Oddwalk Ministries

Joy

Guest Blogger: A Christian Astronomer Reflects on the Total Solar Eclipse

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Andy Pucket, PhD

(This article was written to be published this coming Monday, August 21, but we decided to post it a few days early due to the tremendous interest in the upcoming total solar eclipse.)

My name is Andy Puckett, and I’m a professional astronomer. When I look at the world around me, I tend to see the big picture. The Sun “rises and sets” because the Earth rotates. Seasons change due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. The position and phase of the Moon are based on the predictable motions of the Moon and the Earth. And all of these are based on the physical laws of the universe: motion, gravitation, acceleration.

I am also a Christian, so I see God’s hand in all of this. I know that He doesn’t move the moons and planets capriciously. I see the order and predictability of their motions. And I believe that God wrote the underlying laws of motion, and that he also gave me the curiosity to try to understand them.

Today (August 21st), many of you may get to see a total eclipse of the Sun. That’s when the Moon gets directly between the Earth and the Sun, and you find yourself in the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow. The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun but also 400 times closer, which is the happy “coincidence” that makes this amazing event possible. But the Moon’s orbital plane doesn’t line up perfectly with the Earth’s, which is what prevents solar eclipses from being regular monthly events.

It’s very rare that a total solar eclipse passes within driving distance of your house, and even rarer for one to pass directly over where you live. If you do happen to be within the 70-mile wide “path of totality” today, you’re in for a treat!  For up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, it will become as dark as night; the wind will get cooler and change direction; the solar corona will pop into view; and everyone around you will know that they’ve experienced something extraordinary.

Total Solar Eclipse

I’m a scientist, and there’s great science to be done during an eclipse, but that’s not my plan for today. I’ve been looking forward to this eclipse for 20 years, so I’m going to just take it all in. And I’m going to make sure my family gets to experience it safely, including my brother-in-law Shannon and all of our kids. I hope to help them see the big picture, and God’s hand in all of it.

A note from Shannon about this week’s article:

Andy Puckett is my brother-in-law and the Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. Andy is also a practicing Catholic and is perhaps more excited than anyone else I know about the much-anticipated Total Solar Eclipse, set to dazzle us this Monday. For this article, Orin and I asked Andy to do an eclipse-related followup to Orin’s joy-themed article from a few weeks ago, entitled “Ongoing Creation”.  In that article, Orin asked the question: “What is it that you are doing these days, using the creative gifts given you, at the service of God and the Church?”  In our view, through the witness of his Catholic faith and the joyful enthusiasm with which he shares his knowledge of our physical universe, Andy is daily answering God’s call to glorify God with his life.  We thank Andy for taking the time to write this for us.

Ongoing Creation

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their…

Joy at NPM

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Hi all, Orin here, continuing his usual busy summer of acronyms: a couple weeks ago was YSP, this week is the annual convention for NPM, National Association of Pastoral Musicians.  (Next week is another YNIA which Shannon and I will do together, Shannon already told you about one of those.) Anyway, yesterday was travel day, which is why this Jesus-Justice-Joy post is a day later than usual.

Just as YSP brought me a certain joy (which a tired me told you a tiny bit about in a video), every year NPM brings me a joy as well. While of course I am a church music director in addition to my Oddwalk fun, I’m here this week also as a composer of music for the Church as well.

Here’s a photo from the exhibit hall last night of a book from GIA that both Shannon and I have songs published in, called Crossgeneration.

 

Knowing it’s selfish mostly, it does bring me a bit of joy to see that music that I and Shannon have written in print – but beyond my own ego, part of that joy is it being still available to the wider Church to help them pray in song. (I hope to sneak photos of other octavos in print with WLP and OCP later today!)

Another joy this week is being able to reconnect in person with so many other composers I have gotten to know over recent years. There is a certain fellowship and camaraderie in that particular group of people, with a particular ministry to and for the Church.  Here are a few of us out to dinner last night, photo credit to Kate Basi.

 

Sharp eyes will see my wife Erin in the photo. Another joy is being able to spend a chunk of this week with her, taking a little personal time here and there to just be us, away from home and most of the responsibilities and worries there.

All of these joys are rooted in Christ and my faith in him.  It is Christ who gathers, who forms community, and gives us talents to praise him in song.  St. Augustine purportedly once said that “The one who sings prays twice.”  If so – and I think that’s right – there’s a whole lotta prayin’ goin’ on in Cincinnati this week at NPM.  Thanks for reading!  —Orin

The Joy of the Scriptures

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Psalm 87

Hello all, Orin here.  One of my roles as Music Director at Sts. Joachim and Ann in suburban STL is to prep music for school masses.  One of the tasks for each mass is ensuring we have a responsorial psalm and a psalmist or two ready to go: both I and the pastor at J&A prefer to do the readings of the day, so I need to ensure that the psalms are easily grasped both by the psalmists from the different homerooms in school (on limited rehearsal time), as well as by the assembly.  Before sitting down to write this, in fact, I needed to create a new one for a school mass tomorrow, led by our 4th graders.  You can see an image of the simple music just over there…

By now, ending my 5th year at J&A, many such psalms are already written, and it’s rare I need to take a moment and create a new one, but this morning was such a time.  A quick count shows I’ve created over 130 of these in 5 years.  An unexpected joy of the role here at J&A has become getting to know the psalms in such a broad way.  Many of us know several of the more common Sunday responsorial psalms well, but the psalms at daily mass are much more diverse than at Sundays alone, and as a result, some unexpected poetry, theology, spirituality, and expressions of faith come to my attention over these few years.

This hymn of praise to Zion, for instance, responds joyfully to a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we hear how the early Church grew far past Jerusalem, partly because early followers of Christ were scattered to many places, avoiding persecution, and were bolstered and taught by the likes of Barnabas and Paul.  This passage ends, “…it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”

There is a joy in the scriptures which only grows and blossoms the more deeply one knows, prays, and lives them.  As broad as the scripture passages are on Sundays, an easy way to encounter so much more is to attend daily mass – a practice which was not a significant part of my life before arriving at J&A, but is now.  When was the last time you attended a daily mass?  Perhaps it’s time to consider a new discipline in faith, and rediscover the joy of the scriptures, like I have.