NASSAU BAY — When the ancient psalmist rested on a Judean hill and gazed up into the infinite night, he was moved to write, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
More recently, in 2009, Astronaut Michael Good was on a more prosaic mission. Tasked with replacing batteries and gyroscopes on the then-ailing Hubble Space Telescope, he was in the middle of his busy day on orbit and the same thing happened to him.
“At the end of our mission, Hubble was effectively a new telescope capable of looking back 13 billion years at the first light of the universe,” Good said.
“Imagine how far that light has traveled in 13 billion years!
“It’s actually beyond our human comprehension to understand how vast the universe is.
“As I looked down at the Earth and up into the heavens from orbit, I was in awe of the beauty of God’s creation.
“My spaceflight experience definitely solidified my faith in God.
“Our God is truly an awesome God — the One that created the whole universe, with millions of galaxies and billions of stars, and yet He knows and loves each one of us by name.”
The upgraded telescope, in turn, produced images that have been used to create a full set of one-of-a-kind sacred “Celestial Windows” that grace Nassau Bay’s St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, 18223 Point Lookout Drive.
Good, who worships here, is used to big — the Hubble Space Telescope is about 44 feet by 14 feet.
The Celestial Windows, which crown the sanctuary here and are based on the telescope’s images, are even larger than the profile of the orbiting satellite itself, measuring about 80 feet by 18 feet.
From 2005 to 2007, this church worked with brother-and-sister team Rolf and Renata Rohn to develop the largest kiln-fired plate art glass in America.
Peter’s Glass Studio in Paderborn, Germany contributed multiple glass firings, which were used to create the cosmos, angels and Holy Spirit from Renata’s artwork.
Maria Hubbard added her digital illustration talent to the final product. At a resolution of 300 dots per inch, that amounted to an incredible number of pixels processed before the final images were put onto glass.
“Today, this kind of work has become standard in the glass industry, but St. Paul’s was the first, and it looks as powerful today as when it was first installed,” she said.
“Due to my previous job at United Space Alliance, I attended the debriefing with the astronauts after each shuttle mission and it was noteworthy how common it was for them to express the awesomeness and spirituality of being up there.”
The Rev. Wencil Pavlovsky, pastor of St. Paul’s, has seen other grand churches around the world. He just recently returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Rome.
“But I’m partial to this place,” he said. “These windows fit so nicely because of the relation this parish has to JSC. They tie everything together.”
Pavlovsky arrived after the windows were dedicated, but he still remembers his first day in this special space.
“I was standing in front, reading a passage from 1 Timothy and I was overcome by the Spirit,” he said. Then I walked through the church as if scales had fallen from my eyes as I wondered what I had done that God had brought me here.”