Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reflections of a Catholic Astronaut

Anyone who, like me, was a star-struck kid during the heady days of the Mercury space program of the early 1960's might enjoy reading this 2004 article by astronaut Thomas D. Jones, recounting his experience on the space shuttle and international space station and conveying his sense that "God has given us a special ability to appreciate the wonders of the vast and beautiful universe, a 'sweet spot' in our minds receptive to the Creator’s skill and power." Here is an excerpt:

"Just over a week into the mission, one of us realized it was Sunday again, two weeks after Easter. Our shifts overlapped for a few hours, so during one orbital night Sid, Kevin and I gathered on the flight deck for a short Communion service.

"Kevin, a eucharistic minister, carried the Blessed Sacrament with him, contained within a simple golden pyx. The three of us shared our amazement at experiencing the beauty of creation, and thanked God for good companions and the success achieved so far. Then Kevin shared the Body of Christ with Sid and me, and we floated weightless on the flight deck, grateful for this moment of comradeship and communion with Christ.

"Our silent reflection was interrupted by a sudden burst of dazzling white light. The sun had risen (as it did 16 times each day) just as we finished Communion, and now its pure radiance streamed through Endeavour’s cockpit windows and bathed us in its warmth. To me, this was a beautiful sign, God’s gentle touch confirming our union with him.

"I rolled away from my crewmates, unable to stem the tears evoked by that singular sunrise."