Sunday, January 18, 2009


We had a very clear night the other night while I've been home, and despite the light pollution which accompanies being in a large metropolitan area, the stars were bright and beautiful.

I felt a powerful sense of awe and wonder, as so many have felt when allowing themselves to pause and contemplate the wonders of the night sky. I'm half a world away (and eleven time zones) from Down Range, but the same stars illumine that part of the globe (though not at the same time!).

The beauties of nature have always impressed me, even from the time I was very young. I suspect that's one of the reasons why I wound up loving science, and especially biology.

It was thus a great honor -- and a real blast -- to spend a summer at La Speccola Vaticana (the Vatican Astronomical Observatory) many years ago, doing astronomical research. This was something I'd never done before (and haven't done since), and something I'd never imagined myself doing.

(Hmm. Here I am in the Army, something I've never done before, and something I'd never imagined myself doing. I guess there's a pattern here!)

Living at the Papal Palace at Castel Gandolfo for the summer turned out to be a memorable experience. The Jesuits who lived and worked there came from all over the world. A number of us went running every afternoon in the Papal gardens, among Roman ruins dating back to a century before the Common Era. I went swimming in the Papal pool (who knew that Pope John Paul II had built an indoor pool in the gardens there?) with the Swiss Guards.

I met Pedro Arrupe, the General of the Society of Jesus, who'd had a stroke and was able to speak only Spanish at that point. (I was supposed to translate for my buddies as I was speaking with him, but got so caught up in the experience, I forgot to.)

I identified seven hundred red giant stars near the center of our galaxy, using data gathered at the observatory at Cerro Tololo, Chile. (Not bad for a neophyte, eh?) Instead of looking *up* at the stars that summer, I was looking *down* through a microscope. Weird, eh?

The stars here at home, or at Castel Gandolfo, or above Cerro Tololo, or Down Range continue to fascinate and delight me. I'm reminded of a passage from the Psalms:

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?" (NRSV: Ps 8:3-4)

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

View My Profile

No comments:

Powered By Ringsurf