Oddwalk Ministries

reflection

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.

Guardians of Hope

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“Our Hope, Our Everything”

Certain current events are understandably troubling and causing a bit of concern if you’re like us. Whether it’s the threat of war with North Korea or Venezuela, or the recent events in Charlottesville, many people have heavy hearts and some amount of anxiety about what the future holds.

At Sts. Joachim and Ann, where I (Orin) am the music director, each year the day school and the whole religious education program focus on a certain theme for the year.  And, for several years now, I have written a song to flesh out that theme and help it to dwell in the hearts and lives of the students and faculty.  One of these, “Alive in Love, Alive in God” is on our most recent Oddwalk CD.

This year’s theme at J&A is “Guardians of Hope” – which happens to tie in to an anti-bullying program at school as well.  As I pondered what the text could be for this new piece of music, I started asking myself what it meant to be a guardian of hope – how we do that in any practical way.  Especially framed by current events, the question took on particular urgency and relevance.

When it comes to recognizing hope, seeing it around us, offering it to others – all this, of course, begins and ends with God: God’s creating us in God’s own image and likeness, Christ’s self-sacrificing love, and how we recognize both of these things in those around us and what it then propels us to do.

If we truly saw each human being as created in the image and likeness of the One who created all things, and if we truly believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the redemption of all who choose to accept that amazing gift and is also our model for loving one another, we would never again be able to wage war, nor would we be able to see ourselves as superior to any other human being.

In short, being a guardian of hope means we recognize the Christian dignity in those around us (and in ourselves) and loving like Christ loved.  And, that’s what my new song tries to say.

Click the picture above – or right here – to view or download a PDF of it, and click here to listen to a demo recording quickly made one afternoon late last week at Church.  If you like, please feel free to use the song – for catechesis, for prayer, for any need it might fill.

And may we all be guardians of hope this year.

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…

We’re writing a book!

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Hey everyone! Shannon and Orin are excited to announce that… wait for it… we’re writing a book! If you had not guessed from the title of this post, seeing some news on social media that led you here, or from this super-cool graphic, we’ll say it again – we’re writing a book!

It will be published next July by Twenty-Third Publications, a division of Bayard which specializes in books and devotionals for nourishing your spirituality and celebrating the liturgical year, as well as the newest resources to help you lead and guide your parish community.

Our book has a working title of “Praying and Living the Faith Through the Year” and is a collection of twenty interactive prayer services on various Church themes and celebrations as well as other special times during a school year. Each service has suggested music, prayers, scripture, and interactive, prayerful activities to help bring faith to life. While the “target audience” for this book is middle-school-aged youth and those that minister to them, this collection should also be useful for other ages, as well as other situations, like youth ministry and family units.

Here’s the rundown (for now) on “chapters” the resource will have:

• Welcome to Teachers/Staff/Students (Community)
• For Grandparents (Generations, Wisdom)
• At a time of tragedy (Consolation)
• All Saints (Communion of Saints)
• All Souls (Deceased Family and Friends, Tradition)
• Thanksgiving (Gratitude to God)
• Christ the King (Dominion, Sovereignty)
• Advent (Waiting in Joyful Hope)
• Immaculate Conception / Guadalupe (Mary, Dignity)
• Christmas (Incarnation)
• Discipleship (Learning, Following)
• Before an Exam (Peace, Assurance)
• Ash Wednesday (Repentance)
• Lent (Returning to God, Conversion)
• Holy Week (Suffering, Obedience, Cross)
• Easter (Resurrection, New Life)
• Mercy (Divine Mercy)
• Ascension (Church and Our Mission)
• Pentecost (Holy Sprit, Gifts of the Spirit)
• At Graduation (Transitions)

Each chapter will also include some introductory material from us, for those putting together each service.

We feel this resource will pull together strongly many aspects of Oddwalk’s varied ministries – storytelling, humor, prayer, music, retreats – and hopefully be a welcome and successful resource for many folks helping to lead the young Church on their journeys to and with God.

Watch this space for more updates, especially as the project gets closer to completion! We can’t be more excited to be working with 23rd, and can’t wait for you to be able to hold this book in your hands – and use it!

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

That’s Extraordinary!

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In case you forgot…

You know what ordinal numbers are, right? Well, you probably do even if you don’t know that’s what they’re called. Ordinal numbers are the ones we put st, nd, and rd behind: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. They’re the ones that describe the position of something, usually in a list.

Ordinal numbers are the reason that the upcoming 6 month stretch of the Church year is called Ordinary Time — you know, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time and all that. Now, Ordinary Time following Pentecost does start with the celebrations of the Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood, but it’s still Ordinary Time.

The point is, it’s not Ordinary Time, as in something commonplace or normal; it’s not Ordinary Time because it’s not Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter; it *is* Ordinary Time because the Sundays and weeks are counted. That’s all.

Yet, I knew one priest years ago who insisted on calling it “Extraordinary Time.” He didn’t get into all the mumbo-jumbo about ordinal numbers, he simply referenced what is indeed true about all these coming Sundays, particularly the Gospel passages we will hear at those Masses. The Gospels are always about what Jesus said and did in this world; these upcoming Ordinary Time Gospels are all about Jesus teaching us to be disciples. That’s why this particular priest liked the expression “Extraordinary Time.” It’s a 6 month length of time where, if we pay attention and are open, Jesus teaches us still today what it means to be his follower and his witness in a modern world.

I don’t know that I personally like the expression, but I appreciate the motivation behind it. How will this summer be extraordinary for you, as a person of faith, as we count our way through many weeks of Ordinary Time? I suggest by really focusing on what Jesus teaches his faithful Sunday after Sunday, and living it each week to the best of our abilities. Happy Summer everyone!

—Orin

What the Ascension Tells Us About Social Justice

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Note: a version of this post originally appeared at Any Give Sunday Project two years ago. If you’re a regular church-goer, you surely know that the pews are at their fullest on Christmas and Easter. No surprise there. Take a moment and see if you have a guess what the next two most attended Church…

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.

Apostle to the Apostles

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Icon of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles

Easter greetings everyone. While pondering recently what to write about today, I noticed several pieces on social media, as we celebrate these early days of Eastertide, raising Mary Magdalene up as an important part of our faith owing to her role in life of Christ.

The first rightly observes that, without her preaching the risen Lord to the Apostles, Easter Day would have been, and would be, very different. She is often called “The First Apostle” or “Apostle to the Apostles” with good reason.

 

 

 

 

Seen retweeted a few times…

The second suggests at least a darker possibility: that because such an important role in the resurrection story fell to a woman, some unnamed unknown men of the Church attempted to devalue her worth by conflating her with adulterous women found elsewhere in the Gospels – a practice that lately has been found without merit.

So today, as our weekly articles turn their attention to Justice, let us turn our attention to women of the Church. I don’t wish to enter the fray at this moment as to the roles of women in the Church – liturgically or otherwise. I do wish to point out that, as such discussions occur, we should all be mindful to not devalue someone – anyone – by seeing them in such a limited capacity: that one’s worth is defined only by something amazing they did on their best day or by something horrible done on their worst day; that one’s worth is defined only by their capacity to give birth or their inability to; that one’s worth is defined merely by things we discern with our human senses.

Our value, our Christian dignity, comes from our creation by God in God’s image and likeness, and that God comes to dwell in us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19) Notably, the scripture doesn’t delineate here based on gender or any other divisions.

This worth comes with two other important attributes. First, it can’t be taken away from us unless we so permit that to happen. As long as we remember who we are in God’s eyes, the opinions, the labels, the divisions that humanity creates matter far less, if they matter at all. Second, once we train ourselves to know this worth both in ourselves and in one other, the world becomes a very different place – a place of justice, love, and peace.

Continued Easter blessings, Oddwalkia. Celebrate the risen lord with joy and gladness in your hearts!

–Orin

Holy Week and Catholic Social Teaching

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Pope Francis Washing Feet at a Previous Holy Thursday Celebration

Our “Jesus Justice Joy” reflection this week is a little tardy, owning to two full days of Oddwalking on Monday and Tuesday…

As we approach Holy Thursday evening and the beginning of triduum, I’m struck by how, at Thursday night’s mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel is not what it seems like it should be. One would think that we’d hear one of the evangelists tell about that Passover meal. Rather, we hear in the epistle Paul describe how the tradition of that meal was handed down to him. Instead in the Gospel, we hear a narrative unique to John – the humble washing of the feet.

John’s Gospel doesn’t even include a narrative about the last supper meal the way the synoptics do. Some see the significance of this – that the description of the meal is replaced with this story of the foot washing – as one which instructs the early Christian community to live lives of solidarity and service – both important tenants of contemporary Catholic Social Teaching.

In fact, the whole evening, if one listens from a certain vantage point, is linked to issues of justice: liberation, solidarity, service…

I have often wondered why foot washing didn’t “make the cut,” so to speak, as the Church finally focused in upon seven “Big S” sacraments. It seems like it would meet the usual requirements and definitions of one. Pause for a moment and imagine if, when preparing for first communion, young people also learned about and prepared for foot washing along side of that.

How much more linked then would we as a Church find our reception of Eucharist to the command we are given just a few minutes later: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Eucharist, as much as it is thanksgiving is also service, solidarity, and our freedom. May we recognize it as such the next time we gather around the table.

—Orin