GEOGRAPHYGeography is without doubt one of the sciences and arts that can more easily act as a means for raising a person's mind to God.
The apostle will deal with geography in a complete and effective way if he knows how to put it at the service of the individual and of the apostolate.
Geography at the service of the individual
Human beings have such frequent contact with the created world, and in particular with mother earth, that no one can completely disregard geography.
There are those who have a more or less extensive theoretical grasp of it and those (the most, obviously) who
have a practical grasp of it. But no one ignores it completely.
The apostle is to take advantage of this universal fact to raise the minds of people to the Creator.
In the study tracts and texts of general geography and its allied subjects (astronomy, physics, politics, trade, anthropology, ethnology, morals, religion...) let him always resolve to help readers and to uplift them, in an appropriate way, by recalling some of God's truths.
At times it will be helpful to mention the Catholic teaching regarding God's creation: "Deus creavit cœlum et terram",1 everything comes from God, everything is governed by God and everything must return to him.
Why has God created the world? In order to coexist with other beings, to live together with them, to communicate his thought to others who think, to love other beings and to be loved. "Universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus."2
At other times it will be helpful to mention the goodness of creatures. There is nothing useless in the world, nothing that is originally and intrinsically bad.
Limiting himself to the world, to a part of it, the apostle will remind readers that God gave it to human
beings for them to use it. There will be countless occasions to raise people's minds to God through the study, contemplation and the simple observation of nature and its make-up.
For example, the brightness of the skies, the beauty of flowers, the trill of birds, golden sunlit harvests, the immensity of the deep-blue sea... to what heights can they not lead us?
The book of nature contains teachings for all categories of people, for the young and the old, for all states of life. The pure and the simple in particular read this book and understand it.
The mountains, for example, exerted a powerful influence on the mind of Pier Giorgio Frassati. It was there that he contemplated God's greatness. From those pointed rocks, which stand out against the backdrop of the sky, he found it easier to escape this world and to meet God. There his prayer seemed to turn out better because he was able to find a linkage between his own voice and nature's.
For Saint Francis of Assisi creation was a harmonious song that caused his mind and heart to go into ecstasy.
For many people even the most insignificant things tell of God's wisdom and love.
Let the apostle learn to raise [his hymn] of creation to the Creator! Let him teach human beings the way to link
the song of their own heart with the song of heaven, the stars, the earth and the whole of nature.
Geography at the service of the apostle
Geography has a particular task for the apostle which is to guide him with god-inspired zeal to learn about its existence in order to contribute to the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus Christ: "That (all) may know thee and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent... and that there be one flock, one shepherd."3
To achieve this, however, geography needs to be presented to him in a pastoral way so that he will love it.
An outline or an article on geography will be pastoral if, besides providing ordinary scientific news, it elaborates on matters regarding the scientific, moral and religious situation of peoples.
As regards the scientific situation [of peoples] it is not enough to cite their degree of education. The need is to set out clearly their social, political and religious ideas; their thinking, their current philosophical doctrines and, consequently, the status of journalism and of the press in general - if it is good, bad or neutral. [The need is] for accurate and detailed information regarding schools, teachers (the part Catholics and especially
Religious play), motion pictures, radio... All this while bearing in mind the nature of the article.
The moral condition too, just as the scientific, varies from nation to nation. Every people, just as every individual, has, in a proportionate way, its own character, its own traditions and its own specific mentality. Consequently, to be highlighted are the difficulties and the hopes for the life of the Christian and for the Catholic religion, as well as the means for its wider dissemination.
An answer is to be given in a practical way to some, if not to all, of the following questions: Are there political parties? How do they see the moral law? Is the government Christian? Those in power? What religion do they profess? Is the political climate healthy? Is there a correct administration of justice? Do the laws safeguard public morality? Is there a tendency to corruption in contracts and business? Is there class struggle or harmony? What is the relationship with the Holy See? Is there honesty, peace, mutual respect in family life? Do people avoid licentiousness, dangers, pleasures? Do they respect others, their good name and their goods?...
Lastly, religion will need to be developed in an especial way. To be more specific: religion or the various religions practiced, the number of Catholics, clergy and religious, organization,
progress, the difficulties and possibilities, the number of missionaries, their works and institutions...
When dealing especially with mission lands it will often be helpful to mention the civilizing mission of the Church, the vast scientific and geographic contribution that missionary activity has brought to humanity. It helps to recall that the missionary is not just an apostle who kindles the flame of faith and love in the hearts of the pagans but that he is also the great beneficiary of human progress, who becomes contemporaneously explorer, scientist, reformer and civilizer.
All of these things are to be set out in an enjoyable way, such that they will enthuse and fill people with holy ideals.
Particular care is to be taken in the preparation of texts for students who are preparing themselves for the publishing or missionary apostolate.
It is mostly a question of opening the minds and eyes of young students to great ideals and vast new fields of action. Of making them understand how noble and broad is the mission of the priest, the religious and the generous Christian who steps out of his own circle of interests to give himself to others through the alms of
prayer, sacrifice and action, so as to bring Jesus Christ to others.
A worldly example may help. The French historian Taine, in attributing great part of the outcome of Napoleon's victories to his enthusiastic study of geography, imagines seeing three atlases in the mind of the great conqueror. The first is a military atlas made up of an enormous collection of detailed topographical maps such as the General Staff has. There is a detailed layout of the fortresses, the specific classification and distribution of all the land and sea forces, supplies, regiments, gunnery units, arsenals, store houses as well as present and future reserves of men, horses, wagons, arms, munitions, provisions and the like.
The second is a governmental map, similar to those large books containing the State's balance sheets, complete with income and expenditure data - ordinary and extraordinary - tax duties, State property goods, pensions and public works. Then the whole power structure of public, ecclesiastic, and judicial authority, ministers, prefects, professors, each with his rank, home address, assignments, and income.
The third map is a gigantic profile and morals reference work where, just as in a police filing cabinet, every worthy citizen, each local group, every profession
or social class and each nation has its own file with a summary appraisal of its present condition, its needs, previous actions and, consequently, its already manifest characteristics, possible future inclinations and likely conduct.
At the conclusion of his conquests, no matter how much these three maps have been enlarged, they are still completely engraved in the mind of the great Napoleon.
He knows not only their sum total and special summaries, but also their every detail. He interprets them fluently and reads them at every hour of the day. He sees the sum total and the diverse parts of the various nations that he governs, either directly or by means of others, the various regions he has conquered or traveled through. First France with the enlargement of Belgium and Piedmont, then Spain, to where he went and whence he returned, and where he installed his brother Joseph; south Italy where he put Murat in place of Joseph; central Italy, where he occupies Rome; north Italy, where Eugene is his vice-regent; Dalmatia and Istria which he annexed to his empire, Austria which he invades a second time, the Confederation of the Rhine which he instituted and oversees, Westphalia and Holland, where his brothers Louis and Jerome are his lieutenants; Prussia, conquered and disabled, which he
uses as a tool to keep watch over his strongholds.
This is the secret of the great conqueror.
It was probably [not] much different for Saint Paul. There are those who imagine him enfolding the whole pagan world in his mind, his spirit reaching out day and night to communicate to all peoples the passion that consumes him and transforms him in Jesus Christ.
Nor should it be much different for every apostolic person to whom Jesus Christ issues the command given to the Apostles: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation."4
In conclusion: geography placed at the service of the individual and of the apostle contributes to the greater glory of God and the greater good of people's souls, because it is a means capable of directing the mind, the will and the heart of people to God, first principle and final end of all things.
1 Gen 1:1. * In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
2 Prov 16:4. * "The Lord has made everything for its purpose."
3 Jn 10:10. * Cf. Jn 17:3; 10:16.
4 * Mk 16:15.