The Golden Mass celebrates the link between science and faith


Mgr. Stuart Swetland chats with professors from the Benedictine College, clockwise from left, Dr Matthew Ramage, Dr Ryan Maderak and Dr Christopher Shingledecker during the discussion on Faith and Science after Mass for ‘gold. PHOTOS BY PAUL MCNAMARA / BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

by Tom Hoopes
Sourdough Special

ATCHISON – Many Catholics know the Blue Mass, which honors the police; the red mass, offered to lawyers and judges; and the White Mass, which rewards health professionals.

But what is a golden mass?

The first regional golden mass for scientists was held on November 16 at Benedictine College in Atchison and was celebrated by Mgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. He is both a physicist and a Rhodes scholar, and the event lived up to his expectations: the Saint-Benedict Abbey Church was packed for the event.

“The turnout was great and the students were very interested,” he said.

“Both / and” was the theme of Msgr. Swetland’s homily – he stressed the need to study both science and faith.

“You can find out a lot about the artist by studying his art,” he said. “In the case of God, you can learn a lot about God by studying his creation. Everyone should have some degree of science.

Mgr. Swetland, who celebrated the first regional Golden Mass on Nov. 16 at Benedictine College in Atchison, told attendees they should study both faith and science. PHOTOS PAUL MCNAMARA / BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

The golden mass gets its color from the golden caps that designate a graduate with a doctorate in science, and the mass is an original idea of ​​the Society of Catholic Scientists. There are over a dozen such Masses all over the country, celebrated on or near the feast of St. Albert the Great, who has been called “the last man to know all there was to know about it.” know”. He has written on philosophy, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, zoology, music, and physiology, and is the patron saint of scientists and philosophers.

The society is an international organization that has grown rapidly since its founding in 2016 – it already has 1,600 members in more than 50 countries. He hopes to be a resource for the church while strengthening brotherhood among scientists, witnessing the harmony between faith and science, and exploring the intersection of faith and science. The regional chapter of the society is headed by Benedictine College professors Christopher Shingledecker, an astronomer, and Matthew Ramage, a theologian, as well as KU physics and astronomy professor Michael Murray.

Mgr. Swetland said the Archdiocese is a great place for society.

“We have the best facilities going on, and we are seeing this throughout the Archdiocese in the medical fields, our research facilities and our educational institutions,” he said. “Often, those who are most likely to believe are those who are involved in the hard sciences. “

Golden Masses are usually followed by a short lecture to stimulate discussion at a reception where Catholic scientists and those interested in dialogue on faith and science can engage with each other and grow. in communion.

The regional Golden Mass was followed by a short address by Ramage titled “Faith, Science and the University,” a cover of Pope Benedict XVI’s famous Regensburg address in 2006, officially titled “Faith, reason and university ”.

In his remarks, Ramage quoted Saint John Paul II: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth” and said that the sentence sums up the work of company. This phrase is noted in the entrance to Westerman Hall, the newly renovated and expanded science building on the Benedictine College campus.

“The main takeaway can be captured by the words of Saint John Paul II: ‘Do not be afraid,’” Ramage said. “The church need not fear scientific discovery, for nature – as medieval saw it – was God’s ‘other book’. “

He noted that although the church does not ask Catholics to adopt any scientific conclusions, the two “books” have a lot to say to each other.

Dr. Matthew Ramage quoted Saint John Paul II in a short speech after the Golden Mass. PHOTO BY GRANT WHITTY / UNSPLASH

Shingledecker, who was recently recognized for his internationally significant astronomical work, said events like the Golden Mass and the reception that followed are important in correcting a key 21st century mistake.

“There is a false scientific utopia, which seeks to extrapolate the rapid progress of science in the 20th century infinitely far into the future, and expects science to be the answer to everything,” he said.

“I think that [there is] a growing awareness, “he continued,” that science depends on things such as ethics which are completely – and by definition – beyond its ability to fruitfully inform. “

Ramage saw the same positive trend.

“The future relationship between science and faith does indeed seem very bright. When I started working in this field over ten years ago, I rarely met other Catholic academics who were dedicated to this dialogue, ”he said. “Today the situation is very different.”

He recommended books by Christopher Baglow, Stacy Transancos and others.

Many scientists today share a faith in God because of what they have witnessed in their research and studies. PHOTO BY JOEL FILIPE / UNSPLASH

Paul Burghart testifies to the new awareness of the harmony between faith and science. The 2015 Benedictine College graduate, who attended mass on campus for St. Albert’s Day, said learning the right relationship between faith and science has made a huge difference in his life.

Growing up in McPherson, he said, “I always felt that science and the Catholic faith were in tension. The two were presented as true, but they were also seen as irreconcilable. . . . I loved my science classes and loved my faith, but as I progressed in high school I felt more and more that one day I would have to choose between them.

A course at university changed everything for him.

“The truth cannot contradict the truth,” said his teacher. “Faith and reason have been given to mankind by God as a means of seeking and discovering the truth. . . . When a tension arises between the two, we don’t just choose one or try to come to terms with a contradiction. Rather, we are working patiently and diligently to resolve the difficulty, reaching a more complete understanding of the truth. “

“This simple presentation of the Catholic Church’s point of view on the issue completely changed my view of the relationship between faith and science,” said Burghart, and he spent the remainder of his academic career at Benedictine studying the intersection of faith and science, including reading deeply into the writings of Galileo.

Mgr. Swetland had the same experience as a student – only from science, not theology.

“I was a physics student and I lost my faith during a phase of my life,” he said. “There was one thing I couldn’t deny, however. The more I studied the physical world, the subatomic world, and the heavens, I couldn’t deny the Creator.

“Science has helped me save the faith,” he added. “The Society of Catholic Scientists wants more and more people to say this. “