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Converted like the magi

Italian Paolo Beltrame is a second year Jesuit novice of the Northwest European novitiate in Birmingham, UK. He spoke to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications on a recent visit to Ireland about his life as an astrophysicist and his strong faith in God.

Paolo, who researched dark matter for 15 years, discovered that not having the reason ‘why’ behind the scientifically proven laws of physics led him to open the door to God. “The mystery of ‘dark matter’ to me as an astro-physicist is different to the mystery of God to me as a believer”, he says, “Referencing dark matter is a physical and mathematical issue, referencing God involves exploring something that we experience inside us.” Knowledge of his interior life pointed the way forward for Paolo. “When we try to seek the will of God, we see that our emotions, our feelings, our desires change. They modify… This means that probably there is someone up there and also down here who is embracing us.”

He sees Christ in a dual manner. One is as the Cosmic Christ, who French Jesuit and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spoke of. Another is Christ as the Child Jesus. Regarding the latter, Paolo noted a “very natural, mystical experience” during a research trip to the United States that spurred him to join the Jesuits. He compares it to the experience of the magi who, as astrologers, searched for the infant and upon seeing him had a conversion of heart and desired a new life.

With regard his search for truth, Paolo told Pat Coyle: “The progress of science is a gift for theologians and the progress of theology is a gift for scientists. It’s kind of finding God in everything.” However, he does not want to merge religion and science: “To walk I need two legs and I want to use both of them”. Listen to the podcast interview for the full story.