that humanity has dealt with during the past 300,000 years of our collective existence raise many difficult existential questions.
In the sacrament of baptism, which we recall at Easter, each of us received both a new identity as a child of God and a vocation to live a life transformed by our encounter with the Lord. We received these gifts not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.
Looking at the pictures of the Cross of Christ, shining with the light of the morning sun, intact amidst the ashes and debris from the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, I found them very moving. Is it a miracle that the cross and altar and candles survived? It depends on what you are willing to call a miracle.