Astronomer of the Spirit
During John Paul II’s history-making 1998 visit to Cuba, I was at lunch in a Havana paladar with various Americans and Latin Americans. Lorenzo Albacete, a priest from Puerto Rico, notorious in the United States for his brilliance – and eccentricities – was among us. Charlie Rangel, a larger-than-life, already-30-year Congressman from New York, walked in and started back-slapping us – “Hey, fellas!” – as if he were home, doing a ward stump. But he stopped, and in beautiful NewYorican, said: “Hey Lorenszo, I wuz wit Fidel fuh two ah-wers last night, and all he wanted to tawk about (pointing) wuz yoo!”
Albacete had just written a remarkable article in the New York Times Magazine, explaining the global influence of both Castro and JPII – and the large moral differences between them. Like all terminal narcissists, Fidel relished the visibility, even though the portrait was, to say the least, not entirely flattering.
Albacete started adult life as an astrophysicist, doing government aerospace research, before he felt called to the priesthood. He taught in various places – even served briefly as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He wrote a couple of books, notably God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity. I reviewed it when it came out (here) and see now that I said, “Albacete’s constant theme is not that worldly desires. . .are crowding out religious principles, though that happens in every age. His much more interesting contention is that modern desire is not nearly passionate enough.” We content ourselves with paltry pursuits – wealth, power, influence – when both science and religion lay before us a wonder-full cosmos.