Award-winning astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ is a son of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He attended Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School, in Beverly Hills, from first grade through eighth grade. He then graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1970 and went on to profess vows as a Jesuit brother in 1991. Brother Guy now serves as the director of the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and then attended the University of Arizona for his Ph.D. After his time as postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at MIT, he joined the U.S. Peace Corps and taught physics and astronomy in Kenya. Brother Guy’s astronomy research focuses on asteroids and meteorites, and he has co-authored several books about astronomy and the connection between religion and science.
Q1: What was the last book you read?
The Penderwicks at Last, by Jeanne Birdsall. All of life is living out the dreams you had when you were twelve years old.
Q2: What is your biggest fear?
Q3: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Writers who don’t know the difference between “which” and “that.” It irks me especially because I had to have a co-author explain it to me, when I had thought I was a better writer than she was!
Q4: Whom do you admire?
Pope Francis. Not just for all his obvious qualities, but for his enormous patience with the rest of us.
Q5: If you had unlimited resources, what would you do?
Build a 40-meter telescope in Chile, and set up a school there to teach kids who never thought they could learn astronomy.
Q6: What is your favorite feast day?
Easter. We all crave resurrection; and I am a sucker for jelly beans.
Q7: What is your best quality?
Being able to make myself invisible in social situations, until I can slip away and go home and read a book.
Q8: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
I joined the Peace Corps and went off to Africa for two years. It was everything I am not; and the best thing I ever did.
Q9: What is your earliest memory?
St. Patrick’s Day, 1956; that’s the day we bought our summer cottage on Lake Huron, and life began for me.
Q10: What virtue do you most admire in others?
Tolerance of other people.
Q11: What words do you use too much?
Q12: What gives you the most happiness?
A nap in the afternoon.
Q13: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Say the rosary. No, I am not being pious; this gives me the excuse for another ten minutes in bed before I have to get up!
Q14: What talent or skill do you wish you had?
Playing music. My brother is a musician; to me, what he does is magic.
Q15: What are you most proud of?
My book, “Turn Left at Orion.” I made a lifelong friend of my co-author, Dan Davis; and I helped out a hundred thousand other amateur astronomers who were as lost in the nighttime sky as I was.
Q16: What is your vision of heaven?
An autumn day by a lake.
Q17: What was your first job?
I was a summer intern at the Lapeer County Press, starting the summer after I graduated from U of D High. It taught me how to be able to sit patiently in front of a keyboard for hours; and it taught me that I have no talent at all for journalism.
Q18: What is your most cherished possession?
My little spotter-scope telescope, a Celestron C-90. I’ve taken it with me to Kenya and the Peace Corps, into the Jesuit novitiate, even to New Zealand en route to Antarctica.
Q19: What is your favorite hobby or pastime?
Editing something that I have written.
Q20: What do you value the most in your friends?
Tolerance. And a sense of humor. And if they can cook.
Q21: Who is your favorite author?
I love them all; even the bad ones. Every book represents the year of the author’s life.
Q22: Who is your fictional hero?
Q23: Which saint do you turn to for intercession the most?
Albert the Great. He was the first scientist.
Q24: How do you define a “Missionary Disciple”?
To be a missionary means to be sent; it doesn’t have to be a foreign country, but a foreign situation, perhaps dealing with a difficult person or an unpleasant task.
Q25: What keeps you up at night?
Stupid stuff. I remember my father (who lived to 100) describing how he’d lie awake at 3 am fretting over something he’d done in college; and then he’d suddenly realize, everyone else involved in that episode had been dead for ten years!
Q26: How do you want to be remembered when you die?
He made them laugh.
Q27: What is your life motto or mantra?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Q28: What makes you laugh?
Learning something new.
Q29: How do you define success?
Any landing you can walk away from.