You Are The Bridge: Exploring “the Gap” Between Faith and Science

What is the bridge between faith and science? At this year's Faith and Astronomy Workshop (FAW2017), a simple, but powerful answer to this question emerged: You are the bridge between faith and science.

Since then, I have been wrestling with the question: What does a relational approach to faith and science look like? Too often we fall into the trap of reducing faith and science to a set of intellectual arguments one can find in a book. The reason I find this dangerous is that it removes the human element and turns faith and science into a mere intellectual exercise of thesis, antithesis, and new thesis to borrow a model from the philosopher Hegel. Absent from this approach is the realization that truth is found not only in written arguments, but in the encounter of human hearts.

To look at this from a slightly different angle, as a Catholic Priest, I am often pressed by non-Catholics to defend my faith. Over the years, I have become quite skilled at "apologetics" or the ability to provide clear, reasonable explanations for the Church and what She teaches. Nevertheless, no matter how good my arguments may be, I cannot think of a single person who decided to try out Catholicism because of one of my arguments.

However, through powerful relational experiences, like administering the Sacrament of Anointing to a parishioner before their death, I have had family who have fallen away from the Church express a willingness to give Catholicism a second chance. This openness to faith did not come through the words I spoke, but through a sacred relationship found in the Sacraments. These moments remind me that when human relationships are commingled with divine relationships, God can speak in ways that go beyond the written word.

In a similar way, I often find the most compelling "arguments" for a relationship between faith and science come through interaction with people who explore this relationship as a part of their everyday life. When someone encounters a brilliant scientist who is also a devout Catholic, the list of apologetic questions fades to the background as the experience of this person becomes a living witness to what a relationship between faith and science looks like. We cease to look for a "third source" bridge that can intellectually bring faith and science together. Rather, it is through the encounter of the other and the exploration of truth in community that illuminates how faith and science can walk hand in hand. Similar to the family member willing to give the Church another chance through a sacred encounter, the communal experience of exploring faith and science as a relationship opens the door for God to speak to people of faith and people of science in ways that transcend equations and theories.

In the spirit of sharing the fruits of the Vatican Observatory Foundation's Youtube page, below are two videos well worth watching that embody the idea of people being the bridge between faith and science. The first is a video with fellow blogger, Christopher Graney, and Vatican Observatory staff member Fr. Paul Mueller discussing a number of significant priests, religious, and Catholic lay people of science. The video nicely explores those who's very life exemplifies how people are ultimately the bridge between faith and science.

The second video is of Vatican Observatory scientist Fr. Chris Corbally having a discussion with Br. Guy about the idea of finding life on other planets. Personally, there is nothing I find more fascinating than listening to the Jesuit Scientists of the Vatican Observatory share their work and passion for science. Again, they are living witnesses of how it is ultimately people who are the bridge between faith and science.

Enjoy these videos and may they encourage you to see in yourself a living bridge between faith and science as we walk together in the common exploration of truth.

Video Two:

Fr. James Kurzynski

About Fr. James Kurzynski

Fr. James Kurzynski is a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin and a hobby astronomer. Originally from the small town of Amherst in rural central Wisconsin, Fr. James completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, majoring in Applied Music (Saxophone, Voice, and Composition). After graduating from UW-SP, Fr. James worked at the University of Nebraska at Kearney as a Hall Director and pursued a M.S.ed. in Group Counseling. After a year at UNK, Fr. James left his position to attend the University of Saint Mary of the Lake - Mundelein Seminary to discern his priestly vocation.

Fr. James earned a Bachelor in Sacred Theology, a Master of Divinity, and a License in Sacred Theology. While pursuing these degrees, Fr. James also studied Spiritual Theology with the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Fr. James was ordained a priest June 28, 2003. Fr. James’ first assignment was as an Associate at the Tri-Parishes of St. Mary’s - Durand, Holy Rosary Parish - Lima, and Sacred Heart Parish - Mondovi. After two years, Fr. James was assigned as Chaplain and Instructor of Religion at Regis Middle and High School and was also assigned Associate Vocation Director. In his final year at Regis, Fr. James was also appointed Parochial Administrator of Saint Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, serving south east Eau Claire County. From 2012-2015, Fr. James served as Pastor of Roncalli Newman Parish, serving the college students of Western Technical College and the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. In 2015, Fr. James was named Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Menomonie, Wisconsin, which also serves St. Joseph's Grade School (3K thru 6) and the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. In 2017, in addition to his responsibilities to St. Joseph Parish and StoutCatholic, Fr. James was also named Pastor of St. Luke Parish in Boyceville, Wisconsin. Fr. James also teaches Introduction to Philosophy for the Diocese of La Crosse’s diaconal formation program.

In regard to his interest in astronomy, Fr. James is a member of both the Chippewa Valley Astronomical Society and the La Crosse Area Astronomical Society. He taught an Introduction to Astronomy course during his time at Regis High School in Eau Claire. Fr. James' first involvement with the Vatican Observatory came when an inquiry led to the development of the first "Faith and Astronomy Workshop" (FAW), designed for parish educators and clergy that are not professional scientists.

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You Are The Bridge: Exploring “the Gap” Between Faith and Science — 3 Comments

  1. Hello Father James. As one of the very fortunate and honoured to be there participants of the 2017 FAW, I was especially happy to read your very insightful post. The “you are the bridge” theme was one of the more powerful messages that I came away with–in fact, I think that it summed up the outcome of the retreat and workshop most effectively.

    Like most participants, I suspect, I am still percolating, processing and pondering all that I learned and experienced during the course of the week, and perhaps most importantly, the joy of meeting and interacting with the other participants. What we learned and what we can take forward and share with others while “being the bridge” is not as simple and tidy as a power point presentation ( although that will certainly be an important tool ) or a handout with all the “answers” . As you say, it is relational and it is about human relationships. We will build that bridge during a slow and iterative process of every day conversations. It can be as simple as having a conversation with a colleague, friend or family matter, who asks about the FAW workshop and what it was all about .( I have had plenty of those conversations since I got back, as I’m sure others have had. Each one is bridge building opportunity ) It can be as simple and rewarding as hearing someone say ” I didn’t know there was a Vatican Observatory ” or ” I didn’t know that the Church did science..” That is how it starts…

    For me, one of the more meaningful takeaways was the opportunity to see, meet and converse with the men of science who are also clergy and men of God. This is truly “walking the walk” and it was enlightening and fun to see and hear then in both capacities. Again, I feel so honoured to have had this opportunity,

    I look forward to hearing from fellow participants as to how they will continue this bridge building journey. As for me–I am still sorting that out but I am committed to start the building –even if it is in those simple day to day conversations.

    A special thanks for including the video of Brother Guy and Father Chris discussing the impact of the discovery of life elsewhere ( whatever that life may be ) on faith. As you may or may not recall from our conversations, this topic is my specific passion and the nature of my own blog and website, so this was a real gift. And it was made all the more special by the fact that it was filmed in a setting where I had also sat for outdoor mass. I will never forget that beautiful Arizona sunset— a real treat for this gal from Northern Ontario:)

    Clear skies and God Bless.

  2. Pingback: You Are The Bridge: Exploring “the Gap” Between Faith and Science – Astrónomos Jesuitas del Observatorio Astronómico del Vaticano

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