No, this isn't another post about the Pope, about wisdom from my priest, or a personal request for divine intervention.
It's actually about the response given when NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. was asked yesterday at a House Committee hearing what America should do if a meteor similar to the one that wreaked havoc in Russia was on its way to America:
At the moment, we might be lucky to get even three weeks warning. The United States and the rest of the world simply do not have the ability to detect many "small" meteors like the one that exploded over Russia, which has been estimated at roughly 55 feet long. Donald Yeomans, Manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office and the author of "Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us," told CBSNews.com that there are a lot of these small meteors in orbit, and little early warning system in place to detect them.
If such an object is discovered to be approaching Earth, the leading contender to address the problem would be to crash a spacecraft into it in order to slow it down and alter its course. "If you find it early enough, and you smack it early enough, you've got enough time," said Yeomans. The technology already exists to track and hit a space object: In 2005, NASA deliberately struck the Tempel 1 comet and photographed the impact. Still, for a large object, you'd need billions of dollars and, Yeomans estimates, at least a 10-year head start.
"The technology is there, the question is do we have enough time to plan, build, launch and intercept these objects prior to an impact," he said. The good news is that, in the case of a large object approaching Earth, we would be expected to have decades of advanced warning.
Bolden's response to pray was likely meant as a joke or perhaps, more cynically, as a means to seek more funding for the agency he leads, but I find it revealing nevertheless.
I've been in situations, particularly recently, where my suggestion to seek prayer, especially from a priest, was responded to by a word of caution that doing so might evoke fear because it could be seen to be a last resort before something terrible happens and no one wanted to communicate that the situation was that serious.
Think on that a minute.
We've reached a point culturally where a call to a priest for prayer is seen to be something that ought to be done only as a last resort and, in essence, avoided because no one wants to invoke fear.
It highlights for me how... well... weird I guess... I've become.
I go to a priest for prayer because I believe I need the help. I go because I need to deal with the fear I already have. I go because I've come to know and trust that it helps.
I go because I have a need and going meets that need.
We need to figure out, and I don't sadly have an answer, how to convey that going to priests for prayer isn't just for the dying.
It's particularly for the living.
I appreciate Mr. Bolden giving me the opportunity to air this out.