Science in the Bluegrass — The Gold Mass

Chris Graney

The Archdiocese of Louisville will celebrate science soon. You are invited to the celebration!

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre will celebrate a Gold Mass for science on Nov. 7 at St. Stephen Martyr Church, 2931 Pindell Avenue, at 6 p.m.

A meal and panel presentation featuring local Catholic scientists will follow in the Marteen Room. The science-oriented evening will conclude around 8 p.m.

Science has a big impact on us all. That impact is both good (effective medicine) and bad (destructive weaponry). Science is arguably what distinguishes modernity from the rest of human history. Science, therefore, has a big impact on the church; it has had a big impact since the days when Jesuit astronomers in Rome were contributing to the progress of science by confirming the telescopic discoveries made by Galileo.

In my work as an astronomer and historian of science with the Vatican’s astronomical observatory, I get a cool perspective on the church’s interaction with and participation in science, both across history and now.

Unfortunately, one impact that science seems to be having on the church in the United States today involves the many people who are walking away from the church (and from religion in general). Many of them are younger people. And, when asked why they are walking away, many point to science.

Now, to be clear, there is no logic to this. As I have often discussed in this column over the past three-plus years, nothing in science should lead people away from their faith. Indeed, some of the world’s greatest scientists have been people of profound faith.

Nevertheless, the “faith vs. science” myth exists. It is popular. The challenge it poses to the church is not going away any time soon.

Happily, here in central Kentucky the church is engaged with science and can address this challenge. The upcoming Gold Mass is one part of that. If you have interest in science, please come.

Another part is the Archdiocesan Faith and Science Dialogue Group (www.archlou.org/faith-and-science/). The dialogue group was started after the 2017 solar eclipse by then-Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Dr. Gerard Williger, an astronomer at the University of Louisville. It has since grown. It now includes a variety of scientists, educators, priests and lay ministers from within the archdiocese. The group has room for more members. If you’re interested, contact me via The Record at record@archlou.org with the subject: Faith & Science.

The group meets regularly to discuss faith and science questions. It plans faith and science activities within the archdiocese, such as the Gold Mass. It serves as a resource to others in the archdiocese, laypersons and clergy alike, regarding faith and science matters. It is housed under the archdiocese’s Office of Faith Formation.

Members of the dialogue group have worked with Mount St. Francis, the Office of Hispanic Ministry and the Office of Faith Formation to provide science-oriented programs for the general public, young adults, teachers and catechists. My “Science in the Bluegrass” column is itself an outgrowth of the dialogue group.

Perhaps what is most important about the Archdiocesan Faith and Science Dialogue Group and the Gold Mass is that these engagements with science exist.

They will not answer all the questions that members of the Catholic community, especially younger Catholics, have about faith and science. But the church in central Kentucky is prepared to tackle these questions.

So, if you have questions, and especially if you work with younger people who have questions, and you could use some resources to help you address those questions, contact the Office of Faith Formation at 636-0296. Or, just come to the Gold Mass for science.

Chris Graney, a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, is on the staff of the Vatican Observatory, www.vaticanobservatory.org.

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