This week, I will have the privilege of joining scientists from the Vatican Observatory, friends of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, and 24 participants at the third Faith and Astronomy Workshop (FAW). Having greatly enjoyed the previous FAW events, both as a participant and a presenter, I greatly look forward to what this year's Workshop has in store.
Amid the excitement, there is also a sobering reality I take with me. Recently, the The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has published a study, commissioned by St. Mary's Press, on why young people are leaving the Catholic Church. Though the results showed a complex tapestry of reasons why millennials are leaving in large numbers, one of the central findings was that young people see science and Catholicism as incompatible. (Click Here to read Our Sunday Visitors summary of the study.)
I would be quite naive to think that one workshop can change the cultural winds of the relationship between faith and science. Nevertheless, when I think of the experiences I have had listening to priests and lay people who are professional scientists speak about astronomy from their perspective as Christians, visiting active NASA sights, visiting professional Observatories that are on the cutting edge of modern research, and meeting clergy and lay participants from different countries talk about their love of faith and science, I can't help but wonder: What went wrong with the perception of the relationship between faith and science?
Many of you may be quite eager to jump in at this point, sharing numerous reasons why this relationship got off track like Galileo, the "God of the Gaps" problem stemming from Newton to Intelligent Design advocates, and curriculum trials in the United States over what "science" should be studied in school. Yes, there are many things that have contributed to our current struggles.
At the same time, we need to find a way, as people of faith, to reset the narrative, rid the discussion of its inflammatory tendency, dispense with the rhetoric and embrace the truth: The Catholic Church supports real science.
FAW brings people of faith into the world of professional science, inviting them to discover their own bridges between faith and science. The hope is that these bridges can then be used to help their students and parishioners better understand the relationship between faith and science. In light of the CARA study, this is a relationship that we desperately need to communicate to the People of God.
Please keep us in prayer this week that God may reveal those bridges to all the participants and presenters at FAW2017. And may we embrace and promote the true relationship between faith and science as a dialogue in the pursuit of truth.
Below are images from the past two FAW events. Also, click HERE to read a very nice article written by Dennis Sadowski about his visit to FAW last year. Enjoy!