On Relics.

Here is a link to a fascinating look at St. Teresa of Calcutta and astronomy. It’s written by an American priest, Fr. James Kurzynski. Well worth a read.

Astronomy and Mother Teresa’s Shoes: Relics of the Sacred.

Published in: on September 8, 2016 at 16:52  Leave a Comment  
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Deum Creatorum venite adoremus.

The Society for the History of Astronomy(http://www.shastro.org.uk/) held their Spring conference in Manchester at Cheetham school of Music’s library.


The outside of the library.




Climbing up the stairs to the library.



One of the two corridors with side rooms full to the ceiling with books.

Amongst all the talks taking place in the 14th. century building the one I most looked forward to was given by Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ. He did not disappoint.   He spoke about the role of Jesuits in Astronomy.

Brother Consmolango.

Brother Consolmagno

One of the most amazing facts was how quickly after St. Ignatius Loyola (or Inigo to his friends) founded the order were their members involved in research and scientific education. The order was founded in 1540 just three years before Nicholas Copernicus published his ‘On The Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres’ which suggested that the Sun rather than the Earth was at the centre of the Solar System.

One of Inigo’s calls was to find God in everything, the church holds that the universe is real (which may seem like stating the obvious but some schools of philosophy disagree), that it follows laws (and is not run on the whim of nature gods doing as they please) and that to study the Universe is an act of worship.

Father Clavius’ work on maths.

The first Jesuit that Br. Consolmagno mentioned was Fr. Christopher Clavius (1538-1612) who under the order of Pope Gregory XIII worked on reforming the calendar giving us the now commonly used Gregorian calendar. As part of his research the ‘Tower of the Winds’ was built in the Vatican to measure the calendar and to help determine the dates of feasts. He was responsible for the rigorous teaching of maths in schools, his textbooks being used for decades after his death.


Another Priest was Giovanni Riccioli (1598-1671) who reformed the way features on the moon were named and discovered that there was a binary system in the Plough (Alcor and Mizar) and that  Alpha Centauri is also a binary. He was responsible for building an observatory in Bologna and for constructing many varied scientific instruments.


Then there was Maximillian Hell, he observed the transit of Venus from Sweden. His reputation and importance were ignored until the 1860’s.



Next to be mentioned was Angelo Secchi (1818-1878) who classified over 5000 stellar spectra helping astronomy to move from simply astrometry to a physical science. In 1865 he started to observe the sun and being in possession of magnetometers was able to show that the sun affected that Earth. He also observed Mars and made mention of ‘canali’ which later became interpreted as canals and artificial ones at that by a non-religious observer!


The Vatican observatory still runs today – now in Arizona – despite the many attempts by civil authorities to close it down especially by the Garibaldi government. Today the observatory works in collaboration with other observatories as well as astronomers who want to test out ideas before submitting them for time on more major and costlier facilities.


At lunch time we were able to visit the library where there were original books written by Jesuits. (More photos to follow when I find the cable to transfer them onto the computer!)DSCN0176


When asked about how science and religion are perceived by each other the good Brother made the point that the seeming antagonism (especially in the USA) is due more to ignorance especially amongst Catholics who have not been catechised well. Who have not learnt about how the church has fostered research instead believing the common polemics because that is all that is readily available and talked about in the general sphere.

So it seems much work needs to be done in reconnecting  believers (of all denominations) with a fairer more balanced understanding.

All in all a very interesting day.

Believing in Evolution

A good friend, Ian, invited me to join a Facebook group to find ‘One Million people who believe in evolution.’ This got me thinking, the result of which is the following, not yet finished debate on the subject. My side is far from perfect so any comments pro or con are welcome.
Many thanks to Ian for allowing me to post his replies, all comment is verbatim. No editing invoved.
Páidi Seo 29 March at 19:31
Ok I’m in pedantic mood; but, 1. isn’t ‘believe’ a religious concept,
2.isn’t evolution a theory like relativity and gravity and isn’t it only good until a better theory comes along?
3. are you aware that Darwin’s theory was used as the basis for eugenics and enforced euthanasia?
Apart from that……..!!!
be good!
Ian  29 March at 19:58
1. Yes, however in this case I feel that the use of this word is justified as it is a group set up to not believe.

2, The word theory has many definitions and creationists are quick to jump on the just a theory argument:

1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2 : abstract thought : speculation
3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art <music theory>
4 a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action <her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn> b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory <in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all>
5 : a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena <the wave theory of light>
6 a : a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation b : an unproved assumption : conjecture c : a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject <theory of equations>

3. Just because someone twists the truth to justify doing bad things does not mean that the truth is no longer the truth.

Any more objections 🙂

Ian  29 March at 19:59
definition 3 is the one I am pointing to btw
Ian  29 March at 20:04
Oh and just as a point of record, I do not believe that religion and science cannot live together, but in my opinion young earth creationism is not science and should not be taught as such. Believe whatever you want just don’t call it science and keep it out of the science class room.

see you soon mate


Páidi Seo 30 March at 11:59
Hey Dude!
your answers; 1. I must be hanging around with too many Americans, the irony went straight over my head!
2. I think any and all of those definitions fit any theory and all are workable. As for definition 3 the use of ‘body of facts’ is interesting. ‘Facts’ are difficult to ascribe, there are few facts, things may be factual that is based on a clear, precise and cogent understanding of the information as presented. That does not make them facts. The rules of thermodynamics appear to work anywhere and at anytime in the universe and are therefore called ‘Laws’ and are ‘facts’ it is highly unlikely that they will ever be overturned even in the extremes of the Big Bang where most physical laws collapse.

Evolution, like relativity are not yet ‘Laws’ they are the best fit for the observed data and are factual but could be overturned by a better theory – which in itself would still not be fact until proven incontrovertabily(sorry for the spelling.)

That said Evolution seems to work and the Catholic church has said it has no objections to it. Indeed the creationists tend to be evangelical protestants who take every word of the bible literally, which has never been the stance of Rome, sadly we all get labelled the same, evolution is taught in science class at RC schools where as creationism is not and never has been.

3. Totally agree and this is something millitant atheists and secularists have thrown at Christianity for decades. All sorts of people will use a belief system to wage war or commit evil but as you say that does not stop it from being truth.

A really good book about the rise of biblical fundementalism and erroneous ideas based on a misuse of science is ‘Flat Earth – the story of an infamous idea’ by Chritine Garwood. I got it for £2 from a cheap shop. It’s fascinating and shows a lot of parralels between flat earth idea and creationism, well worth a read!


Ian  30 March at 17:10
Oops sorry bad typing

answer 1 should have read

1. Yes, however in this case I feel that the use of this word is justified as it is a group set up to counter another group that is trying to find people who do not believe.

You do make a good point about the word fact but it does depend again on definition

1. Knowledge or information based on real occurrences: an account based on fact; a blur of fact and fancy.
a. Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed: Genetic engineering is now a fact. That Chaucer was a real person is an undisputed fact.
b. A real occurrence; an event: had to prove the facts of the case.
c. Something believed to be true or real: a document laced with mistaken facts.
3. A thing that has been done, especially a crime: an accessory before the fact.
4. Law The aspect of a case at law comprising events determined by evidence: The jury made a finding of fact.

We can determine fact by examining the evidence as a jury does, and yes we may never have complete evidence but it is still beyond any reasonable doubt.

You are correct about mainstream religion particularly catholicism accepting that evolution does indeed work and the creation story is now not taught as hard fact. My parents generation was taught it as fact and I wonder what aspects of the bible will need to change to fit in with science in the nex 50 years or so. If you tell my mum (and I have) that the churches of England and Rome accept evolution and that there never was an Adam and Eve she has never heard this from the church and is shocked to hear it so in my opinion the church leaders should make their new stance clearer to their respective flocks.

I have a question about people “who take every word of the bible literally”, who decides which aspects of the bible are not to be taken literally and as science advances, who decides if another bit should not be taken literally?

On another topic entirely how can we see God as good if you read the Old Testament? How would Abraham be treated today for taking his Son to the point of sacrifice in Gods name? Child abuse? Insanity? I could go on to cite other examples of a dark God but I’m sure you know them already, so how can we be told that our morality comes from God?

I’m loving this back and to btw, most people just tell me to shut up 🙂

regards, Ian

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Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 16:17  Leave a Comment