Does God Love Wolf Spiders?

Spider

PHOTO COURTESY OF BETH PACK PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Outside the other day, we saw a wolf spider, the big jumping kind that bite. True to their faith, which inspires them to be true to their scientific spirit, the kids asked questions. “Can he hurt us? How come God created wolf spiders? How is biting good? Does God love wolf spiders?” I knelt down and locked my mommy eyes with the spider’s steely ones, and I imagined just how hysterical the hysteria would become if this fuzzy creature did, in fact, jump on one of us. Then I did what any brave mommy would do. I told the kids to run.

Besides, those aren’t easy questions.

The theological answer is that God called all creatures into existence out of nothing (Lateran Council IV), freely by His goodness and omnipotent power. Scripture says God loves all His creatures and hates nothing He made. (Wisdom 11:25) St. Thomas, however, explained (ST II, Q. 20, A. 2) that “God does not love irrational creatures with the love of friendship.” He loves them with a love of desire in so far as He orders them to us and to Himself. God doesn’t need wolf spiders, but even if they bite us they have a purpose in His creation.

There’s a scientific parallel. The order, proportion, and symmetry in nature is undeniable, in subatomic particles and in galaxies. The world is ruled by physical laws. Even though we haven’t discovered them all, those fundamental laws are profoundly beautiful in mathematical form. They are symmetrical; symmetry is beautiful. Even when something seems chaotic, scientists discover over and over that it’s part of a greater symmetry. The British nuclear physicist, Dr. Peter E. Hodgson, once wrote:

“In any case, we know that the world is far from being fuzzy or chaotic, but is locked together by the steely framework of layer upon layer of symmetries so related that even if one symmetry is inexact or broken, this is restored by other symmetries at a deeper level.” (Theology and Modern Physics)

We see symmetrical ripples when a raindrop hits the calm surface of a pond, but in a downpour that symmetry seems to disappear into chaos. Nonetheless, laws of physics direct every motion of every molecule in ways we don’t fully understand. The thunderstorm is part of a greater weather system, part of the greater water cycle.

I think of suffering, illness, and death this way too. Our story—the story of humanity or the story of our individual lives—isn’t yet complete. Sometimes in our pain we can only see the immediate chaos, but the chaos is part of a greater story. When I’m suffering, it helps to remember that all things have a purpose if I order my life toward God. So, that wolf spider, eerie as he was, unfriendly and evil as he seemed, had a purpose that day, a symmetry in himself and in our lives. He taught us to have a healthy respect for nature, that we share the earth with other creatures. Brave as we were, we are wiser for the encounter.


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About the Author

Stacy Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She worked as a chemist for DuPont in the Lycra® and Teflon® businesses.

She teaches Chemistry and Physics for Kolbe Academy Online and Homeschool Program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She is teaching a set of summer mini-workshops titled “Science in the Light of Faith” for students, parents, other educators, or any Christian interested in the nuts and bolts of navigating science.

Similarly, she is teaching a “Reading Science in the Light of Faith” at Holy Apostles College & Seminary next Fall (2016). The course is funded by a John Templeton Foundation grant through John Carroll University for teaching science in seminaries. She is on the Board of Directors for ITEST (the Institute for the Theological Encounter with Science and Technology) where the essays from the course will be shared with the public.

Also in the Fall of 2016, she will teach a “Theological History of Science” course at Seton Hall University, where her mentor, the late Fr. Stanley L. Jaki was a distinguished professor. She is the author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki.

Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science is forthcoming with Ave Maria Press…

She teaches, researches, and writes from her family’s 100-year old restored mountain lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband and children (and two German Shepherds) remain her favorite priorities. Here is her website.

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18 Comments

  1. Stacy, I see I have to go to Confession now for the sin of imparting upon you an arachno-neurotic compulsive disorder! A couple of years ago you edited an article for Ignitum Today about my work as an sidewalk abortion counselor and my encounter with one of our “enlightened” progressives who valued the lives of her pet spiders over the thousands of human lives lost at this New Jersey clinic. Now you are taking up spider metaphors. I guess spiders and their allies are still strong, and they strike fear upon God loving people. It’s a sign of the dangerous times we live in. I assume full responsibility that you now have the disease. Add 10,000 years to my time in purgatory! 🙂
    OK, with all the jokes aside, you are right. God permits the wheat to grow with the weeds, the spiders to exist with the flies, and the abortion escorts who have not taken up at the abortion clinic to share the sidewalk with the counselors and the rosary prayers. Our clinic has been in the national spotlight and now abortion escorts render our gentle active counseling ineffective. All they need do is surround an approaching woman, babble, and we are neutralized. All that is left is prayer, and that we still do, and that they fear the most. Soft words of the rosary to God’s holy mother, with prayers of love and forgiveness are offered for her intercession for the unborn, and the mothers, and those in the abortion industry. The escorts stand stoically, but one can see their pride being bitten by the prayer and humble love.
    Keep writing about spiders, and keep doing God’s work.

  2. Stacy, thanks for this article which is so relevant for those of us with kids who ask the most interesting and challenging questions which sound so simple at first. My own dilemma has been in trying to figure out what was in God’s Mind when He created the violent world of the dinosaurs so far in advance of the creation of the first humans and Original Sin. At first blush I thought that the animal world was so violent and cruel as a consequence of the Fall of humanity, but maybe the Fall of Satan resulted in the train wreck of animals killing weaker animals in order to physically survive? Any thoughts?

    1. Kids are great! They cut straight to the heart of a question. I refer to Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma for questions like this because he gives the history behind theological opinions. Of the relationship of Divine Will to physical or natural evils (such as dinos killing weaker animals) he wrote, “God wills physical evil, natural evil as well as punitive evil, per accidens, that is, as a means to a higher end of the physical order or of the moral order.” (Citing Sirach 11:14) My interpretation is that we don’t fully understand why there is violence among animals, but there is a purpose for it, maybe to teach us. St. Augustine, for example, urged the study of nature to try to see spiritual symbolism in natural phenomena, for ways to see the reason behind how things happen, to read the book of nature. “Look above and below, note, read. God, whom you want to discover, did not make the letters with ink; he put in front of your eyes the things that he made.” -St. Augustine (Reference here.)

  3. Just wanted to say I enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work. As a fellow “scientist” (BS Microbiology, BS Medical Technology, & MS in medical science) (Father of 6 and assistant home school teacher), I am happy to see a voice of Catholic sain/sane reason out there. God Bless.

  4. Great read. Thank you. As an arachno-phile, I confess that I live wolf spiders, and jumping spiders, like the one in the title pic. When I lived in Tucson, I discovered giant crab spiders, which are ginormous cousins of the tiny ones that ambush bees and butterflies while lying hidden on flowers. I watched one crawl across my bedroom ceiling one night before I went to sleep, and marveled at its ability to do so. Then I marveled at my own ability to move with feline-like speed when it lost its footing and joined me in my bed! I never could find it, so every little tickle against my legs during the night shot me bolt upright for the next few hours. Forget that we’re exponentially larger and all. Makes me wonder what’s in that reptilian part of our brain that causes such freak-out-ness when it comes to spiders. :^)

    1. Oh dear! How did you sleep at all!? It’s freaky just reading about that.

      I have to tell you, I thought the picture was a wolf spider, but another reader (actually two) pointed out yesterday that, as you said, the photo is a jumping spider. My friend and excellent photographer, Beth Pack, let me know that she did, in fact, find a real wolf spider in her kitchen sink and she promptly put him on a piece of white paper, got out her camera, and took his picture. {shiver} She posted it on Facebook here. Now that’s a good friend!

  5. I had to laugh when I saw the title of your article. Just yesterday a colleague asked me (a hospital chaplain), “Does God love Mayflies? Why did he make them? And, why did he make Wolf Spiders?”

  6. The story is not yet complete.
    That made me think of a great saying from J.R.R. Tolkien, who had Sam Gamgee saying, “…that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness into grief and beyond it — and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got — you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! Don’t the great tales never end?”
    A big story, not yet complete, but a good one.

  7. Very interesting article. I was reading a private revelation recently (thewarningsecondcoming.com) in which Jesus states that all of creation does the will of the Father, except for the part of creation that he gave free will. We humans have a hard time figuring out Gods will for us, and then, even when we do find out Gods will for us, doing Gods will.
    The rocks and earth intensely do Gods will, they will not diverge from their design. The plants and animals intensely do Gods will, including killing other animals for food or territory, because Gods will is printed in their nature.
    It seems we humans have built up this strange world of work, cars, roads, cities and entertainment and I wonder if this is what God had in mind for us. It’s all our will, all the time. Just something I have been pondering. Thanks for all your great articles at stacytrasancos.com/

  8. My husband sent me the link to this article since he knows how much I hate the wolf spiders that are trying to take over my garden this year…Thank you for your answer to these difficult questions! I still hate the spiders in my garden, but at least now I can think of them as having some deeper purpose in God’s plan than just to keep me from picking my squash 🙂

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