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By Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ

This reflection, along with other Ignatian prayers, poems, reflections and art, first appeared in our free e-book, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: Through the Year with Ignatian Spirituality.” Sign up to receive it at

Father Ignatius looked into the stars and found consolation.

Fifty years later, mapping the rhythms of the sun and the moon and the planets with mathematics, Fr. Christopher Clavius, SJ, expounded the Gregorian calendar.

Fifty years later, Fr. Christoph Scheiner, SJ, and Fr. Orazio Grassi, SJ, and Fr. Niccolò Zucchi, SJ, built telescopes, mapped the motion of comets and sunspots, and debated Galileo.

Fifty years later, Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, SJ, mapped the moon, naming the craters on it for those who were pioneers of astronomy … including Copernicus and Kepler and Galileo … and two dozen Jesuits (including himself).

Fifty years later, Fr. Roger Boskovich, SJ, proposed a theory of atoms while determining new ways to map the spin of the sun and planets.

Fifty years later, Fr. Maximilian Hell, SJ, observed Venus transiting the disk of the sun, an observation which set the scale of the solar system, the first leg in the cosmic ladder that mapped out the distance to the stars and the immense size of the universe.

Fifty years later, Fr. Francesco de Vico, SJ, was among the first to use a telescope in order to find and map the orbits of faint new comets.

Fifty years later, Fr. Angelo Secchi, SJ, found the connection between sunspots and terrestrial magnetism, described the surface of Mars and determined what had been thought to be impossible to know — the chemical composition of stars — with a scheme of stellar classifications that has become the roadmap of modern astrophysics.

Fifty years later, Fr. Johan Hagen, SJ, led a team of astronomers using photography to map the positions of the stars in the sky.

Fifty years later, Fr. Alois Gatterer, SJ, mapped the spectra of the gases that make up the stars.

Fifty years later, Fr. William Stoeger, SJ, mapped the observable consequences of the Big Bang; he described how that event was only one moment in the eternal creatio ex nihilo of the universe.

“Universe” means all things. Ever since Ignatius, Jesuits have found consolation in the universe, in all things. In every corner of the universe that they have mapped, they have found God.

Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, is the director of the Vatican Observatory and the President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

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