|Stephan's Qunitet (280-300 Million light years distant!)|
A couple months ago, I wrote about the value of recreation and particularly vacations. Well, a few weeks ago I went on a vacation which concluded with accompanying our youth in Spokane, WA for the Steubenville NW youth conference. I camped at Le Page Park on the Columbia Gorge and John Day River, then Wallowa Lake, OR, then onto Chief Timothy Park, ID, followed by a short stay at Farragut State Park, ID. On my way back, I had the opportunity to meet up with some family in the Salem area. The weather and scenery was magnificent until I returned to the smokey Rogue Valley. Yikes! Apparently, the situation with the fires will take weeks if not months to extinguish, possibly until the first real seasonal rain in October.
This weekend, I am not at the parish, but took my annual journey to the Oregon Star Party in central Oregon (oregonstarparty.org). 700+ geeks and their telescopes set up shop each year on a high desert plateau SE of Prineville, OR and stay up all night over the course of a week to view the amazing stars, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies that adorn our skies. From the city, it is hard to see any of these things well, but from this dark spot in Oregon, the brightest thing impeding our view is the Milky Way itself. As a priest, I have been asked why I spend time looking into the dark skies with my telescope. The Scriptures explain it well: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19:1). For me, it reminds me of how small I am and how awesome God is. It also reminds me that despite our relative smallness in the universe, God still loves us with a perfect and sacrificial love. It makes me wonder why God created it all. It makes me wonder why there are so many things we can see, yet could never visit personally. I’ve seen all the planets, many many galaxies and groups of galaxies so far away that the light I see was emitted long before humanity existed. What an amazing God. Why did he do all this. It simply keeps me in awe of his majesty. God is the king of the universe for sure.
Though you may not own a telescope yourself, you, too, can enjoy the beauty of the heavens. Assuming that smoke or clouds aren’t a great issue, anyone can observe the coming Perseid Meteor Shower. This has been typically the most active meteor shower each year with potential of very large fireballs streaking across the sky! It will peak on Aug. 12th and 13th. All you need to do is look up. I recommend getting a lawn chair that reclines or a blanket and just hang out in your back yard and see if you can catch a glimpse of these momentary shots of dust from the heavens. Avoid lights if you can. If the sky is dark and clear, it is possible to catch up to 100 meteors an hour. Learn more by watching this youtube video: http://youtu.be/zO83KP54YXs
Vacation and recreation are important to us all. No matter where you go, don’t forget that God desires to be with you the whole way. Don’t forget that Mass is the pinnacle of our worship, so find a Catholic Church local to your vacation destination. Soon enough Fall and Winter will be here, so open your heart to God’s grace and let him recreate you in his image this Summer.
Fr. William Holtzinger