Unlike last week, part of my reflection on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, will invite a dialogue on faith and science! However, to set up that dialogue, we need to explore some foundational principles gleaned from the Pope’s writing. At the heart of Pope Francis’ new encyclical is a commentary that could be summarized as “towards a new politics.” One of the greatest obstacles identified by Pope Francis to this new vision of politics is the slippery term, “populist.” Therefore, we will explore what the Pope is addressing when he speaks of populism and then I will invite you to offer your response on this subject as it pertains to faith and science. The Non-Populist Pope What does it mean to be a “populist?” In my home county of the United States, I think the term “populist” is seen as a bit benign. For example, our culture has an entire genre of music called “Pop” that lives and dies … Continue reading →
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. In July of 2018, Fr. James was named the Pastor of St. Olaf Parish in Eau Claire. 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.
I took a break from offering a reflection for Sacred Space Astronomy last week to build in some time to give Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, a prayerful read. My hope was to have two full readings of the encyclical done by today, but parish life has limited me to about one and a half readings at this point. Still, after reading some of the professional commentators on the encyclical, I feel confident that I have a good read on what Pope Francis is trying to accomplish. Now, is this going to be a “faith and science” piece or an astronomy reflection? No. Therefore, if you’re not really interested in reading things non-science related on this blog you can save some time and check out some of our other wonderful authors. That being said, I also feel that some of our readers might be interested in what’s going on with the Catholic Church beyond faith and science. If that’s … Continue reading →
As we continue to reflect on the hidden gems of Laudato Si’, we begin this week by exploring Pope Francis’ overarching view of the heart of Scripture’s story of salvation. It may seem incredibly simplistic, but the heart of Scripture is essentially a love story: God creates in love, we reject God’s love, and God seeks to restore that love. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. (Laudato Si’ … Continue reading →
This week, I would like to continue a brief re-visit of some of the hidden gems of Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, Laudato Si’. Again, I am offering this as a refresh before Pope Francis introduces his newest encyclical on October 3rd. Nevertheless, since Sacred Space Astronomy has also embraced reflections on Care for Creation, it never hurts to reacquaint ourselves with core principals as to why Catholicism has elevated the care of our common home to one of the core themes of Catholic Social Teaching. In that spirit, let’s get into it! 65. Without repeating the entire theology of creation, we can ask what the great biblical narratives say about the relationship of human beings with the world. In the first creation account in the Book of Genesis, God’s plan includes creating humanity. After the creation of man and woman, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31). The reason I highlighted … Continue reading →
It has been announced that Pope Francis will sign a new encyclical on human fraternity on October 3rd of this year. I cannot speak for other countries, but, as a United States citizen, I couldn’t think of a more timely theme to reflect upon. The hyper polarized nature of the United States has become rather worrisome. The co-mingling of an international pandemic and political aspirations has placed my beloved home atop a powder keg that feels ready to explode. I hope and pray that our Holy Father will provide insight and guidance during these difficult times. And if there is anything I think would be a good fit for Sacred Space Astronomy, I’ll be happy to comment on it! As we await the words of our Pontiff, the announcement drew me back to the Pope’s last encyclical, Laudato Si’. It seems like eons ago since Laudato Si’ was a hot topic. Though seldom mentioned now, it’s safe to say that … Continue reading →
The readiness is all. This famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be spun in many ways. Ironically, the times I’ve heard this quote used most, directly and indirectly, is in the context of sports. Having worked in education environments as a major part of my ministry, I often hear student athletes share with me the importance of off season programs and how games are not won or lost on the field of play, but in the weight room, the video room, and the daily 5 mile run. A good friend of mine, Kendra Pagel, is a wonderful school counselor and a successful women’s volleyball coach I had the honor to work with while I was chaplain at Regis High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In 2013, she coached the Regis Ramblers volleyball team to a Division 3 State Championship in the state of Wisconsin. When I left Regis, Kendra always invited me to her volleyball games when Regis was playing … Continue reading →
When Pope Francis put forward two new Works of Mercy that pertain to Care for Creation and Contemplation of Creation, the response was underwhelming. I wish the reason was because people realized these Works of Mercy have already been a long part of our spiritual tradition. Whether it be Maximus the Confessor’s understand of Cosmic Liturgy, St. Bonaventure’s classic the Mind’s Journey to God, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s theology of Human Ecology, or Pope Francis’ expansion of his predecessor’s work into Integral Ecology, the Catholic Church has a long tradition of expounding upon the Biblical theme of Care for and Contemplation of Creation. In regard to Contemplation of Creation, I think it’s important for us to remember that the first call to practice this spiritual Work of Mercy was presented when God makes a sacred promise with Abram (soon to be Abraham) in the book of Genesis. How beautiful for a blog dedicated to faith and astronomy that one of … Continue reading →
It’s embarrassing for me to admit, but I didn’t know what the Templeton Foundation was before Br. Guy invited me to write for Sacred Space Astronomy. Since then, not only have I been thankful the Foundation offered the Vatican Observatory a grant to help make this blog possible, but exploring the mission of the Foundation and learning about those who have received the prestigious Templeton Prize has helped me grow as a priest, a theologian, and a person. Here is a brief video explaining the mission of the Templeton Foundation. Recently, a good friend sent me a link from Word of Fire Ministries announcing they have received a major grant from the Templeton Foundation to create programs in faith and science. Of the many wonderful reasons for me to follow Word on Fire’s work in this area, the ultimate reason is rather personal: Bishop Robert Barron was one of my professors when I was in seminary. Bishop Barron, then Fr. … Continue reading →
In past posts, I shared with you the wonderful work the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has done to bring science into seminaries of all denominations. Last year, I had the honor of speaking at an AAAS sponsored program at Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Currently, as a pastor who needs to make important and stressful decisions in regard to whether or not we should have in-class religious education/formation or home-based education and formation during this pandemic, I have come to appreciate the work of the AAAS even more! Today’s post is not going to be a commentary on pieces by the AAAS, but simply a sharing of their resources for the readers of Sacred Space Astronomy. At this important time in our global history, may we walk with each other as one human community, despite our individual differences, to choose the best possible good for humanity. And let us pray that God will give … Continue reading →
One of the challenges of writing for Sacred Space Astronomy is we write for an international audience. Yes, when looking at our little readership globe, the majority of hits do come from the United States. However, Br. Guy emphasizes that we are writing to a global audience and to keep this fact in mind when posting. This creates some challenges, especially when I write of my life in Wisconsin, but, sadly, Covid-19 has made writing with a global mindset a bit easier. We, as a global community, are going through this pandemic together. Covid-19 has created much frustration and pain for many regardless of race, gender, country of origin, and/or state of life. Obviously, I would prefer that an historic moment of global unification would come through something positive. Still, this is our reality, this is our present, and this is our immediate future. This reality begs the question: What are we going to do about it? In my home … Continue reading →
This discourse… might have happened. Frustrated first-time stargazer: “Fr. James, where’s this comet you’re talking about?” Me: It’s right below the bowl of the Big Dipper. Take your hand and place it over the bowl of the Big Dipper. Turn your palm toward you and move your hand straight down to the horizon. Put the pinky side of your palm on the horizon and then look above your thumb for a fuzzy dot with a tail.” Frustrated first-time stargazer: “I don’t see it. Are you sure there’s a comet out there Father?” Me: Yes, it’s there. Look for a fuzzy dot with a fuzzy streaming tail going up.” Frustrated first-time stargazer: “You mean that little thing? Right there? That’s the once in a lifetime comet you’re talking about?” Me: “Yes! Congratulations! You found it!” Frustrated first-time stargazer: “Cool… but it doesn’t look like your pictures. Are you sure you took those pictures? You Photoshopped a fake comet in didn’t you?” … Continue reading →
Last week, I gave you some tips on how to image different objects in the night sky. This week, I’m going to give you a new tip, but first will force you to look at a slide show. Now, typically when “Father” tells you there’s going to be a slide show, the eyes roll and mystery meetings emerge that call people away from the event. Thankfully, I find with my parishioners and friends, these slides are worth sticking around for instead of finding a spontaneous reason to leave the room… or read another post! I’ll start with my most recent images from last night! After a week of being sleepless in Wisconsin chasing down dark skies, I was tired. I was temped to drive way north into some super dark skies, but I wanted to get some sleep. So, I drove about 30 minutes to a small town with “okay” skies and captured these images. Why did I choose these … Continue reading →