To my knowledge, nothing noteworthy happened on Saturday February 27, 1616. Let us continue with our ruminations on Biblical exegesis. History of exegesis is one of the most exciting and revealing probes into the history of thought and ideas. Which approach to interpreting authoritative texts dominates among scholars of a given period? Are there any significant alternative approaches? Is there a pattern which might explain why the “republic of letters” developed this or that particular set of attitudes? Every generation may reach an unshakable belief that only its exegetic style is admissible. Kuhn calls these curious social mindsets, “paradigms”. Our time is not exempt from this particular type of blindness, although – living in a period of upheaval and transition – we are somewhat more likely than others to realize that we might be blind. 1616 happened to be very close to one of the pivotal moments in the history of thought in general and exegesis in particular when the modern … Continue reading →
About Fr. Paul Gabor
Fr. Paul Gabor SJ was born in 1969 in Košice, Slovakia. He studied Particle Physics at Charles University Prague, Czech Republic (1988-1995). His work was primarily instrumental, participating in the development of the ATLAS detector for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva, Switzerland.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1995, did his 2-year novitiate in Kolin, Czech Republic, then 2 years of Philosophy studies in Cracow, Poland. After this, he taught philosophy for a year in Olomouc, Czech Republic, and studied Theology in Paris, France. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2004. After ordination, he earned a PhD in astrophysics in 2009 in Paris, where he again opted for instrumentation, working with Alain Léger, the author of the proposed Darwin space observatory. Gabor's work under Alain Léger was carried out at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, University of Paris XI, focusing on two optical test beds, SYNAPSE and NULLTIMATE.
Fr. Gabor is interested in the tests of achromatic phase shifters, stabilization (through optical path dithering), wave front filtering (with single mode fibers), polarization and other issues regarding the implementation of nulling interferometry, techniques and instrumentation that can be used to discover planets orbiting other stars.
Fr. Gabor joined the Vatican Observatory in September 2010. He became its Vice Director in September 2012 and is in charge of its Research Group in Tucson.
Thursday’s solemn Congregation of Cardinals Inquisitors coram Summo Pontifice (in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff) determined a number of action points. One of them was that Bellarmine would talk to Galileo. Historians differ as to what exactly happened because the official accounts of the event diverge in substantive detail. We shall return to the topic in the coming days. For the time being, suffice it to say, that on this Friday, February 26, 400 years ago, Galileo saw Bellarmine, as the latter reported the following Thursday, March 3, at the customary solemn Congregation of the Holy Office in the presence of the Pope: The Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal Bellarmine [gave] the report that the mathematician Galileo Galilei had acquiesced when warned of the order by the Holy Congregation to abandon the opinion which he held till then, to the effect that the Sun stands still at the center of the spheres but the Earth is in motion […]. (Favaro, XIX, … Continue reading →
On Thursday February 25, 1616, the solemn session of the Cardinals Inquisitors of the Holy Office presided over by the Supreme Pontiff took place at the Quirinal Palace.Continue reading →
On Wednesday February 24, 1616, the plenary meeting of consultores et qualificatores of the Holy Office reached unanimous agreement regarding two propositions encapsulating heliocentrism. This week 400 years ago at the Holy Office, the usual rhythm of work was perturbed by Monday’s Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. What is more, a Consistory was held on Wednesday. The presence of all Cardinals was required at the Consistory, and so the usual Wednesday meeting of Cardinals Inquisitors was suspended that week. Let us recall that the eleven experts who signed the finding on this day four centuries ago, had reached their verdict without much ado. In their opinion, it was obvious and incontestable. Imagine being a high-ranking official whose job it is to prepare recommendations for the government jointly with other experts. First, it would entail some study, and some pondering of pros and cons. In simple cases, being the expert, you could probably reach an opinion in a matter … Continue reading →
On Tuesday February 23, 1616, the working session of the experts of the Holy Office reached unanimous agreement regarding two propositions encapsulating heliocentrism. Four hundred years is one of the periods in the Gregorian Calendar after which the days of the months are guaranteed to fall on the same days of the week. And so it is that this year we can re-live the events of 1616 with special acuity. The Sacred Congregation for the Holy Inquisition of Heretical Error (Sacra Congregatio Sanctae Inquisitionis Haereticae Pravitatis: the official designation of this dicastery/tribunal by Sixtus V in Immensa Aeterni Dei of Feb. 11, 1588, instituting Roman Curia’s major reform) typically held two or three sessions a week. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there would be plenary sessions at Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Solemn plenary sessions, presided over by the Supreme Pontiff who was the Congregation’s head (there was no Cardinal Prefect), were held on Thursdays. In addition, the Inquisition’s officials would meet without the Cardinals at … Continue reading →
Pope Francis’s new Encyclical, Laudato Si, may face quite a few problems in the United States because of hackle-raising expressions and images. Many good American Catholics will have trouble with some passages, and these problems will arise first and foremost from gut reactions to certain phrases rather than from carefully considered and thought-through divergence of opinion. I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, under a constant onslaught of propaganda. As a result, even today, 25 years after the fall of Communism, certain phrases raise my hackles. Take the expression, “the leading force in the society”. Everybody above 40 years of age from former Czechoslovakia knows it intimately. It is firmly associated in our minds with Article 4 of Czechoslovak Constitution of 1960, establishing the Communist Party as the “leading force in the society”. Many of us spent days in public squares demonstrating for its repeal in November 1989. With such historical baggage, the otherwise perfectly innocent turn of phrase simply cannot … Continue reading →
Encore: on Wednesdays, we repost the best posts from previous months. To comment, please see the original post. My favorite astronomy picture is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image (HUDF). NASA has released its ultimate version, called XDF, a couple of years ago. Whether it is the original version of the HUDF or the XDF version, I find both absolutely breathtaking. Let me explain a little bit to help you appreciate them. The field of view is tiny: if you wanted to cover the whole sky with a grid of similar images you would have to make 16 million of them! It would not be very practical because the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) had enough trouble taking this one picture. It took it about a month of accumulated gazing at one spot in the sky to obtain just one image. Not in a million years (literally) could the HST cover the whole sky with such images! What was the point … Continue reading →
In the previous installment I started describing some of the things “everybody knows” today and how they differ from what “everybody knew” at the time of Galileo. The first was the assumption that long ago there was a golden age when everything was perfect, and that things have gone downhill ever since. We tend to assume the opposite, thinking that the past was primitive and that today is better than yesterday. In other words, the reigning metaphor for time used to be degeneration, now it is growth. This applies in particular to how people think about knowledge and learning. Galileo’s contemporaries, just as countless generations before them, thought that the fullness of knowledge existed in the mythical past, and that ignorance started creeping in with time. The most classical of text epitomizing this view is Plato’s dialogue Critias which describes Atlantis: the apex of civilization, perfect in every way – except that it is lost. Not only is Atlantis lost but even the very knowledge of … Continue reading →
As I pointed out earlier, “everybody knows” that Galileo perfected the telescope and demonstrated that the earth turned around the sun, which subsequently got him in major trouble with Church authorities. How does this “knowledge” fare in the eyes of latest historical research? Galileo lived four centuries ago, in a world which was similar to our own in many ways but also quite different in others. Travel was difficult and perilous. The only way how to communicate at a distance was by courier (including courier pigeon). Books were still extravagantly expensive and research was possible only in a few centres equipped with good libraries. Europeans did not use toilet paper. The schools of medicine taught future doctors that a patient’s state is determined by the current position of stars, especially those that imprinted his or her moment of birth with an indelible mark. Four centuries have not altered the fact that people always take many things as given. They are not necessarily the same things. Our historical … Continue reading →
Everybody knows that noon sun is in the south, and that it travels from left to right in the sky. Everybody knows that… until they go to the southern hemisphere where it is the other way around. Noon sun is in the north, and it travels from right to left. Things that “everybody knows” often come from a kind of habit which we take for granted. Understandably so. We cannot spend hours, days and weeks researching and thinking through every single piece of information we need in everyday situations. It would quickly become impossible to function. We could not even make a cup of tea in the morning without thinking through whether it is a good idea, without knowing where this particular tea bag came from, and how does the kettle really work… “Knowing” certain things without lengthy ruminations is not merely practical: it is necessary and inevitable. The down side is that there are many things “everybody knows” which are inaccurate or simply not … Continue reading →
The United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of Light to promote global awareness of optics and photonics. From the onset, the IYL project contains a dimension of great importance to the astronomical community, namely, quality lighting (and dark sky protection) for our continuing study of cosmic light and access to it. The International Astronomical Union’s Executive Committee WG on IYL is chaired by Richard Green who works at Steward Observatory. Richard convened a meeting of Southern Arizona professional observatories approach to IYL which took place on Wednesday, December 3, 2015. The Vatican Observatory was represented by Chris Corbally and me. The main action point is that we would like to work towards a kick-off event coinciding with Pi Day on March 14 (3/14/15 9:26 pm) which also happens to be Einstein’s birthday. It is a Saturday and very close to the New Moon – a great opportunity for star parties. It also coincides with Tucson Festival of Book on UA … Continue reading →
On Wednesday, December 3, I gave a talk at the Newman Center in Tucson. The Center is just across the intersection from Steward Observatory where we have our offices on University of Arizona’s campus. Over the 33 years of Vatican Observatory’s institutional presence in Tucson, its Jesuit personnel have had good or outstanding collaboration with the Dominicans who are in charge of the Newman Center. Fr Bill Stoeger animated the St Albert the Great Forum for many years, a well-established group which has acquired a circle of regular participants. This is in many ways an excellent feature but it also represents a major disadvantage: the regulars are quite articulate and when a young student appears he or she tends to remain silent, and only rarely will he or she become a regular. Fr Jacek Buda, O.P., suggested that we might try something new. I agreed to give a somewhat meditative talk on September 17, based on astronomical images conveying the … Continue reading →