A couple months ago, I received a call from Hilary Ribbons from Guideposts. Hilary writes for the branch of Guideposts that publishes Mysterious Ways and asked if they could do an article with me on faith and science. Below is a Q and A they did with me apart from the article. To visit the original post, click here to read Look to the Heavens: A Conversation With Fr. Kurzynski.
An excerpt from the Q and A, originally published by Guideposts.com on March 5, 2019
How did your interest in astronomy and faith begin?
It started as a kid. I grew up in rural Wisconsin on our family farm. I was really blessed to be born in a very dark part of the state with clear skies where I could see the stars. I was a daydreamer who loved to lie in the backyard and marvel at the beauty of the night sky. I would look at the heavens and be amazed with God’s love for me. The deep connection we share with creation and with God was very self-evident to me as a child when I saw the stars at night. It sparked a lot of questions for me, so I began to grow up on faith and science.
I went on to minor in astronomy in college. When I entered seminary, I wanted to explore some of the classic questions of faith and science, but my seminary didn’t have any classes on that. That’s when I reached out to the Vatican Observatory, and ended up working with them to help create the “Faith and Astronomy Workshop.”
There are many stunning sights in this world that elicit awe and wonder, and make us think of our faith and of God, but it seems that the night sky holds a particularly powerful experience for many. Why do you think that is?
When you look at a night sky and see what seem to be just pinpricks of light in exception to the moon, the honest question you always ask is: What else is out there?
When you begin to look into that, you start to understand the immense distances between our earth and everything else. You start talking about things like billions of light years and the size of our solar system. So it can be a very normal tendency to see ourselves as incredibly small. For some, this leads to a crisis of faith, because unfortunately, a modern presumption is that we need to be significant in proportion to creation to be important in God’s eyes. But Scripture doesn’t support this idea. In fact, it supports the opposite idea. Scripture says that it is in smallness that we find our meaning. It is when we are small that God can lift us up.
The philosopher G.K. Cheserton wrote a sketch in his book Tremendous Trifles that illustrates this well. In it, two friends are each granted a wish. One wishes to become a giant, while one wishes to be made very small. The giant is underwhelmed by the world, which seems tiny from his perspective, and unimpressive. The small man, on the other hand, remains in a constant state of awe and wonder.
What can we make of the tumultuous relationship between science—like astronomy—and religion?
Actually, the original history was that astronomy and faith were very closely connected. It wasn’t until recent day that the fight dimension has taken hold. When you look at the nature of science and faith, they’re not at odds with each other. Science examines the physical world and remains neutral about God and faith. Science doesn’t have the ability to explain everything. The proper relationship between science and faith is as dialogue partners.
It’s one thing to ask, as science does, “How are we here?” But it’s another to ask, “Why do I exist? Why do I feel the need to search for purpose? Why does my life seem to be meaningful?” The calling that we have to ask these questions, to improve ourselves, points us to something beyond ourselves. It shows us that something is calling to us as we’re calling to it.
Are there places in the Bible, or early in Judeo-Christian history, where we can see this close connection?
Have a great Monday!