By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
As often does in Catholic ministry, a budding friendship and common interest in defending the faith has grown into a mission for two parishioners of St. Veronica, Howell.
Peter Bernot and Robert Konzelmann have used their professional backgrounds to create “The Magnificent Universe,” a presentation that aims to use nature to prove the existence of God.
Bernot, a semi-retired chemist, and Konzelmann, a practicing lawyer, use their backgrounds in science and law to lead the audience through a five-part presentation that utilizes a courtroom trial format. Beginning last year, they have given different portions of their talk to their parish men’s group. They are currently seeking opportunities to offer the presentation to youth and young adult audiences, as well as parishes.
“The audience becomes the jury,” said Konzelmann. “With that expectation, they’re totally engaged.”
“As a scientist, Pete knows a lot of chemistry, physics and cosmology; as a trial lawyer, I’m pretty good at asking questions,” he explained. “We felt if we use the talents God gave us, we can prove ... – using logic and common sense – that God must exist.”
Bernot provides a scientific overview of the origin of the universe, describing the gravitational and magnetic forces at play, while Konzelmann tries to reduce his explanations to simpler terms a jury could understand.
“I question Pete as if he was my expert witness in a courtroom,” said Konzelmann. “Pete uses a laptop and projector to show Hubble [Space Telescope] pictures, scientific diagrams and relevant quotes from experts to provide his evidence.”
There’s enough material to keep the talk going for 75 minutes, and Bernot noted that “one of our challenges is constraining our discussion of the specialness of Earth and the origin of life within our time allotment.”
The presentation grew out of a discussion that Bernot, Konzelmann and other members of their Sunday men’s group at St. Veronica carried over the years about the growing secularization of society and how young people were losing their faith when they left for college.
“They didn’t know how to defend their belief in God,” Konzelmann said.
Bernot agreed, saying, “They neither had the vocabulary nor the practice to engage in conversation about their faith.”
“One day,” Konzelmann continued, “it seemed like the Lord asked us, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”
The friends of 13 years took the question to heart and designed their presentation as a vehicle for reaching youth of their parish, for starters. The five parts of their talk are titled “The Splendor of the Universe,” “The Beginning of Life,” “Homo Sapiens and Self-Awareness,” “The Validity of Scripture” and “The Historical Jesus and Evidence for his Resurrection.” So far, they have presented parts two and four in St. Veronica’s, which were well received.
“Depending on the sophistication of our audience, through my questioning I might describe ‘the Big Bang’ as an IED placed in ‘nothingness’ about 13.8 billion years ago when science tells us the world began,” Konzelmann said. “Who put it there? Who lit the fuse? Or Pete might describe some of the 40 or so variables that make planet Earth an ideal place to support the origin of life. These characteristics of our place in space … include our ideal distance from the sun, our atmosphere, the role of tectonic plates, our magnetosphere, the role of the moon and more.”
Added Bernot, “We’d like to give students something to think about before they’re off to college.”
However, the conversation isn’t limited to youth. “We can ‘raise or lower the bar’ to accommodate high school or college students and any adult parishioners interested in the program topics,” he added. Konzelmann agreed, saying, “We can address a college audience – Pete can get into the weeds with anyone.”
For more information about hosting “The Magnificent Universe,” call or text Bob Konzelmann, 732-829-8337, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Presentations are free; an audience of about 20 is preferred but not essential.