The ancient world worshipped luck. The events of life that brought good or ill were considered to have been caused by some unknown power. Tykhe is the transliteration of the Greek name for the goddess of chance events. Fortuna was the ancient Roman version. The superstitions around luck have been around for a long time. Even today one hears many people, even Christians, use "good luck" as a means of saying goodbye.
It seems like any phrase about luck is just a common utterance. But after a little thought, we find that we as Catholics should be careful of these expressions. The phrases we use are both the fruit of, and the cause of our attitudes. The more we say a phrase, the more we believe it, or at least its underlying premise. When we say "good luck" we are denying a fundamental tenet of our belief; that God is almighty, and controls all things.
Our Lord told us "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will." (MT 10:29). Not even a bird will land if it is not in accordance with God's will. God's will can be directive. He can make things happen directly. God's will can also be passive; He can allow something to happen, such as an evil act by a human being (CCC 311).
God's will is not random or capricious. He has a plan that covers everything. The arrangements God makes to complete His plan, we call Providence.
As Dr. Ludwig Ott explains it, "The Divine Plan of Providence is fulfilled with infallible certainty through the Divine government of the world, so that nothing happens without Providence or independent of it. He goes on to say "it is impossible for any event to happen which is not foreseen and desired, or at least permitted in the Divine world-plan. For God, therefore there can be neither accident, nor any fate existing above Him or conjointly with Him. To Him all world events are necessarily and inevitably subject. (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott, page 91)
How do we explain remarkable coincidences? St. Thomas Aquinas explains them in this way. "Thus, for instance, the meeting of two servants, although to them it appears a chance circumstance, has been fully foreseen by their master, who has purposely sent to meet at the one place, in such a way that the one knows not about the other." (Summa Theologica 1st Part, Q22 Art2)
Having seen then, that nothing happens without God willing it, we must return to our everyday expressions. The terms "good luck", "thank my lucky stars" or any other such terms should not be used by Catholics. St. Augustine goes to the point of saying we should not even use the word "fate" to describe God's will since this word could confuse those who may not understand its real meaning. In this case he advises "let him keep to his opinion, but hold his tongue." (City of God, Book V Ch 1)
On a related topic Catholics also reject any form of superstition about the use of, or belief in objects such as rabbit's feet, four-leaf clovers, the number "13" or any other such item.
The Church also rejects the belief that the stars influence events in our lives. Saint Thomas dismisses any idea that natural elements such as the stars can have effect on our destinies. He states "We must therefore say that what happens here by accident, both in natural things and in human affairs, is reduced to a preordaining cause, which is Divine Providence". (Summa Theologica 1st Part Q116 Art1) St. Augustine also rejects the belief that the stars determine our fates; "What judgment, then, is left to God concerning the deeds of men, who is Lord both of the stars and of men, when to these deeds a celestial necessity is attributed? (City of God, book V chapter 1)
Since God alone controls our destiny, it is idolatry to seek guidance from the stars. That means we must reject horoscopes. The Catechism denounces such items, and includes them with occult practices. "Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (CCC 2116)
The ancient pagans worshipped luck. We reject it as idolatry. If any one ever remarks that you were lucky or unlucky in something, remind them that you are a Christian. We don't believe in luck. We believe in God's will.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, October 2004.