One of the occupational hazards of priesthood is becoming a "workaholic." Priests are encouraged to take a day off every week as part of our Sabbath rest. This sounds simple enough, but between weekend Masses, sick calls, funerals, daily Mass, religious education for the parish, committee meetings, parish events, social outreach, and making sure the parish's boilers are in good working order, it is easy to fall into the trap of never taking time away from the work we do as clergy.
As is the case with many priests, I found myself in just such a scenario about two years ago. Without getting into the details, I began to see that the ministry I loved was actually creating health warning signs that I was approaching burnout. Now that I can look in the proverbial rear-view-mirror and feel thankful that the burnout I experienced is no longer a part of my priestly ministry, I now have a new goal: Make sure I never allow myself to become a workaholic again!
Through this journey, I've come to realize the importance of taking a Sabbath rest. When the Commandments call us to Keep Holy The Sabbath, many can reduce this Commandment to attending Mass on Sunday or some other type of religious observance depending on what faith tradition you affiliate with. The deeper context of the Sabbath points to two, essential needs for the human person: We need to stay grounded in our prayer and our bodies need rest.
As I have been prayerfully considering how best to keep holy the Sabbath, I'm feeling moved to use my day off as an opportunity to explore my love of music and astronomy. As I shared with you in previous posts, I had a wonderful vacation in Phoenix, Arizona after the Faith and Astronomy Workshop. After hiking up Superstition Mountain and recording music in a beautiful bowl shaped canyon, I am now inspired to relive this experience as part of my Sabbath rest.
To do this, I want to combine my love of the outdoors, music, and astronomy into a creative endeavor to help feed me spiritually. My new goal (once the weather turns to late spring/early summer) is to take periodic overnight trips to beautiful, dark sky places in Wisconsin and the Midwest, do some star gazing and astrophotography at night, and then record some of my favorite music in these beautiful places. The end result will be creating a series of short videos of my journeys that will be a kind of "Astronomy Scrapbook" of the places I've been and the things I've seen in the night sky.
Now, some of you that are familiar with Astronomy might be thinking, "Your plan sounds more like work that relaxation Father!" And, in many cases, you would be right. Astronomy is a labor intensive hobby with setup, calibration, planning, and then dealing with whatever the night throws at you in regard to weather. However, the advancements in technology combined with creative minds is taking the complexities of things like astrophotography and are providing creative solutions so many people can more easily enter into the exploration of the night sky.
There is a small company out of Singapore called TinyMOS. It is a company that is producing the first cameras that have astronomy presets that allow the beginner photographer to do "point and shoot" photography of the night sky. The way this is done is by noise reduction and shutter presets in the camera software that allows you to identify the type of object you are trying to image and then the camera automatically adjusts the exposure settings to help you take your image. I have ordered one of these cameras and have been notified that it just went to production! I contacted TinyMOS and asked them if I could do a review of their camera for The Catholic Astronomer once it arrives and they graciously agreed.
The reason I'm sharing this information with you is not to endorse this company (The Catholic Astronomer doesn't do business endorsements and this post should not be seen as one) nor am I getting any type of compensation from TinyMOS to mention their company (I'm paying the same amount as everyone else is for the camera). Instead, the reason I think you should know about TinyMOS is because of its founder, Grey Tan. When I heard his TEDx talk on why he wanted to develop a point and shoot astronomy camera, I found a number of similarities between how he came to love the night sky and the journey I have been on as a hobby astronomer. Here's his presentation to help give insight into his journey.
What strikes me about Grey Tan's presentation is how a powerful experience of seeing the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time gave birth to passion not only to create a new gizmo, but further his love and understanding of the night sky. This passion is something he wishes to share by allowing others to experience what he experienced in his astronomy class. It is this passionate heart that resonates deeply with my experience, wanting to share my love of astronomy with all of you as a Diocesan Priest. And, if the camera performs as advertised, perhaps I'll be able to share some images from my journeys to beautiful places in Wisconsin in the weeks and months ahead!
Spiritual Exercise: What experiences have you had with the night sky that drive you to want to deepen your love and understanding of astronomy? How can you possibly do astronomy as part of your Sabbath rest, getting away from the work you do and providing an opportunity to delight in God's creation? Do you take a Sabbath rest or has work become so consuming in your life that you are burning out and in need of some time for rest and rejuvenation? Pray with these questions and, together, let us find creative ways to further our love of the heavens. Who knows - It just might be that God is inviting you to behold the beauty of the cosmos as part of your Sabbath rest!