The Sunday they received communion in space

Somehow I missed this when it made news a few years back. But blogger Kathy Schiffer, in looking back on the spirituality of space travel, mentions a remarkable communion service that took place in the heavens.

This comes from a 2004 article in St. Anthony Messenger by astronaut Thomas Jones, describing one memorable moment on the space shuttle Endeavour:

Just over a week into the mission, one of us realized it was Sunday again, two weeks after Easter. Our shifts overlapped for a few hours, so during one orbital night Sid, Kevin and I gathered on the flight deck for a short Communion service.

Kevin, a eucharistic minister, carried the Blessed Sacrament with him, contained within a simple golden pyx. The three of us shared our amazement at experiencing the beauty of creation, and thanked God for good companions and the success achieved so far. Then Kevin shared the Body of Christ with Sid and me, and we floated weightless on the flight deck, grateful for this moment of comradeship and communion with Christ.

Our silent reflection was interrupted by a sudden burst of dazzling white light. The sun had risen (as it did 16 times each day) just as we finished Communion, and now its pure radiance streamed through Endeavour’s cockpit windows and bathed us in its warmth. To me, this was a beautiful sign, God’s gentle touch confirming our union with him.

I rolled away from my crewmates, unable to stem the tears evoked by that singular sunrise. My gaze turned to the overhead windows and the Pacific Ocean, the dawn lighting its surface in a rich, limitless blue.

I called out to Kevin and Sid, “Look at that ocean—what an incredible color!” They both turned and drank in hues unmatched by the palette of any human artist. After a moment, Kevin said simply, “It’s the blue of the Virgin’s veil, Tom.” He was right. There were no other words for that vision out the window.

You’ll want to read it all.  And check out Kathy’s blog for more stories about finding God in the cosmos.


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