In Astrorum Mari

by Edmund Nasralla

Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Pantaleon III to the bishops of Aras Osek on the occasion of the centennial of the Archdiocese of Vaish Anak.

Your Excellencies,
Most Reverend Brothers,

§1. Our Redeemer has made a way in the sea of stars, so that all the children of men may reach him, but until the present age some of his footsteps remained unknown (cf. Psalm 76:19). How unsearchable are the ways of him (Rom. 11:33) who has granted to his Church the discovery of a part of the human family living at the outer reaches of our galaxy! We say rightly that this grace was granted to the Church, for the discovery was made by the Pontifical Star Fleet. Fr. Idelfonso Moreno Castanza, S.J.R., commander of the Siderum Rector, first encountered them on October 3rd A.D. 4248, the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions. This intrepid son of the Reformed Company of Jesus at first assumed that those whom he found on an unnamed planet in the system ER 486-F must be explorers like himself. A skilled linguist, Fr. Moreno Castanza was soon able to deduce that, though these people spoke a semitic dialect, it corresponded to no known language on Earth or the other inhabited worlds. They were also clearly not a people capable of space flight.

§2. Who remains ignorant of what happened afterwards? The priest learned that these people called themselves the Uskin. They were the remnants of a great kingdom which some cataclysm in the distant past had all but annihilated. Within a short time, these people were able to explain to Fr. Moreno that they were those whom God had taken away from a place which in their tongue is called “Aras Ur” (that is, “Bright Land”) to a place which is called “Aras Osek” (that is, “Land of Darkness”). Indeed, the skies of Aras Osek never brighten more than twilight on Earth, and the stars there are visible at midday.

§3. The Reformed Company of Jesus returned to Aras Osek with many missionaries. The Uskin received the Gospel with joy. They were converted in such numbers and so quickly, that our predecessor, Leo XXII, established the Diocese of Vaish Anak in A.D. 4257, not ten years from the day that the good news of Jesus Christ was first preached on that world. The Uskin saw in the Scriptures, especially the First Book of Moses, all which they had ever believed about themselves and the world that they inhabited. Indeed, they seemed already to know many of the things which the first chapters of Genesis contained.

§4. The Uskin recognized in the person of Enoch, the antediluvian patriarch who “walked with God and was seen no more because God took him” (cf. Gen.5:24), the first of their kind. Enoch, whom the Uskin call Ahnek, is considered the first king of their people. Peleg, the son of Heber, of whom the Scriptures say that “in his days the Earth was divided” (10:25), is another of those whom the Uskin revere as one of their fathers. They know him as Falach. The division of the world mentioned in Genesis, the Uskin claim, was a time when God took many people away to Aras Osek from Aras Ur in the years after a great flood which nearly destroyed mankind in that place.     

§5. The conversion of the Uskin has brought untold joy. Their zeal for the true faith and the works of righteousness has been a model to all believers on Earth and in the colonized worlds, such that we have no need to speak of it (cf. 1Thess 1:7-8). And yet a shadow has fallen over Aras Osek, not indeed a physical darkness, but a spiritual one. For the spirit of contention and strife, sadly never absent from the Ecclesia militans in this fallen universe, has shown itself among some of you. For this reason, most Excellent Brothers, we have decided to write to you concerning some of these matters, in order that certain needless disputes may be settled, and that charity, which is the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14), be reestablished.  

§6. While their arrival on another world before the invention of interstellar travel cannot readily be explained, it is surely erroneous to suggest that the Uskin have some other origin than our first parents or—as some brash and unthinking persons have dared to suggest—that they are not human! Together with our predecessor Pius XII, we affirm that, “…the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.” (Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 37).

 Let no one object that the pope spoke only of Earth, for his words are valid for all worlds where man resides. Both divine revelation and genetic analysis demand that we consider the Uskin as members of our kind, suffering from the effects of the fall, and called to salvation in Jesus Christ Our Lord.

§7. Some have dared to forbid the Uskin from venerating Enoch, Peleg, and others mentioned in the book of Genesis as their forefathers, calling this belief unfounded superstition and even heresy. But there is nothing contrary to right reason or revelation in this belief. Indeed, what better explanation can be provided for the presence of the Uskin on Aras Osek than the one which they themselves have provided us? What can the “Bright Land” be if not the Earth? This may seem unexpected, but God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Is. 55:8). “Who has been his counselor” (Rom 11:34)? What the Uskin believe on these matters is both possible and pious. We therefore command that they be allowed to hold these beliefs unmolested. 

§8. Various disputes have arisen concerning the Liturgy in the dioceses of Aras Osek. We declare that the Liturgy may be translated into the Uskin language, but only in the classical or hieratic form of that tongue which is now primarily used in writing. Moreover, in accordance with the decrees of Lateran Council VII, this permission does not include the Roman Canon, which must always be in Latin. As soon as it is possible to do so, the Liturgy must be celebrated entirely in the Church’s official language. For how else can the integrity and unity of the faith be maintained? We grant permission, in those places where the custom has already been introduced, to add the words “and to Ahnek our father” to the words of the Confiteor.  

§9. Such are the things, Reverend Brothers, which in our fatherly solicitude we desired to tell you. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond these requirements (cf. Acts 15:28). The rest we shall tell you when, God willing, we ourselves travel to Aras Osek later this year to open the centennial celebrations. Be assured, beloved Brothers, of our prayers for you and those entrusted to your care. We humbly ask your prayers also for us who, apart from other concerns here on Earth, have also the care of all the churches (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28) spread throughout the galaxy. We are consoled by the knowledge that Our Lord, who brought the Uskin to their home without any starship, and reserved their discovery and conversion for these latter days, has also the power to bring us to our true home in heaven. To you and all your faithful, we gladly impart our Apostolic Blessing.          

Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, on the 1st of May, Feast of the Holy Apostles Philip and James, in the year of Our Lord 4357, the third of our pontificate.

Pantaleon PP. III

~

Bio:

Edmund Nasralla is an American writer living in Europe. His work requires him to think often of religious questions. Occasionally, it allows him time to explore those questions in the form of fiction. He has been published previously in Sci Phi Journal.

Philosophy Note:

We often assume that, if intelligent life is to be found on other planets, it will necessarily be alien. What if we found ourselves out there instead? The Catholic Church has dealt with analogous situations in the past here on Earth. How would she deal with finding humans on other worlds? The biblical figures of Enoch and Peleg, though mentioned only very briefly, are fascinating to me, as they offer the possibility a very different kind of ancient astronaut.

2 Comments

  1. Reading this on May 1, LOL. I guess Catholics in the future have scrapped Saint Joseph the Worker? Really fascinating premise. More please.

  2. Excellent stuff.

    There’s an surprisingly high number of Jesuits in first-contact SF, it should be noted.

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