St. Louis, Mo., Dec 26, 2022 / 10:00 am
1968 was a turbulent year for America. As the Vietnam War raged and peaceful figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., lost their lives at assassins’ hands, cities across the United States were convulsed by riots.
In the midst of the chaos, three men left the earth behind, trading the strife of the world below for the silent, contemplative vacuum of space. While orbiting the moon, they shared a Christian message with an enraptured audience of hundreds of millions.
Guy Consolmagno, a Ph.D. astronomer and Jesuit brother who directs the Vatican Observatory, told CNA that he remembers watching the NASA astronauts blast off while huddled with friends and family around a grainy TV set. He also remembers hearing the astronauts read a passage from the Bible — a choice that Consolmagno found unexpected and deeply moving.
More than five decades later, Consolmagno still loves talking about this episode from history. It helped set him on the path he’s on today, as a joyful practitioner of his faith but also as an accomplished scientist. The first Christmas in space was, he said, “fulfilling and affirming in a way that I would never have guessed.”