Can you tell me, young man, all you know about the Solar System. All I know about the Solar System? The question is rather wide Sir, and I do not know where to begin.
Very good, this is the kind of answer I like- I shall willingly simplify it for you. Do you know what the sun is made of?
The sun is a star composed, of different elements in a state of fusion, of which the density is one quarter greater than that of water.
Spectral analysis enables us to obtain some knowledge of these elements and to arrive at the conclusion that the chemical composition of the sun is similar to that of the earth and of the heavenly bodies in general.
Very good, my boy. You have Just mentioned spectral analysis. Do you know what it is?
Yes Sir. By means of a rather complex instrument which I cannot describe because I have never seen it, photographs are taken by the aid of special rays which disclose to us the elements of the sun.
"Do you know the name of this instrument? I think it is called the.stroboscopic camera.
This is the dialogue which was corried on between the Primary School Inspector and a twelve year old candidate for the Primary Leaving Certificate in one of the French Schools.
Curious people drew near to listen to these more than ordinary answers. The examiner showed no hesitation in departing from the strict limits of the programme, in order to give greater scope to the youthful intelligence. In silent wonder, he was congratulating the master, who had succeeded so remarkably in initiating his pupils to the great problems of Science. He continues his interrogation.
Is the volume of the Sun very great?
. It is about 1,301,200 times that of the earth.
Quite right! Then might it not be possible to make 1,301,200 terrestrial orbs from the sun?
No Sir. The density of both must be taken into consideration. The sun could only make 333,432 spheres of equal density with the earth—no small figure all the same!
Had the sun and the earth the same origin?
Yes. They were created by God, with the rest of the Universe. I do not want to contradict you, because my knowledge does not go as far as that ; but it is my duty to respect your opinion on the subject.
My opinion! you say. I assure you, Sir, that it is more than an opinion.
What is it then?
A certitude. For my part, it is certain that God created everything from nothing and I can give you endless convincing proofs of this.
Here, the Inspector frowned and raised his hand as though he would say—"Let us respect the neutrality."
The candidate understood the meaning of the gesture and dropped his argument.
Assuredly, he would have been very glad to bring forward proofs of the existence of God and the necessity of the Creation, enough to convince this good professor, who had shown him such consideration. He understood, however, that it would be useless to urge the matter further fearing rather to embitter his learned interlocutor than to win him over to his point of view.
The Inspector modified the question to some extent:
Created or uncreated, were the earth and the sun separate when time began?
No Sir! The earth and the planets, which with it go to form the Solar System were at the beginning, part of the solar sphere. They were disintegrated by a series of transformations caused by the rotation of the earth. These included the inflation of the sphere at the Equator, the formation of a ring similar to that, which encases Saturn, the breaking up of t h i s ring into several unequal parts which began to rotate round the sun at divers distances from it and from each other.
What became of these detached portions?
They cooled and solidified. They became the earth and the other planets.
Can you name some of them for me?
Yes Sir. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Mercury, Venus, Neptune, Mars.
Very good—very good. I congratulate you and the teacher who is responsible for your instruction.
It is not he, Sir. I know h& is very clever, but it is not he who taught me all this.
Where then, did you learn it?
At Catechism ....
The examiner's astonishment was now at its zenith.
But what has that to do with Catechism? You have a strange Parish priest, if instead of teaching you your prayers and the Commandments of God, he allows himself incursions into the domain of astronomy.
I assure you, Sir, that his digressions whether scientific, historical, artistic or otherwise do not cause him to neglect the essential. Ask me any questions you like in Catechism, and see if this is not so.
I believe you, young friend, and there is no need to ask you any questions. Nor do I retract the congratulations I offered you.
Whether your scientific knowledge Proceeds from your teacher alone or from you teacher and pastor, I pronounce it solid. You may rely upon me to procure for you an entrance scholarship to one of the Secondary Schools.
It is very kind of you, Sir. But I do not need a scholarship. I have secured a place in a college.
This story based on fact, leads to the following conclusion—Even if the Catechist and his listeners cannot enter into scientific discussions of so abstruse a nature as that recounted above, it is a selfevident fact that religion cannot be studied without the acquisition of extensive information.
Catechism includes first, the knowledge of God; secondly the knowledge of the world; thirdly the knowledge of man; fourthly the knowledge of the relations existing between God and man.
What is this if not a vast programme comparing theology, philosophy, natural history, cosmography, geography, anthropology etc? But alas—the converse is not always true. Many are versed in all sciences except the "unum necessarium" and yet this is the only science absolutely essential to man.
Indeed it is catechism alone which gives life a meaning and a purpose "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he suffers the loss of his own soul?"
- Malaya Catholic Leader, February 2nd, 1935 (1935.pdf pp47)