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Nanotechnology Expert Presents Miller Lecture on Faith, Science

Dr. Mauro FerrariMedical research and prayer “share many fundamental characteristics,” according to Mauro Ferrari, president, CEO, and distinguished endowed chair of Houston Methodist Research Institute, who will deliver the University of St. Thomas’ annual Archbishop J. Michael Miller Lecture on Feb. 20.

Ferrari’s lecture, "Five Prayers: A Testimonial on Faith and Science,” will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Cullen Hall on the University campus at 4001 Mt. Vernon St.

Ferrari, an internationally recognized pioneer in biomedical nanotechnology, said even though science and religion are two “completely distinct” domains—“science cannot be a religion, and religion cannot be science,” he observed—it is possible to “look at science and get inspired for worship, and through worship, be inspired to tackle the difficult problems in science.”

Humility Crucial in Prayer and Research

The parallels between faith and research, Ferrari explained, include “recognizing the signature of the Lord in what you observe,” and approaching both prayer and science with a fundamental attitude of humility.

“The first thing I do when I pray is say, ‘Lord, how great you are and how little I am’; and in science, I begin by saying, ‘Look at this, how wonderful it is! And how little I am,’” Ferrari said. “Unless you do that, it is difficult to pray.  And you cannot study nature with hubris; you have to have humility.”

The Mystery of ‘Brother Sorrow’

Ferrari said his lecture, “a humble expression of gratitude and awe,” will address how the Lord comes into his professional life.  He will offer personal reflections on sources that include the Universal Prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI; the example of Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry His cross; and the life and thought of St. Bonaventure.

The Universal Prayer, Ferrari noted, asks God for an increase in faith, trust, and love, but also, “surprisingly,” sorrow.  While St. Francis often spoke of “Sister Death,” he said, “we must also talk about Brother Sorrow,” because God has mysteriously allowed suffering and pain to play a vital part in human experience.

“Working in a hospital, in constant contact with pain and suffering and disease and death, brings this issue to the fore in everyday life in a dramatic way,” Ferrari said.  “To practice any form of medicine, one has to be open to and accepting of Brother Sorrow.”

We Are All Simon of Cyrene

Simon of Cyrene is also a source of personal inspiration, Ferrari said, because Simon “just happened to be there,” an unassuming bystander, when he was pressed into the momentous task of helping the Lord on the Via Dolorosa.

“He symbolizes to me the fact that we are called to serve the situations we wouldn’t expect, that we are not ready for, whether we are able to do it or not,” Ferrari said.  “Simon accepts; he says, ‘Fine, I’ll do it,’ and I think that’s the message for life.  We are all Simons of Cyrene as we travel through the world.”

Reckless Abandonment to the Lord—in Prayer and Science

Dr. Mauro FerrariThe life and thought of St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, demonstrates an inspiring “parallel between mysticism and creativity,” Ferrari observed.  A rigorous scholar, sophisticated communicator and pragmatic leader, St. Bonaventure was also a mystic capable of “unbelievable emotional transport,” he explained.

“This reckless abandonment to Lord – when you can mimic that in scientific discovery, that’s when the greatest achievements are made.”

Ferrari, who holds doctorates in mathematics and mathematical engineering, is also director of the Institute of Academic Medicine and executive vice president of Houston Methodist Hospital, as well as president of The Alliance for NanoHealth in Houston. As a leading expert in biomedical nano/micro-technology, Ferrari has published six books and more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, and has more than 30 issued patents for his inventions in the field.  His contributions have garnered numerous national and international accolades.

The Miller Lecture Series features experts who have overcome the dichotomy of faith and reason and risen to greatness by embodying the values of the Catholic intellectual tradition in professional practice.  The lecture is named in honor of University of St. Thomas President Emeritus Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, and made possible through the generosity of the John W. and Alida M. Considine Foundation.

There will be a reception at 6 p.m. in the Link-Lee Mansion, before the lecture begins, with limited seating available. RSVP required: by February 15, 2014.

Story by Marion Fernandez-Cueto