Part of the Catholic genius is the care taken to facilitate an experience of the divine that is tangible–something we can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. This gets the realm of God out of thoughts and speech, and into something of which we can get a sense:
§ 23 § Gestures, language, and actions are the physical, visible, and public expressions by which human beings understand and manifest their inner life. Since human beings on this earth are always made of flesh and blood, they not only will and think, but also speak and sing, move and celebrate. These human actions as well as physical objects are also the signs by which Christians express and deepen their relationship to God. (CCC 1146; GIRM 288)
§ 24 § Jesus himself used physical signs to manifest his union with the Father and to reveal his mission to the world. Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, he fed the multitudes with bread, healed the sick with his touch and forgave sinners. He was anointed with oil, he shared a Passover meal with his disciples, and he surrendered his body to death on the cross. Christ, the incarnate one, used material signs to show to humanity the invisible God. (CCC 1151)
These material signs are part of the Church’s sacramental life, as well as the building which houses it all.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Pluto has been demoted from planethood, but before that determination and after, it has been carefully studied. As much as a point of light on a photographic plate can be studied. Clyde Tombaugh really picked a needle out of a celestial haystack:
Would you catch that without the arrows? Neither would I.
Seth Barnes Nicholson, discoverer of four satellites of Jupiter, studied that faint dot after Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery. His analysis suggested that faraway Pluto had about the mass of the Earth. A respectable planet, to be sure.
As the years passed, astronomers were able to discern a bit more about that white spot. Gerard Kuiper, another satellite discoverer, whittled Pluto’s size estimate down to about a tenth that of Earth–about the size of Mars. No idea how he did that. Other astronomers saw enough of a shift in the light to determine that Pluto spun on its axis giving it a day of about 153 hours. How they got that from a small white dot on a photographic plate, I have no idea on that either.
Two things happened by the mid-1970′s. First, NASA was looking at targeting Pluto for one of its Grand Tour missions to the outer planets. Second, Dale Cruikshank, Carl Pilcher and David Morrison of the University of Hawaii determined that Pluto’s surface was largely bright methane ice. And because a bright faraway object was likely smaller than a dark body at the same distance, Pluto’s size estimate was further reduced to about one-hundredth of the Earth. A bit smaller than the moon.
Enter James Christy. In 1978, the astronomer, a double star specialist, was looking at photographic plates snapped by the 61-inch telescope at the US Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona (USNOF). He found a bulge in the grainy image of planet Pluto. Since his specialty was observing distant stars revolve around each other, his best judgment was that Pluto had a moon. It orbited once every 6.39 days, the same as what astronomers thought Pluto’s day was.
Do you see the satellite in the discovery plate? It’s the lump appearing on different sides of the planet:
Christy checked some of the photographic plates in storage at the USNOF. Way back in 1965, someone marked an image, “Pluto image elongated.” But astronomers just assumed that it was a smudge or some error, human or instrument. Guess that might teach some people to jump to conclusions …
Most scientists agreed with Christy. But a few thought it might be a big mountain on the planet. After all, a lump is a lump, right? All skepticism was silenced in 1985, when the tilt of orbits permitted astronomers to verify, through changing light levels, that Pluto actually had a moon. And more, very rough maps were produced. By the time the Hubble Space Telescope was in orbit, there was no doubt, as you can see from this 1994 image:
No mountain, that.
Once scientists had verified a body in orbit around Pluto, it’s an easy matter to “weigh” both planet and satellite. Alas, Pluto came out on the short end again. The final determination was that it would take five-hundred Plutos to balance the scales with Earth. That new satellite was pretty hefty, relatively speaking. Twelfth largest in the solar system.
Let’s get to the name. Astronomers who discover things often get to name the object. It must pass muster with the IAU (International Astronomical Union). But as long as one keeps to the conventions, it’s likely to get approved. Christy’s colleagues at the USNOF were pushing for Persephone, the consort of the Roman god Pluto. But the discoverer wanted to honor his wife Charlene, familiarly known as Char. As it turns out, Charon is the name of the ferry operator in the Greek myths about the underworld. Greek pronunciation, however, is the hard “k.” Charon was approved. Though Mrs Christy is honored by many English-speaking astronomers who have picked up the soft “sh” sound. I pronounce it “sh.” I can appreciate honoring a wife.
I will likely not ever be a satellite discoverer. Asteroid, possibly. The list of asteroid names is ample. My wife’s is not on the list, though my daughter’s name is attached to minor planet number 51599. I don’t know how James Christy thought of his wife. If I were to indulge my imagination, my wife would be my star around which I spin. Maybe my wife and daughter a double star, and I would be a planet revolving around both. It doesn’t take much imagination to ponder that. I think you need more to see a lump on a black spot and think “satellite” rather than “mountain” or “mistake.”
This section has a lot of meat on which to chew. First, a suggestion that episcopal conferences work across national borders to serve more effectively:
18. Because it is desirable that episcopal conferences in the missions be united in organic groups according to the so-called socio-cultural areas (see ES III 9) the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Ad Gentes 29) should promote such coordinations of episcopal conferences.
It is the function of these conferences, in collaboration with the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith:
(1) To explore methods, even new ones, by which the faithful and the missionary institutes by uniting forces must incorporate themselves into the peoples or groups with whom they live or to whom they are sent (Ad Gentes 10-11), and with whom they must undertake the dialogue of salvation;
(2) To establish study groups to investigate peoples’ ways of thinking about the universe, (people) and (their) attitude towards God, and to give theological consideration to whatever is good and true. (Ad Gentes 22)
Such theological study should provide the necessary foundation for the adaptations which must be made, and which the study groups should investigate. These adaptations should among other things give attention to methods of preaching the Gospel, liturgical forms, the religious life and ecclesiastical legislation. (Ad Gentes 19)
This is easily summed up: know the people. Approaches that work for First World school children, non-believing adults in Western cultures, or what may have seemed to work in ages past might each lead to failure. With the recent resistance to Vatican II in some quarters, seeking the theological good in other faiths and cultures may be hampered.
With regard to perfecting methods of evangelization and catechesis (Ad Gentes 13-14), the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith should promote close cooperation among the higher institutes of pastoral studies.
With regard to liturgical forms, the study groups should submit documents and proposals to the council for the implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
We’ve covered a lot of this in Varietates Legitimae, plus the rites themselves.
As far as the religious condition is concerned (Ad Gentes 18), care should be taken lest more attention be given to exterior forms (such as gestures, dress, the arts, etc.) than to the religious dispositions of the peoples which are to be adopted and the evangelical perfection which is to be assimilated.
Appearances are of exaggerated importance in the West–our culture’s indulgence for style over substance.
(3) To promote at stated times meetings of seminary teachers to adapt study programs and to exchange information, and by conferring with the study groups mentioned above to provide more suitably for modern needs in the training of priests. (Ad Gentes 16).
Conferences of seminary professors: how often do they happen?
(4) To investigate a more suitable method by which personnel (priests, catechists, institutes, etc.) can be distributed in the territory especially to make better provision for the lack of personnel in densely populated places.
As opposed to reassignments in Europe and North America to bolster the sense of entitlement among many Catholics there.