Kuruvilla Pandikattu SJ
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French biologist, microbiologist and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases, and his discoveries have saved many lives ever since. Little was known about preventative medicine and the causes of disease in the days of Louis Pasteur. Today, we owe all the discoveries in the fields of microbiology and immunology to his work.
Pasteur’s scientific and medical accomplishments include cure for rabies, anthrax, chicken cholera, and silkworm diseases. He also contributed towards developing the first vaccines and provided logical grounds for fermentation and brewing.
Pasteur came from a long line of peasants. Pasteur grew up as a devout Catholic and he kept to his spiritual roots till the very end.
Pasteur was a spiritual man and recognized the need for religion, as many times he would rely on faith alone to keep his work going. He trusted that the universe was ordered and organized efficiently and that if he continued to pour his heart into his work, his efforts would not fail him.
He adored the Infinite God who created all of us as equals. “Are science and the passionate desire to understand anything else than the effect of that spur towards knowledge which the mystery of the universe has placed in our souls? Where are the true sources of human dignity, of liberty, of modern democracy, unless they are contained in the idea of the infinite, before which all men are equal?”
As God is infinite, He elaborates on His rich understanding of God: “The idea of God is a form of the idea of the Infinite. As long as the mystery of the Infinite weighs on human thought, temples will be erected for the worship of the Infinite, whether God be called ‘Brahma,’ ‘Allah,’ ‘Jehovah,’ or ‘Jesus;’ and on the pavement of those temples men will be seen kneeling, prostrate, annihilated, in the thought of the Infinite. At these supreme moments there is something in the depths of our souls which tells us that the world may be more than a mere continuation of phenomena proper to a mechanical equilibrium brought out of the chaos of the elements through the gradual action of the forces of matter.”
He also recognised the separation between science and religion. So he wrote: “In each one of us there are two men, the scientist and the man of faith or of doubt. These two spheres are separate, and woe to those who want to make them encroach upon one another in the present state of our knowledge!”
As a person, he had complete trust in the power of God leading his lives. “If by chance you falter on the journey, a hand will be there to support you. If that should be wanting, God, who alone would take the hand from you, would accomplish the work.”