"Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit"

In my 7th grade religion class over in the school the students often ask me "why" questions.  Why did God create the earth the way he did? Why seven and not eight sacraments? Why did he destroy the dinosaurs?

My response to them is the scholastic axiom, "Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit."  The quizzical stares fade to ones of disappointment when I offer the translation: "He could do it, he ought to have done it, therefore he did it."  


A 'why' question stems from the apparent randomness of the particular reality (why is the sky blue and why did God elect Peter of all the apostles to be our rock?).  But the realities of life, which are realities of faith ultimately, are not random.  God does things in that way because that is the best possible way—that is why.  To ask 'why' of God merits a reminder that God is good and does everything for a reason. 

I notice that 7th graders never ask if God loves them.  They have been told of God's love since kindergarten and accept it as a given.  Well, here is what we can syllogize from that premise, of God’s fundamental love for us. If God loves us, then he will act for us (ergo fecit).  We already know he ought to (decuit) and that he can (potuit). 

What does this mean?  It means that everything in reality is the way it is for our benefit.  And so a ‘why’ question is not truly understood in the head, but in the heart.  If we really want to ‘get it,’ we have to go to the experience of love.

Theology, which is what my 7th graders are unknowingly engaging in, provides laconic answers to laconic questions.

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