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Editorial: Pentecostal love

  • June 2, 2022

The 17th-century polymath Blaise Pascal wrote that the eternal silence of the heavens’ infinite spaces terrified him.

Of course, for all his early modern scientific genius, Pascal was a Jansenist, the Augustinian sect within the French Church that was so severe it would scare the pants off most people. Without reigniting the old Port Royal conflict, it’s worth pondering at Pentecost whether Pascal might have been a little less jumpy as a Jesuit.

Full disclosure: the following editorial is not a paid promotional message from the Society of Jesus. But as a recent report by the Catholic News Service notes, more than half the prominent Catholic scientists in history have followed the mule-ridden path of St. Ignatius of Loyola. An amazing number have been drawn to astronomy, mirroring the Jesuit founder’s consolation not in philosophy but in star gazing.

Loyola had his faults. Being a nervous nelly was not one of them. Indeed, the CNS story quotes U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, about the ineradicable bond between the Society’s spirituality and the fearless exploration of the heavens that is part of its apostolate.

“The spirituality of the Jesuits is all about our place in creation: why we are created, why the world was created, how we relate to creation and that leads to that famous Jesuit mantra, ‘Find God in all things,’” Consolmagno says.

“Being close to the created world is a way of being close to the creator and that’s why sciences played such an important role in the apostolates of the Jesuits,” the papal astronomer adds.

Becoming closer to Jesus, he explains, means drawing near to God’s incarnation within the physical universe. Pondering those infinite spaces gives us pause to pass over panic. We can instead turn our hearts ever more boldly to the Paraclete as the apostles did on Pentecost. We can deepen our understanding of how the earthly elementals of rushing wind and tongues of fire make manifest the Holy Spirit. Those signs of nature put aside the old pagan practices of worshipping dirt for its own sake. They move us to glorify God for the wholly human, wholly divine salvific gift of His Son.

Columnist Mary Marrocco explains beautifully in this issue how that gift remains open to us even in silence. In the Spirit on Pentecost, Peter spoke the languages of all. Yet there remain times in worldly life when speech itself is so toxic our words become unfathomable. That is not the time, Marrocco cautions, to turn inward to be paralyzed by our fear. We must turn outward to hear the Word calling us to God’s will for us in the world.

For while it is true that our faults lie not with our stars but with ourselves, it’s also true that raising our eyes to the eternity of Heaven can offer a Pentecostal sign of redeeming love. Just ask the Jesuits.

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