Let’s Talk about the Stars

by Melannie Svoboda SND on June 8, 2020

Today we’re going to talk about the stars. (This reflection is not an escape from the current headlines. It’s a realignment of our perspective.) We’ll review a few fascinating facts about the stars, say something about THE Star Maker, note a few stars in the Bible, and conclude with a short prayer.

How many stars are there? Astronomers say there are roughly 1 billion trillion stars in the “observable universe.” Written out, that number looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars! There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth. Let’s face it: When it came to making stars, our Creator really got carried away!

Stars doing what they do best: twinkling! (All photos from NASA)

How big are the stars? The white dwarf stars are about the size of earth. Our sun, an “average star,” is 1 million times bigger than earth. The supergiant stars are more than 1500 times larger than our sun! (I can’t help but use a lot of exclamation points in this reflection! Bear with me! I get excited writing about this stuff!) The largest star is WOH G64. (Note: Some stars are identified by numbers and letters. You try to come up with 1 billion trillion different names!)

A star dying.

How old are the stars? They average between 1 billion to 10 billion years old. The oldest (so far) is HD 140283, nicknamed Methuselah, which is over 14 billion years old. Stars are born and stars die. Our sun is 5 billion years old. It will die in about 5 billion years. The really big stars seem to live fast and die young.

When stars die, they create “super novas,” that is, astronomical explosions that send their “star stuff” out into the universe. In that “stuff” are the essential building blocks of life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur–or CHNOPS, for short. We humans are made of this “star stuff.” So are chipmunks, oak trees, and amoebas. We can say that the elements that make up our body were present in those earliest exploding stars!

What do stars reveal about God, their Maker? God is bigger, more powerful, more creative, more mysterious, more ingenious, more intelligent, more dynamic, than we can ever imagine! In short, God is unfathomable! If we ever think we have finally figured out who God is, we are wrong. We should be naturally terrified of a God such as this. But Jesus came to planet earth and revealed that God is essentially Someone who loves us immensely and wants to share life, goodness, and beauty (such as the stars!) with us.

Earth seen from 71 million miles away. Can anyone find it for us?

Stars are found in many places in the Bible. God took Abraham outside one night, directed his attention to the stars, and promised that Abe would be the father of a nation as numerous as the stars. Psalm 8 sings of the beauty of the heavens and the moon and the stars. It was a mysterious star that led the Magi to Jesus, the newborn King. Jesus often prayed at night. He must have often gazed up at the stars during his prayer—the same stars we gaze at in wonder today.

Let us pray: O Maker of the stars (and everything that is!) we thank you! We thank you for the gift of existence… the gift of life.. the gift of being part of such a lively, fascinating, mysterious, and beautiful world. We thank you for giving us Jesus who, over and over again, assured us of your tender love for us… your watchful care of us… and your forgiveness of our sins and failings. When we feel lost, overwhelmed, ashamed, or afraid, may we gaze upon your stars and be reminded of your unfathomable love, power, and goodness. Give us a share of that Love… show us the changes we must make to love others as you love us… help us in our struggles to live together in peace and harmony as one earth community… and give us the courage to be people of hope, people who believe that a better world is not only possible, it’s on its way! We ask for these graces through Jesus and the power of his Amazing and “Stellar” Spirit. Amen.

This photo is entitled “Cosmic Winter Wonderland.”

Is there anything in this reflection that caught your attention?

Do you look at the stars regularly? If so, why? If not, why not?

Do you ever pray with the stars?

PS: I will be giving a live Zoom retreat July 13-19 sponsored by King’s House Retreat Center, Belleville, IL. The retreat will include 12 presentations by me: Monday July 13 – 7:00 pm; July 14 – July 18 – 9:00 am and 3:00 pm; Sunday July 19 – 9:00 am. All times listed are Central Time. There will be handouts every day, music, and videos. I hope to incorporate some sharing time too. For a description of the retreat, click “events” at the top of this page. For details about cost and registration, go to King’s House Retreat Center’s website or call them at (618)-397-0584. I hope to be zooming with some of you!

Our song is called “Stars” by the Christian Rock Band “Skillet.” The band, originally formed in Memphis, TN now has several members who hail from Kenosha, WI.

I invite you to respond to this reflection below:

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Johnson June 8, 2020 at 5:47 am

WOW! Wonderful thoughts to ponder! Your post today brings to mind the passage from Psalm 8: “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place – What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” An amazing universe God has given us. An amazing God who created it, and cares for it…..and for each of us. Thank you, Sister Melannie.

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John Hopkins June 8, 2020 at 6:13 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie…..
Good morning, all….

Thank you, Sr. Melannie for these mind-boggling facts about stars! These days we need to “look up” more than ever. Just beautiful! My reflection takes the form of poem:

So one day
I decided to pay a visit
to the house of the Lord
to ask some questions:
Like: What is your real name?
Do we want You because of death?
Because of desire?
Do You really know the names
of all the stars in their distant fire?
What about the grains of sand?
Have You named the grains?
I’d like to think You have
so that when I’m standing on the beach,
listening to You speak in waves,
gazing up at those You know,
I can think, if only for a second,
You, Great Whoever,
namer of the great and small,
You know me too?
You have heard my questions,
heard my call?

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Karen Gaydosh June 9, 2020 at 9:03 am

Thank you Sr. Melannie for this beautiful reflection! It makes me in awe of our awesome God who created the heavens and earth and all that is in them. It also reminds me how small we all are but how great we are jn the Father’s eyes! I also enjoyed John Hopkins’ poem. Would this be Fr. Hopkins? My husband and I were graced many times by your wisdom at the Bethesda Retreat House. It is wonderful to hear from you again, Blessings to all on this beautiful day!!!

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Jean Canatsey June 15, 2020 at 1:06 pm

What a beautiful poem, John!

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Sr. Lucille Blais June 8, 2020 at 7:14 am

Sr. Melanie,
I am breathless after reading this! I have always been a star gazer and have been overwhelmed by the majesty, beauty and overall magnificence of our spectacular sky. Psalm 8 has always been very meaningful to me because of that and remains my way of greeting God every morning. Thank you, Sister, for such a great account that I need to read, re-read and spend deep thought with it.

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Cyndy June 8, 2020 at 9:38 am

Thank you, Sr Melanie! I look forward to your posts on Monday mornings. This one really caught my attention as I’ve been fascinated by the stars since I was a child. Living in a big city, it is difficult to see the “twinkles” and these days with continued shelter in place, we haven’t been to the country in months. Here’s something special put out by NASA. What did the Hubble see on your birthday?
https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/what-did-hubble-see-on-your-birthday

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Kathleen Magiera June 8, 2020 at 7:44 am

Sr. Melanie,

In these chaotic times, we need to gaze up at the stars and appreciate God’s infinite order in the universe. Thanks for the reminder.

Kathleen

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David Redfield June 8, 2020 at 8:09 am

Dear Sister,
Once again you have reminded us of the love and magnitude of God. For me, this reminder gives me hope in these troubled times when the chains of ego and hatred seem to bind us. This passage reminds us that for God, these are indeed surmountable. They loom large in our small minds but the stars remind us what is possible with God. Each of these billion trillion stars is an expression of God’s love of creation. It is enormous and we are participants in this spectacular and ongoing event of creation! Thanks be to God!

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Ann June 8, 2020 at 8:28 am

Wow! What an incredible reflection. Thank you for sharing and offering the opportunity for significant mediatation.

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Ann June 8, 2020 at 8:31 am

Could not find anymore information on the ZOOM retreat. Went to events as directed and found a brief description but nothing about how to sign up or cost.

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Melannie Svoboda SND June 8, 2020 at 10:06 am

Ann, You have to go to the King’s House Belleview, IL website for information about cost and registration. (I rewrote my directions above because they were not clear.) Thank you for considering this retreat! Gratefully, Melannie

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Char June 8, 2020 at 5:07 pm

The website for the retreat center is
https://www.kingsretreatcenter.org

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Char June 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm
Kathy Lamont June 8, 2020 at 8:42 am

Stars do merit lots of exclamation points. I recommend Robert Frost’s poem ” Choose something like a star”. Many (many) years ago my college glee club sang a version of it.

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Fran pbvm June 8, 2020 at 9:27 am

Good morning, Sr. Melanie. My heart is filled with wonder at the power, beauty and majesty of God’s creation. Thank you, Sr. Melanie., for both the music and the facts about stars. Amazing!! I am truly looking forward to your retreat next month. Many and continued blessings on you and your many ministries.

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Joni Dugan June 8, 2020 at 10:10 am

Thanks Melannie! So refreshing in the midst of watching the news, reading emails about all the riots and listening to local news about our own riots here in KC. Going outside to look at the stars? —-almost impossible in the midst of all the lights. Time for a road trip at night. I think you may have put an exploding star underneath me to get me going!
Any news on the Mt St. Joe retreat in KY yet?

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Mary M Nausadis June 8, 2020 at 11:14 am

The vastness of the uiverse and the number of stars and no two are alike! Can you really imagine that? No two are alike! What an amazing God we have that loves the uniqueness of all creation….loves my idiosyncraties; the way I hold my head, the way I walk, the way I breath, the way I talk; my fear of heights, my love of dance, my artistic aspirations.

It is awing to think of all God has gifted us with….can I ever show my gratefulness for the gift of stars….it will take more than a lifetime.

The vastness of this rather diminishes this pandemic we are living through right now…..the stars that we can see right now have been around how many millenia? The pandemic will be gone in the blink of an eye, in comparison.

Thank you for helping me put this in perspective, Sr. Melannie,

Let this Monday be filled with hope for the days to come.
Mary

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Patty S. June 8, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Lovely and calming reflection. Thank you, Sister,

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Jane June 8, 2020 at 12:54 pm

I love to ponder the beauty of the heavens
Charlie Brown Says:
Perhaps they are not stars in the sky but rather openings where our loved ones shine down on us to let us know they are happy.
Thanks, Melannie, for always coming up with just exactly what all of us need.

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Karen June 8, 2020 at 4:07 pm

Today’s reflection reminds me of a Haiku I wrote years ago …
Starry starry night
Pinpricks of bount’ous light
That must be beyond

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LindaMary June 8, 2020 at 5:18 pm

How lovely! I had 2 reactions to this reflection: firstly, I thought of the astronauts up in the Space Station, a little closer to the stars, and secondly, the lyrics of one of my old favourite songs from the 60’s (Woodstock) by Joni Mitchell came to mind:

“We are stardust,
Billion-year old carbon,
We are golden,
Caught in the devil’s bargain,
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”

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Carol June 8, 2020 at 6:17 pm

Thank you so much for making us focus on something outside of our self and on the greatness and love of our Creator. My favourite story growing up was the “Littlest Angel” How a young Angel gives to the Baby Jesus a gift of himself. When I see the night sky I can’t help but say”How Great thou art”

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jeanne June 9, 2020 at 5:54 am

Would you suggest a book for discussion with people in a parish in August.Thank you.

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Melannie Svoboda SND June 9, 2020 at 8:16 am

Jeanne, If you mean one of MY books, I’d recommend one of these: “Hanging onto Hope” or “Traits of a Healthy Spirituality.” I know book groups have often used these books and they tell me they were good for sharing. Both books are available on Amazon.com. Thanks for responding! Melannie

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Brian Smail June 9, 2020 at 8:25 am

WOW! Thank you for a beautiful reflection Sister! The stars have always been my passion so this was particularly moving for me. Nice way to start the day!
Blessings.
Fr. Brian Smail, OFM

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Paul June 9, 2020 at 9:41 am

Hi Sister. Enjoy your reflections in Give Us This Day. This morning I decided to visit your website. I’ll be back. God bless you for all you do.

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Gerrie June 9, 2020 at 11:46 am

In response to Jeanne’s request for further reading and discussion: Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato. A book that gives connections between the mysteries of the universe and THE MYSTERY that is God ! ! ! Very understandable but absolutely amazing!

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Thomas DeFreitas June 11, 2020 at 9:54 pm

Yes, the stars are much beloved by the poets! I think of Whitman’s “look[ing] up in perfect silence at the stars” and Dante’s “and then we emerged and saw once more the stars” and G. M. Hopkins “Starlight Night” where he speaks of the stars as “fire-folk”!

And then a bit of humour from Robert Frost:

But Outer Space
(At least thus far
For all the fuss
Of the populace)
Stays more popular
Than populous.

Peace and light, grace and good, hope and health to all.

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Jean Canatsey June 15, 2020 at 1:19 pm

This brings back so many memories…..Laying on a blanket in the front yard, watching for falling stars…..our youngest daughter, Sarah, laying on our roof and stargazing through her telescope….. the Hubble exhibit (prior to it’s launch) at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana…..Now we go to YouTube and watch the view from Hubble and listen to the quiet, peaceful music of the universe. God is so much more than we can ever imagine.

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Nancy Dobney July 5, 2020 at 12:06 pm

I love your excitement about stars and I love hearing an reading about them too. It’s overwelming to think about all God has done. I love the song too. I had never heard that one but I plan to listen to it more. Thank you for sharing and lifting us up with stars!!!

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