St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Teilhard de Chardin

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In honor of the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. had a good article in the Catholic News Agency on the spirituality of St. Thérèse and its relationship to the vision of Teilhard de Chardin:

What could have prompted Pius XI in 1925 to canonize her and her “little way?  What could have prompted John Paul II in 1997 to declare her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the third woman, and the youngest woman of them all?  What was so remarkable, so cosmic about picking up pins and not flinching when water was splashed in her face by another nun? On October 1st, questions like these come to mind when the liturgical calendar registers the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

As a Carmelite, Thérèse grasped the Pauline verse that whatever you do,  ‘whether you eat or drink’ can be sanctified not only for God’s glory and praise but to build up the Church in the world (1 Cor 10:31).  Perhaps she heard of the sacrament of the present moment, so simply preached by her fellow Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Caussade, S.J. (d 1791).  Wasn’t she anticipating what Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. wrote The Divine Milieu?  All human activity is steadily and irrevocably moving from Christ, the Alpha, to Christ, the Omega.  Thérèse understood the importance of sanctifying everything in one’s day through one’s intentions.

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The Ignorance of Some Scientists

William Ockham:

There is an interesting internet discussion between Dan Horan and John Slattery regarding David Barash’s provocative article in the New York Times. I lack the time to do justice to this topic but the substance of my views is very similar to Fr. Horan’s so I am reblogging his post but I encourage you to read the Professor Barash’s original article and Mr. Slattery’s response to Fr. Horan also.

Originally posted on Dating God:

evolution religionOk, it’s been a while since I’ve been as worked up as I am about a scientist who publicly ridicules religion and dismisses out of hand the possibility that women and men of faith — particularly Christian faith — can hold both their beliefs and solid scientific truths at the same time. The most recent instance of what I am calling “the ignorance of some scientists” appeared in the New York Times this weekend in an article titled, “God, Darwin, and my College Biology Class,” by the University of Washington evolutionary biologist David Barash.

Professor Barash tells the story of his routine introductory lecture given to students early in each new semester. He makes it clear that if one is uncomfortable with the concept of biological evolution on account of religious beliefs, they would do well to suspend those convictions or at least not allow them to…

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (September 29, 2014): Origins of Belief

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“To believe is to develop an act of synthesis whose first origin is inapprehensible. . . [O]ne has to verify the solidity of an inevitable initial faith, and then one has to verify the organic continuity of the successive stages which the augmentations of that faith pass through. I know no other apologetics for my own self and I cannot therefore suggest any other to those for whom I wish the supreme happiness of one day finding themselves face to face with a unified universe.”

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 1269-1270, 1275-1277). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Sunday Reflection, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 28, 2014): Kenosis in an Evolutionary World

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Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Phil 2:5-8

This Sunday is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. The second reading contains one of my favorite passages (cited above) about the attributes of the triune God.  The term use to describe the passage is kenosis, which comes from the Greek word for emptying. It means the self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will.

This week’s reflection explores this radical concept and how leading Catholic scholars of the 20th century such as Hans Urs von Balthasar  and Karl Rahner have interpreted this attribute of God in light of scientific discoveries of the last 200 years. The reflection is from a 2006 article by Manuel G. Doncel, S.J, a Spanish physicist and Jesuit priest, titled “The Kenosis of the Creator, His Creative Call and the Created Co-Creators” that was published in the European Journal of Science and Theology. The paper is very theological but is very readable for a non-theologian such as me.  I encourage you to read the entire paper here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“The Christian idea of kenosis is grounded in a verse of a New Testament hymn (Philippians 2.7), and has been traditionally applied to the incarnated Logos. But, under the Jewish influence of the mystical zimzum, kenosis is now also applied in Christian theology to the Creator. This leads to a change of emphasis in the concept of God: from ‘absolute power’ to ‘absolute love’. According to [Catholic theologian] Hans Urs von Balthasar, such a kenosis (characteristic of any true love) should be presupposed in the eternal love relationship of the divine Persons. What we consider in Creation or Incarnation is a manifestation of this internal kenosis in God’s external relationship with creatures, which add its vulnerable nature to kenosis. 

We can imagine the kenosis of the Creator as a ‘self-restriction’ in His divine being, freely fulfilled in loving respect for the creatures to be created, in order to offer them metaphysical play, to exist and to act as autonomous created beings. We specifically conceive that the triune God, ‘before’ His decision to create the universe, freely accepted to be ‘no longer’ the only ‘sufficient condition’ of every particular effect. When deciding upon a universe of physical and free personal creatures, the kenosis of the Creator embodied a variety of elements to be indicated.

The most momentous element of the kenosis of the Creator is related to free human actions. Respect for this freedom requires God to allow moral evil or sin (i.e. to allow creatures to react against the divine will). Denis Edwards makes this point when he considers real freedom in the triune God, the freedom to enter into love, to risk oneself with another. On the other hand, John Polkinghorne draws a parallel between the ‘free wills’ of human agents and the ‘autonomous processes’ of the world regulated by natural laws. Thus, he considers a new element of the kenosis of the Creator, the fact that God allows His creative call and the created co-creators the autonomous course of such world processes. This may shed new light on the problem of physical evil.

* * * 

The essence of the trinitarian God is love, which is exchanged between the divine Persons in an eternal perichoresis (‘circumincession’, intercommunication). The new application of the divine kenosis intends to introduce a whole world of created persons within the personal being of God, amounting to an extended perichoresis of sorts. Such creatures should be built with respectful tact, so that they become persons, and they should also experience restoration from disorders. This kenosis of a vulnerable nature will come to an end, together with every physical and moral evil, when these personal creatures are consecrated in indefectible love and living in interpersonal communication with God.”

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Additional Resources:

Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries
Set the World Ablaze Reflection
Fr. Robert Barron Podcast

 

 

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The Spiritual and Psychological Damage of Failing to Forgive

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One of my (many) weaknesses is that I have a long memory for any actual or perceived wrong done to me. Forgiving unconditionally is one of the things that I continue to work on. I recently came across an excellent blogpost from Fr. Alexis Trader, an Orthodox priest and a psychologist, that highlights the spiritual and psychological damage that occurs to a person that hangs on to grudges, which I do all too often. I encourage you to read the entire post here, but set forth below is a summary:

Statements such as “I will forgive, but I won’t forget” and “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names” are oft-quoted phrases that remain popular to this day. They represent a tip of the hat to the virtue of forgiveness while reserving the full rights to nurse the offense well into the future. While some will view such an attitude as practical in a world where self-preservation is paramount, these sentiments aren’t supported by psychological research and are even further from the spirit of the Church.

* * *

The remembrance of wrongs or rumination over an offense is a maladaptive, self-destructive mental behavior that brings psychological suffering and spiritual desolation. The consequences of such behavior are so serious that we should guard against nursing grudges even when we have outwardly expressed forgiveness. In this context, the quotes I mentioned at the outset of this post should be viewed as toxic poison to the mind and to the soul. They are like heavy, solid steel chains which bind us and cause us to fall into a pit of darkness and eventual despair. The only solution, recommended by both secular science and the holy fathers, is to avoid such thoughts or replace them with something better. And what could possibly be better than the remembrance of God, the imitation of the Saints, and the love of Christ? And so when remembrance of wrongs come to our mind, let us remember Christ’s command to love our enemies, which means to forget even that they are enemies, and something truly wonderful will happen. As Saint John Chrysostom put it, “So, love your enemy, for you are doing yourself a favor more them him. How? You are becoming like God. Your enemy whom you love has no great gain by being loved of a fellow servant, but if you love your fellow servant you are becoming like God. See you are doing a favor not for him, but for yourself” (Homily 19 to the Hebrews).

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (September 22, 2014): Spiritual Progress

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“[I]t remains true that, expressed in forms that are infinitely varied, there can ultimately be only one psychological axis of spiritual progress towards God. Even if they are expressed in completely subjective terms, many of the things I am going to say must necessarily have their equivalents in temperaments different from my own—and they must raise a sympathetic echo in them. Man is essentially the same in all of us, and we have only to look sufficiently deeply within ourselves to find a common substratum of aspirations and illumination. To put it in a way which already expresses my fundamental thesis: ‘

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 1250-1255). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Sunday Reflection, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 21, 2014): God’s Generosity Trumps Human “Fairness”

 

“Are you envious because I am generous?’ — Matthew 20:15″

This weekend is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here.

The Gospel is the parable of the landowner who hires workers at different times throughout the day.  The workers hired just one hour before quitting time received a full days’ wages.  The workers who worked a full day, expected to receive more than the latter workers but the landowner paid them the agreed upon days’ wage. These workers complained but the landowner was unsympathetic.

I admit, I find the Gospel extremely challenging as it is contrary to my very human notion of “fairness”. However, one of the advantages of being of a parent is that you see the world from a different perspective. I have two wonderful boys but they have a strong sense of human “fairness” but often lack gratitude for gifts. In a recent example, they were given a cookie for good behavior but one immediately complained because his brother received what he thought was  bigger cookie. It was one of those moments that gave me a glimpse on how God must view my own ingratitude for the gifts he has given me. Unfortunately, for me children, God is much more generous than me:-)

This week’s reflection is from the Jamberoo Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in Australia.  They have a wonderful Lectio Divina on the readings, including a Teilhard de Chardin reference :-).  The entire reflection can be found here, but set forth below is an excerpt:

Lectio: Read the second text from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, chapter 1, verses 20-24 and verse 27.

Meditatio: Some background to the text so that we understand it better and can then make our response.

There are two sections to this text.
There is Paul’s dilemma: he wants to be gone from this life and to be with Christ, but he knows that to stay alive is more urgent a need for the sake of the Gospel
Then there is an exhortation for every Christian: Avoid anything in your everyday lies that would be unworthy of the Gospel of Christ.
This is an amazingly powerful exhortation. One can imagine how the world would change if every Christian took this seriously. At the moment Pope Francis is certainly taking it seriously.

Other than these two sections the reading does not present any need for more analysis.

Read the text again and allow the Holy Spirit to work on your heart. What words, what phrases, what sentences are to change your life?

[Reflection:

  • Teilhard de Chardin once wrote: “We are called to be pioneers, pioneers who stand on the edge of great beginnings, of unseen futures.” This, I believe, is what Paul is saying: “Avoid anything in your everyday lives which would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.” To be a Pioneer, standing on the edge of a great beginning, is to live every day in a way which is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .  “What are you willing to see with new eyes, to hear with new ears, to explore with a new heart?” We see with new eyes, hear with new ears, explore with new hearts when we live our lives worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.]

Lectio: Read the Gospel text from Matthew 20:1-16.

Read it slowly and reflectively, and maybe a second time. Try to read aloud rather than with the mind. Listen to the text as you read.

Meditatio: What is it about?
This is the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard. It is a story about God’s generosity. The word “vineyard” is a symbol for Israel. A denarius was a normal day’s wage. The rest of the parable is a simple story and easily understood. The reversal of fortunes in verse 15, is attributed to the generosity and goodness of God, his love for the most needy, not to any class vindictiveness. (cf. NJBC 42:120). Fr. Karl Rahner sheds some further light on the text: “This story does not deal with the question whether any individual is rewarded by God’s judgment according to one’s works or not. In this parable Jesus is saying something else, something far wider, something especially significant in view of the way in which the Jews of that time were preoccupied with rewards: he is saying to us that between God and us there prevails something quite different, something that cannot be calculated, that cannot be expressed in terms of justice, something that is in fact the mercy and free disposition of the eternal God. This is the truth that comforts us, and raises us up and frees us from a burden.” (The Great Church Year, page 291).

Read the Gospel text a number of times during the week. Sit with the text for many “quiet” times.
Listen to the Holy Spirit playing like a harpist on the fibres of your heart, to bring forth the melody of your response.

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Other Reflections:

Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries

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