Michelle Buckley

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Tears of St. Lawrence

Photo: Paul Scott, St Boniface's Catholic College in Plymouth.


Last night -- I had a heavenly encounter. I had the chance to witness God at work painting a peaceful masterpiece across His lush firmament canvas. Yep, that's right, I got a peep at the annual Perseid meteor shower that takes place every summer. Astronomers estimated as many as 60 meteors per hour could flit across the sky at the shower's peak. (I only saw 4 -- a sistah got tired -- but I got my wish on! Sadly, I didn't see the rare red glow of Mars.) Watching the show left me in awe and wonder at God's divineness and it reminded me of how small yet connected we all are in this big global universe. If you missed it, not to worry, you can catch it this time next year...or the next...or the next...or the next!

Interestingly...the annual Perseid meteor shower, is also known as "The Tears of St. Lawrence."

Laurentius was a Christian deacon who according to Christian lore, was entrusted with the safekeeping of the Holy Chalice and the Holy Grail. He is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: "I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other."

(How's that for unflappable?)

The saint's death was commemorated on Aug. 10. and the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence's "fiery tears."

Behind the tears

These meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Discovered back in 1862, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the Sun. With each pass, it leaves fresh dirt and debris -- mostly the size of sand grains with a few peas and marbles tossed in. Every year during mid-August, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, the bits and pieces ram into our atmosphere at approximately 132,000 mph, creating bright streaks of light.

For more about meteors, visit here.

Read more about St. Lawrence here.

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