This recap is a little late in relation to my other ACME2024 posts. The reason for this is twofold: I was exhausted when we got back from Mount Lemmon and this morning was our happy/sad goodbyes to the group. As I shared with the group at the concluding Mass last night – I feel sad today, but a sadness that comes from joy, peace and love… not hurt.
Our time on Mount Lemmon was a true blessing. That blessing for most of the group was their first experience of a professional observatory. For me, the blessing was to see the joy and wonder of our group as they were given tours of some “small” telescopes to the professional word, but huge when compared to telescopes they’ve looked through in the past.
We first went up to Mount Bigelow to visit the 61-inch telescope at the peak. We had to be attentive since there were research scientists asleep in the dorm of the observatory. A core theme of our tour was how these “small” telescopes are starting to become less desirable by professionals. With the advent of massive ground-based telescopes being built, professionals are lining up for time on the next generation of astronomical tools. Again, similar to some of my previous reflections, I find it interesting that though we are receiving similar content this year in relation to ACME conferences from the past, there are subtle differences that reflect the quick advancements of the science of astronomy.
After that, we summited Mount Lemmon – via bus. We had a quick lunch combined with a history of the Mount Lemmon Observatory. The history is rich as it was a military communications base for nuclear missiles during the cold war. The land has transitions mostly to a place of scientific research with a small section still operated by the air force. Mount Lemmon truly is a powerful story of “swords into plowshares.”
As we visited the various telescopes on the peak, we were quickly reminded of how thin the air is at elevations over 9,000 feet. During our lunch, Br. Guy told us to observe how the bags of potato chips we brought for lunch had expanded, looking like overinflated balloons. As we walked around the observatory the light air was causing some embarrassing struggles for some that were due to similar forces that caused the expansion of the potato chip bags. Out of respect, I will refrain from delving into the details of what those struggles were, leaving them as an inside joke. I can say we found humor when Br. Guy shared his version of Carl Sagans “We are all star dust.” Br. Guy affirmed, “We are all a bag of chips.”
The day concluded with Mass under the stars. As I prayerfully prepared my homily, I felt moved to affirm two simple truths of our workshop: We are the bridge between faith and science – not a set of ideological principles and the structure of that bridge is constructed with healing, trust, understanding, humility and a willingness to admit we all have areas of growth.
Now, it’s time for me to receive from God. Our group has left, but I am going to enjoy a few more days in the desert. I hope and pray these posts have given those of you who weren’t able to attend ACME2024 insight into our week. I pray that those who read these posts who were blessed with attending this week see in them a reminder of what you experienced and where God is leading you in your future.
Remember: Focus on a grace you can take from this week that you can build upon. Identify something that fell a little flat for you that can be your ongoing homework for the future. With both a grace and point of growth, may the fruit of our past week be both lifegiving in the moment and grow in you in the days, weeks and months to come.