Across the Universe: Ordinary Time
avatar

This column was first published in The Tablet in June, 2006. The coincidence of the church calendar it mentions is also true this year, 2015… the text has been slightly altered to align it with 2015’s calendar. The work detailed here outlines what I was doing nine years ago. An update appears at the end of the column.) This past weekend marked an unusual event in our recent Church calendar: a Sunday in “Ordinary Time.” What with Lent and the Easter season, and then the special Feasts of the Trinity and the Sacred Heart (celebrated last Friday), Ordinary Time has been rare lately. But I’ve been celebrating “ordinary time” at the Vatican Observatory as well. Unusual for me, I’ve actually been able to manage a month’s uninterrupted work in my laboratory. My airline’s frequent flyer program tells me I’ve flown over 27,000 miles since the last ordinary Sunday before Lent: an observing run at the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, a meeting at … Continue reading

Across the Universe: DIY Religion
avatar

This column first appeared in The Tablet in May, 2005 Astronomy pulls you out of your day to day world and makes you realize that the universe has bigger questions than “what’s for dinner?” and “why is my boss such a pain?” But what does an astronomer do to pull himself out of a day-to-day already filled with galaxies and black holes? In January, 2005, I began a Jesuit program called Tertianship, a period of study and prayer leading up to final vows where I’ve been challenged to move outside my own familiar modes of spirituality, to work outside my comfort zone. For me, that has meant working with people. For six weeks in May, 2005, I lived at Santa Clara University, talking religion to engineers and scientists in Silicon Valley. The pattern of religious life for these “techies” is familiar: Students are consumed by questions about ultimate truth and the meaning of their own lives. Many 20-year-olds reject organized religion. By the time … Continue reading

Talking Faith and Science, Part II (FAW): What works?
avatar

As you recall, in January we held the first of what we hope to be an annual series of Faith and Astronomy Workshops. The 25 participants, educators, priests, and deacons from parishes from across the US and Mexico, gathered to learn a little astronomy from the inside while chatting about how we can combine astronomy into our ministries. In the first of these posts, I summarized how the participants described their experiences dealing with science and religion in their home parishes. In this post, I want to talk about their reflections on strategies that work… and don’t work. By the way, the participants all get a one-year membership to The Catholic Astronomer. I encourage them – and everyone else – to comment on this posting. Let’s keep the conversation going!   The second day, we addressed the question: What are basic strategies that have worked (or not worked)? The assumption is this: you are a scientifically literate member of a parish. How do you help others in your parish appreciate … Continue reading

Br. Guy Diary: January 17
avatar

My plan is to post regular updates, about once a week I hope, on my current work and the doings at the Vatican Observatory. This might give the members of our Sacred Space an idea of what our day to day life is like. Let me know if you enjoy these entries! This week: What is Life? Learning to FUZE, and a visit from the Jesuit Refugee Service. Another busy week! Learning to Fuze: My big tasks this week were to get ready for the online course I am teaching for the Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy which began on Thursday. What astronomy do you teach a bunch of kids with different backgrounds? I have decided on a radical course – at least, I think it is radical. Instead of using a standard textbook, I am having the class buy H. A. Rey’s classic book, The Stars. By midterm they should have learned most of the constellations, plus the material in the back of … Continue reading

RIP Fr. Andy Whitman SJ
avatar

Below the cut is the official obituary for Fr. Andy Whitman SJ, who died this past week. Andy was a part of the Vatican Observatory for many years. His speciality was Lie Algebra – he wrote the book on the topic, which you can download in pdf format here. Andy was a fixture and a character… the type specimen of the “old coot” who always brought a smile wherever he went. Andy spent a lot of time teaching in Brazil before joining us, and he still maintained his work with a remote mission outpost up the Amazon River even as he worked on his math (and did the books for the Observatory in Tucson). He was a man of many talents and enormous grace; we miss him. Father Andrew P. Whitman, S.J. was called to eternal life on January 7, 2015, at Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, LA. He was 88 years old, a Jesuit for 63 years and a priest … Continue reading

Br. Guy’s Diary: January 9, 2015
avatar

My plan is to post regular updates, about once a week I hope, on my current work and the doings at the Vatican Observatory. This might give the members of our Sacred Space an idea of what our day to day life is like. Let me know if you enjoy these entries! This week: revising Vesta (again), talking lots of stuff, and a return for Brother Tom. Science: The Vesta paper was revised, sent to my co-authors, revised by them, fixed by me, sent back to them… and there is one more set of fixes to make. But I fully intend to submit it to the journal tomorrow morning. Really. Meanwhile, Rich has spent this week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, where he gave a paper. I picked him up at the airport this afternoon; with him is a colleague from Lithuania. They’ll be heading up to the VATT (our telescope) tomorrow. Talks: Along with sending some more material for … Continue reading

Br Guy’s Diary: December 31, 2014
avatar

My plan is to post regular updates, about once a week I hope, on my current work and the doings at the Vatican Observatory. This might give the members of our Sacred Space an idea of what our day to day life is like. Let me know if you enjoy these entries! This week: revising Vesta, talking Galileo, and voyages near and far. Science: The science on my agenda this month is to resubmit our paper on Vesta. For the past couple of years I have been working with a team of scientists in Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Russia and Japan to look over the likely internal structure of asteroid 4 Vesta in light of the new data we have gotten from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Our paper was written up and submitted in early September; the editors of the journal we sent it to, Icarus, passed it out to a couple of other scientists who checked it over for errors and other … Continue reading