by Moira Cullings
It was supposed to be one of the biggest spectacles of our time.
The Aug. 21 solar eclipse, one that spanned the entire United States for the first time in 99 years, left some amazed — and others deeply disappointed.
“It was so cloudy that I was barely able to see the early stages of the eclipse,” said Rosie McShane, a senior at Benedictine College in Atchison.
“We were a little bummed about that and the rain, but we still stuck around,” she added.
Benedictine College was in the path of totality and had high hopes for the historical event, drawing in countless visitors from across the country.
Father Christopher J. Corbally, SJ, and Father Paul Gabor, SJ, came all the way from the Vatican to speak at the college and watch the eclipse.
“There are very many instances throughout history where eclipses served a very important purpose,” said Father Paul, vice director for the Vatican Observatory Research Group.
He spoke on the history of eclipses, how they work and their significance.
“If you haven’t experienced it yet, you’ll find it quite strange and moving, even with some cloud coverage,” he said.
Across town, at the Sophia Spirituality Center, a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, a unique retreat called “The Cosmos Within” was underway.
There, Dr. Aileen A. O’Donoghue, an award- winning astronomer and associate professor of physics at St. Lawrence University in New York, spoke of exploding stars, atoms and quantum leaps.
“We are made of stardust,” said O’Donoghue. “We are matter and spirit integrated. The deeper your reverence for everything around you, the deeper your reverence for the spiritual.”
As part of the retreat, an evening was spent a few miles outside of Atchison, studying the clear night sky through a telescope. On that night, retreatants were able to see Saturn, Io and Europa.
When the big moment for the eclipse arrived in Atchison, however, the cloud cover was only relieved by pouring rain.
But for others in the archdiocese, clear skies and sunshine made for the perfect viewing opportunity.
No matter what the weather was like, viewers’ eyes were open to the wonder and awe of God’s creation.
And many who waited for hours in poor weather found that small glimpses of the eclipse were enough.
“The two minutes of totality was incredible,” said McShane.
The event reminded McShane of something Pope Francis talked about at a papal audience she attended in February.
“He said the Christian hope is learning to live in waiting,” she said.
For McShane, practicing patience during the eclipse brought the pope’s words to life.
“The two minutes and 19 seconds of totality were well worth the wait,” she said.