Between Amens — A prime opportunity to gaze upward

A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky in Grossmugl, Austria, Aug. 13. (CNS photo/Heinz-Peter Bader, Reuters)
Dr. Karen Shadle

Have you ever stood at the edge of the ocean or looked up in the sky to marvel at its vastness? Have you admired God’s handiwork? Have you considered your own small role in the universe?  

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place —  What is man that you are mindful of him?”

The psalmist wrote those words about 3,000 years ago. In the year 2023, with our advanced knowledge of cosmology and physics, our Hubble telescope and interstellar probes, are we any less amazed? Is our belief in the power of God diminished at all?

We are told that there is a binary distinction between the rational and the irrational, that fact and imagination are incompatible, and that faith and science are two independent ways of understanding the universe and we must choose one. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Church has been a patron of the sciences throughout her history, and some of the Church’s finest theological minds advanced some of science’s most radical developments. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about the physics of motion. Gregor Mendel, a monk, revolutionized the field of genetics. The Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, often considered the antithesis to a Scripture-based creation narrative, was put forth by a Catholic priest, Father Georges Lemaître.

Faith and science are natural partners. Faith gives us the ability to wonder. A sacramental imagination challenges us to see beyond objective characteristics — for example, those in bread and wine — and consider a higher meaning. Science illuminates understanding, adding to faith, not diminishing it. And both give us insight into truth. 

This weekend is a prime opportunity to gaze upward. The Perseid meteor shower, a group of “shooting stars,” will make its annual late-summer visit to light up the night sky. The ancients believed that meteor showers were omens, signs that something good or bad was about to happen. 

Today we know that the Perseid shower results from Earth’s orbit passing through debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. Bits of ice and dust heat up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in bright bursts of light. 

We know all of this and still stand captivated by the beauty of a shooting star, a beauty which points us to things even more profound — the harmony of nature, the intricacy of God’s creation, the miracle of life, and the love of God, the great Creator of all.

According to NASA, this is a great year to watch the Perseids because the moon will be at low illumination. August 12-13 is the peak night for viewing, when you can see about 100 meteors in the sky per hour. 

St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky., will have a special late Mass on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 8 p.m., followed by food and fellowship around a bonfire. All are invited to bring a chair or blanket and stay on the grounds to watch the meteor shower. Take this opportunity in summer’s waning days to be amazed and consider the work of his hands.

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