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The day we found the universe

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Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. Another epiphany that occurred in January -- January 1, 1925 -- is celebrated and explored in a recently published book I'm reading now. Until that date, we humans didn't know exactly where we were. That day astronomers learned conclusively that the universe extends at least a million light years or more and faint clouds of light observed by the world’s largest telescope at the time twinkled from distant galaxies. Essentially, the date marked the universe’s discovery, science writer Marcia Bartusiak argues in her newly published history of early 20th century astronomy, The Day We Found the Universe, published by Pantheon Books.

I wrote a column last month about the important night sky light -- that of the Andromeda galaxy -- that enabled Edwin Hubble to make his important discovery that was formally announced on Jan. 1 in 1925, that our Milky Way home galaxy is just one of billions.

Riffing with myth

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'Avatar,' like all good sci-fi films, asks, 'What does it mean to be human?'

People can say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that what's we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alone. That's what it's all finally about, and that's what these clues [myths] help us to find within ourselves.

—Joseph Campbell

Randall Terry Strikes Again!

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Randall Terry is at it again. The anti-abortion extremist has indulged in racist street theater directed at the President and his interview with Archbishop Raymond Burke last year raised eyebrows before eliciting a semi-apology from Burke for his criticism of brother bishops. Now, he is planning to participate in a training session held at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. the weekend after the March for Life according to a report at Alternet.org. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington said that the event was being organized not by Terry but by Missy Smith, who is affiliated with Insurrecta Nex, the renamed version of Terry’s Operation Rescue.

Terry is more than a nuisance. He undermines the credibility of the pro-life movement. In one video he released, he brings the body of an aborted fetus in front of the cameras, reducing a human tragedy to the status of a prop, exploiting the dignity of human life that he purports to champion.

Tridentine liturgies being celebrated in Rome

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This from Catholic New Service:

ROME — Top officials from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments will be principal celebrants at Tridentine liturgies during a conference in Rome this week. The Tridentine rite, in use before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, is also called the extraordinary form of the liturgy.

U.S. Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, secretary of the Vatican congregation, will celebrate solemn pontifical vespers and benediction in the extraordinary form at the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, located inside the Vatican walls, Jan. 6.

On Jan. 7, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the worship congregation, will celebrate a solemn pontifical Mass in the extraordinary form at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The conference is being co-sponsored by the U.S.-based Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy to mark the Year for Priests.

The universe glorifies God

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"The universe glorifies God in a way that I never would have known had I not tried to understand the universe scientifically," Jesuit Fr. George Coyne told NCR editor Tom Fox in an NCR Podcast interview in May 2007, shortly after the priest had retired after nearly 30 years at the Vatican Observatory.

I remembered that quote Sunday; it seemed an especially apt to celebrate the Epiphany (which many of you will celebrate tomorrow).

Coyne was honored earlier this week by the American Astronomical Society for his work in building a Vatican-sponsored summer school for young astronomers and promoting discussions on the intersection of religion and science.

I wonder if those astronomers made the Magi connection?

Here's the news story: US astronomers honor Jesuit astronomer

If you have 26 minutes, listen to the podcast episode titled: How do you reconcile faith and science?

More Tragedy Coming in Sudan

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An article at Foreign Policy makes for some depressing reading. “There's a new Sudan calamity in the making, and it may well come in 2010 with a unilateral declaration of independence by the enclave of South Sudan,” writes J. Peter Pham, a senior fellow at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. “If it does, the resulting conflict stands to be more painful, militarized, and devastating than Sudan has ever known. Imagine Darfur with a lot more guns, not to mention Chinese fighter jets.”

Locating the holy

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The sisters prepared us well. On the day of days we dressed all in white – shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirt, even a white belt. “Don’t let it touch your teeth,” Sr. Agatha Irene warned, “and if, God forbid, you get sick, vomit, the priests know what to do. And remember only he can touch the host with his consecrated hands!”

Just before the priest’s fingers deposited the wafer on my outstretched tongue, I recall I trembled. How could I accommodate this presence in the same mouth that filled with sugary grape Kool-Aid in the summer, spongy Twinkies on school day afternoons? Into that familiar orifice came the same bread that dwelt in the silent, golden tabernacle with the ornate candle perpetually burning before it. That object of adoration, somehow transmuted into the substance of the very shaper and crafter of the seas and skies, the Love that moves the sun and stars, melted on my fluttering tongue.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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