If you want to make the pope’s astronomer smile, ask him how to detect the presence of God with the most well-known tool of his trade.
“One doesn’t use a telescope to discover God,” said Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, S.J., the director of the Vatican Observatory, during a virtual presentation to a group of more than 100 Loyola Marymount University students, faculty and alumni on March 11.
“But what one does do,” he continued, “is to use a telescope to get to know God’s personality better.”
Consolmagno, a man with a prayerful demeanor and a playful personality, was invited by Loyola Marymount University’s Frank Seaver College of Science and Engineering to speak as part of the Jesuit university’s ongoing Seaver Spotlight series.
For an hour, participants heard him explain how a passion for astrophysics and the evolution and origin of small bodies in the solar system can live in harmony with the Catholic faith.
From his office at the Vatican Observatory facility atop Mt. Graham in southwest Arizona, Consolmagno may have quickly enlightened the group in showing there can be an official place of advanced technology under Pope Francis’ watch that doesn’t have to exist exclusively in Italy (although there is an observatory there as well).
Framing his talk as “Your God Is Too Small,” Consolmagno could use the recent events of NASA’s Perseverance rover collecting new data on Mars as an entry point to re-conceptualize a far off planet as a real place that looks very much like the planet we live on, where “we can go and have adventures … a place where we can live… a place with sunrises and sunsets.”
Relying on an array of colorful photographs of various scenes in space, Consolmagno borrowed lines from Saint Francis of Assisi’s “Laudes Creaturarum,” also known as the Canticle of the Sun, as the captions for those moments captured.
The presentation generated a sense of awe that may have set aside any intellectual debate about how one could otherwise reconcile the Big Bang Theory with the Genesis creation narrative.
“God made it and God found everything good — that’s the part missing from the scientific cosmology if you’re left only with equations,” Consolmagno said. “But that’s why we do the cosmology. Because God made it, it’s a way of getting closer to God and this universe is good and beautiful, not just the sunset, but all the equations that describe the sunset.
“What does it mean to be a fellow creature in such a huge creation?” he also asked, showing a photo from the Arizona telescope at a cluster of galaxies. “Every swatch of light is billions of stars with tens of billions of planets and hundreds of billions of such galaxies that we can see. To take that all in requires religion. I maintain that science requires religion, and not every religion allows science….”
The above comes from a March 16 story in Angelus News.