Today is the feast day of St Albert the Great, patron saint of scientists. He has had a special place in my heart for a long time. With his wonderful inquisitive brain He sought God and found Him in truth, in theology and philosophy and in studying and experimenting with the creation He had made.
So it is a good day to pray for scientists, and to express our appreciation for the work that they do which enables us to wonder ever more profoundly at the work the Creator has done.
At the same time we have to acknowledge that science can teach us a lot about how things happen, but very little indeed about why they happen.
Did you know, for example, that the angle at which the oxygen atoms attach to the hydrogen atom to make water is important? If it were any larger or smaller, water wouldn't flow like it does, or have the precise properties that it does that enables living organisms to function.
Did you know that the moon is crucial to the health of the earth? So many things on earth depend upon the tides that the moon creates. So many bits of asteroid debris get deflected from earth by the moon.
The more we learn about what is on our planet and what is beyond it leaves any authentic seeker of truth to marvel at the order and majesty of creation, and by extension to marvel at the divine intelligence that put it all together.
So we give thanks to God for all the clues about Himself that He has left for us to find in His masterpiece of creation.
Were you aware that flowers are a proof of the existence of God? Their beauty and colour and diversity is unnecessary for the perpetuation of plant species, but they tell us so much about beauty, and the importance of fragile things, and they inspire us to be affectionate towards each other. How amazing it is that no one needs to be taught what flowers are for! A young child gathers flowers to give to a mother; a young man seeks flowers to give to a sweetheart; those in sorrow receive flowers from those who mourn with them; it is far more instinctive than cultural.
Everything we learn through the work of scientists enables us to appreciate the awesomeness of God better.
We can marvel at the utter patience of God, creating the atoms over millennia in the combustion of stars that now work together in the formation of living organisms. Of stardust we are indeed made.
We can marvel at the providence of God, preparing all those prehistoric forests on earth that now fuel our world as coal, petroleum and natural gas.
We can marvel at the invisible forces at work in our world, like gravity and electricity and time and light and love, which invite us to understand that the most powerful things of all are not material and tangible but signs pointing us to a divine and benevolent Creator.
So let us pray for scientists:
That their work may lead them and us to reverence the Creator of all
That in harnessing the invisible powers at work in our world, scientists may grow in humility and not give into the pride that tempts them to be demi-gods through cloning and genetic manipulation and other technologies
That they may be given the grace not to give up in the quest to find answers that will benefit humanity, especially in medical treatments and agricultural innovations to increase the production of food without harm to the environment
That they may always be conscious of the limitations of their work, and co-operate with ethicists and philosophers in determining the boundaries that should not be crossed even though it is possible to cross them
That they may be given the courage to stand against all efforts to transform their research and discoveries into weapons
That they may be given the grace and the funding providence to follow the research paths that the Holy Spirit directs and not the more limiting paths of commercial success
That they may be given the strength not to give in to the temptation to falsify research data, no matter how much exterior pressure is supplied
That they may be generous with their time and diligent in reviewing the work and assumptions and writings of their colleagues, in service of the truth
That they may always honestly give credit where credit is due to assistants, colleagues, mentors and the previous research of other scientists
That those students of promise, who don't fit the regular mold, may be given all the scope, encouragement and support that their genius needs in order to fulflill God's purpose for their talents
That collaboration between scientific disciplines would grow so that holistic solutions may be found to the material problems that challenge humanity and the health of the planet and its flora and fauna
O gracious God, please bless the work of all scientists that their efforts may please You and benefit both our souls and our bodies. Amen.
St Albert the Great, patron of scientists, pray for them.