Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (August 18, 2014): Trust in God’s Plan For You


“[I]f people try to be ‘pioneers’ not out of personal pride and ambition but from love of the Church and of truth, and with absolute trust in God and acceptance of His will before all else, can God allow them to cut themselves off from him? . . . We must pray for one another, then, that our Lord may keep us both humble and fearless, supremely united above all to His divinity, the source of every really fruitful activity . . . One could be heartbroken sometimes, don’t you find, to feel deep within one so many powers, so many sources of illumination, that remain buried, stifled in the impenetrable throng of people who surround us without knowing or understanding us . . . What peace it is then to know that there is a living center of all things, through whom our desires and our points of view can unerringly make their way and reverberate in the very depth of souls, of each individual soul — anonymously but divinely. “

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest, 1914-1919 (pp. 127-128) (from letter to Marguerite Teilhard dated September 18, 1916)

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Sunday Reflection, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 17, 2014): Reaching Out Beyond Our Tribe

This Sunday is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here.  The Gospel is about the fascinating story of Jesus traveling outside of Jewish territory, something he very rarely does. There he has an interesting encounter with a Canaanite woman (Canaanites were historical enemies with the Jews) who is asking to be healed.

Jesus appears to be dismissive and even rude to the woman, referring to her as a “dog”. Many commentators indicate that in this exchange Jesus may have been using joking sarcasm to make a point to his Jewish disciples. We know from the story that the woman felt comfortable continuing the dialogue with Jesus and that Jesus ultimately healed her. The juxtaposition of the mocking language used by Jesus’ disciples and the reaching out of Jesus to heal this “outsider” indicates that although humans think in tribal terms, God’s love makes no such distinction.  As such, all of us are called reach beyond our narrow tribal loyalties and share God’s love to those outside our “clan”.

This week’s reflection comes from Renew International, an organization that does just that. You can find the full reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“So, why was Jesus so unreceptive to the woman in the beginning? The context of this Gospel gives us the answer. The majority of Matthew’s audiences are converts to Christianity from Judaism. This passage reflects an understandable presumption from this group that Jesus’ message was meant only for the Jews. This community also included Gentiles, converts from paganism. These two groups, who were so different in their religious backgrounds and culture, were united in their profession of the Christian faith and became the new People of God.

The manner in which this encounter unfolds depicts this struggle. Jesus, as a Jewish male, is at risk of becoming “unclean” by speaking with a Canaanite woman. Yet through his conversation with this “untouchable” woman, we witness a change in Jesus’ responses. It is here that we come to recognize the inclusive love intended for the Jews was meant for the Gentiles as well.
“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Matthew 15: 28).
It’s the intensity of the Canaanite woman’s conviction and the passion of her faith that enabled Jesus to change his perception in the end.
So what is Matthew challenging us to learn through this episode? Should we question the way we listen to some voices and not others? Are there certain people or messages that are difficult for us to hear? If we take this story to heart,the witness of Jesus urges us to expect the call to conversion in some of the most unlikely places, and to be attentive when we hear it.

Read Full Reflection

Other Resources:

Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries
Fr. Robert Barron Podcast

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (August 11, 2014): Creation and Evolution


“I’ve at least drawn up a plan of moral studies (interpretation and justification, from the point of view of natural evolution — replenished by the light of faith — of morality, chastity and charity). . . . To grow and to fulfill oneself to the utmost — that is the law immanent in being. I do not believe that in allowing us glimpses of a more divine life God has excused us from pursuing, even on its natural plane, the work of creation. It would, I think, be ‘tempting God’ to let the world go its own way without trying to . . . understand it more fully. We must do all we can to lessen death and suffering. We must develop the significance of revealed dogma through a more searching criticism of truth. “

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest, 1914-1919 (p. 126) (from letter dated September 18, 1916)

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Sunday Reflection, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 10, 2014): Human Fighting or Human Cooperation?


Rosetta Mission: An example of human cooperation


Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. — 1 Kings 19: 11-12

This Sunday is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here.  August 2014 is an interesting time in history. The front pages are filled with wars and violence throughout the world but especially in the Middle East. Syria is descending into chaos. Violence continues to escalate in the Holy Land. In Iraq, Christians are being persecuted and the genocide of the Yazidi people is a real possibility. 

This month is also the centennial of the start of World War I.  This incredibly bloody and futile war is emblematic and what happens when human hubris, tribal identities (to the exclusion of other members of our human family) and raw greed combine with advanced technologies.

However, there is hope. Many of the same countries that caused millions of deaths in World War I, are now members of the European Space Agency, which is the organization behind the Rosetta Spacecraft which arrived at the Comet “Chury” this week.  This amazing feat of scientific and interpersonal cooperation among countries and cultures is a sign of what can be accomplished when people set aside tribal differences and work together towards a common goal on behalf of all humankind.

This week’s reflection comes from Brian Coyne, editor of the Australian website Catholica on his thoughts of the Rosetta Spacecraft. You can find his full article here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:


“In the last few days this radio telescope has been in the news as it was the prime communication link to the Rosetta spacecraftwhich, after an incredible journey of 10 years has just reached its target — a rendevous with the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. What has been achieved is an incredible feat of precise science that, in the coming year or so will help “reveal clues to the origins of the solar system, our home planet and life itself”.

In so many ways this space rendevous with a tiny comet so distant from us is an incredible achievement not just for the scientists, engineers and technicians involved but for all of humankind.

* * *

What I find so incredible about this achievement is the incredible precision involved in navigating this spacecraft to what is almost a pin point in space after a journey of billions of kilometres. It’s not only the precision though, it’s the fact that ten years ago the scientists could predict a decade ahead where the Comet would be in the solar system and they could plan for the experiments that will take place in the year or so ahead. Most of this was achieved within the constraints of what we call Classical Physics — the stuff we first learned from likes of Isaac Newton 400+ years ago. But, here’s the “but” … also in our newspapers and media today we cannot end the wars in the Middle East, the Ukraine and in Africa. We cannot predict with the same precision who will win the next election, or whether the present uncertainty and insecurity in the world will lead to World War III or whether it will all end peacefully. Few of us can predict with certainty what state we’ll be in in another ten years’ time.

* * *

This is the great paradox of life: yes we can predict with incredible accuracy where a tiny comet might be positioned anywhere in the solar system years, decades or even centuries in advance, yet we cannot predict with certainty where we’ll be even in days or months in advance. . .

What’s the difference? I think the difference is that compared to an icy comet orbiting the sun, we human beings can think. But we also have the freedom to think irrationally as well as rationally. What keeps getting in our way are our great big fat egos and our fears, anxieties and insecurities. The great, perhaps single greatest, challenge all of us human beings face is the challenge of transcending or controlling our egos, and our insecurities, and learning to think rationally and intelligently. How do we learn to do that? 

Read Full Article

Other Resources:

Sacred Space
Creighton Online Ministries
Fr. Robert Barron Audio Reflections


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Feast of St. Dominic (August 8) and the Celebration of the Symbiotic Relationship Between Faith and Science

St. Dominic

St. Dominic

“Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god.” — Guy Consolmagno, S.J.

Today is the Feast of  St. Dominic who, along with St. Albert the Great, are the patron Saints of scientists.  In honor of this Feast Day, I am going to again use this opportunity to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between faith and science. Unfortunately, it is a common perception that there is a conflict between science and religion.  Part of the reason for that is the poor state of knowledge of both science and theology in the modern world.  One of the purposes of this blog is to promote the mutually reinforcing methods of finding ultimate Truths through faith and science.

Religion in general and Christianity in particular has long been supportive of science, from the beginnings of the modern scientific method in the Middle Ages to the scientific advancements of the last 100 years.  Set forth below are selective examples of leading scientists who were either clerics or devout lay Christians over the centuries:

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). A brilliant man and a Catholic monk, Copernicus held important positions in both secular and ecclesiastical government, all the while writing voluminously. A sophisticated economic thinker, Copernicus was the first to propose that increases in the money supply have a tendency to drive price inflation. But what he is remembered for today is his heliocentric theory of the solar system. Through patient observation and calculation, Copernicus displaced the earth from the center of things, reorienting the way we view everything and thereby ushering in the modern world.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Kepler was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. He did early work on light, and established the laws of planetary motion about the sun. He also came close to reaching the Newtonian concept of universal gravity – well before Newton was born! His introduction of the idea of force in astronomy changed it radically in a modern direction. Kepler was an extremely sincere and pious Lutheran, whose works on astronomy contain writings about how space and the heavenly bodies represent the Trinity.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).  Pascal was a Catholic French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and theologian. In mathematics, he published a treatise on the subject of projective geometry and established the foundation for probability theory. Pascal invented a mechanical calculator, and established the principles of vacuums and the pressure of air. Pascal also published several theological works beginning with Lettres provinciales, in 1656. His most influential theological work, the Pensées (“Thoughts”), was a defense of Christianity, which was published after his death. The most famous concept from Pensées was Pascal’s Wager. Pascal’s last words were reported to be “May God never abandon me.”

Robert Boyle (1627-1691).  Boyle gave his name to “Boyle’s Law” for gases, and is regarded as the father of modern chemistry.  As a devout Christian, Boyle took a special interest in promoting the Christian religion abroad, giving money to translate and publish the New Testament into Irish and Turkish. In 1690 he developed his theological views in The Christian Virtuoso, which he wrote to show that the study of nature was a central religious duty.” Boyle wrote against atheists in his day (the notion that atheism is a modern invention is a myth), and was clearly much more devoutly Christian than the average in his era.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867).  Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. His work on electricity and magnetism not only revolutionized physics, but led to much of our lifestyles today, which depends on them (including computers and telephone lines and, so, web sites). Faraday was a devout Christian which significantly influenced him and strongly affected the way in which he approached and interpreted nature.

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884).  Mendel was an Augustinian monk and professor of natural philosophy and eventually became the abbot of his monastery. And today he is recalled for his path-breaking studies of pea plants which showed the existence of recessive and dominant genes, an essential cornerstone of modern genetics.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.  (1881-1955).   My personal favorite.  Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest, paleontologist and geologist from the early 20th century.  Teilhard de Chardin’s primary field of study was human evolution.  Teilhard de Chardin was a leader of the team that discovered the Peking Man, now known as Homo Erectus, in 1929.  Teilhard worked hard to integrate his scientific findings into a broad vision of Christianity.  Although Teilhard had some disagreements with the Church during his lifetime on the theological implications of evolution, the Church fully supported and encouraged Teilhard’s scientific research and publications.  Today, Teilhard’s core ideas on the marriage of evolution (both cosmic and biological) and theological evolution (all of natural and spiritual creation is evolving towards a deeper union with God) is accepted as part of mainstream Christian theology.

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966).  Known as the “father of the big bang,” Lemaître was a Belgian priest who first developed the theory of that the Universe originated in an instant flash now known as the Big Bang.  Fr. Lemaître did his graduate work in theoretical physics at Cambridge University and Harvard. In 1927, while still a junior lecturer at the Catholic University of Louvain, he proposed an expansionary theory of the universe at odds with the then-prevailing belief that the universe had always existed in a steady state. Four years later, in 1931, he asserted that the entire universe began with what he called a “cosmic egg” or “primeval atom”.  This theory was ridiculed by leading scientists of the time such as Albert Einstein and Sir Fred Hoyle (the latter derisively dismissed Lemaître’s theory as “the big bang”). Later that same year, Fr. Lemaître argued that not only was the universe expanding, its expansion was accelerating in speed. While it has taken decades, Lemaître’s theories have been confirmed in every major particular.

John Polkinghorne (1930 – Present).  Dr. Polkinghorne is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. He was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens’ College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996. Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005), Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007), and Questions of Truth (2009).

Francis Collins (1950 – Present).  Dr. Collins is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP).  Collins led one of the groups to first sequence the human genome. He currently serves as Director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  Prior to being appointed Director, he was the founder and president of the BioLogos Foundation, an organization which promotes discourse on the relationship between science and religion and advocates the perspective that belief in Christianity can be reconciled with acceptance of evolution and science.  Collins also wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, which discusses Collins’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, evaluates the evidence for Christianity, and argues for theistic evolution. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Guy Consolmagno, S.J.  (1952 – Present).  Fr. Guy Consolmagno is an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, where he also serves as curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection, positions he has held since then. In addition to his continuing professional work in planetary science, he has also studied philosophy and theology. His research is centered on the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. In addition to over 40 reviewed scientific papers, he has co-authored several books on astronomy for the popular market, which have been translated into multiple languages. An asteroid was named in his honor by the International Astronomical Union, IAU in 2000: 4597 Consolmagno, also known as “Little Guy”. In July 2014 he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public by the American Astronomical Society. Consolmagno believes in the need for science and religion to work alongside one another rather than as competing ideologies.

Set forth below are additional resources on the intersection of faith and science:

Magis Center for Reason and Faith
The Catholic Laboratory
BioLogos Foundation
God and Science
Stacy Trasancos Blog
God of Evolution
Quantum Theology Blog
Wikipedia List of Christian Thinkers in Science
Wikipedia List of Jesuit Scientists
Wikipedia List of Quaker Scientists

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Feast of the Transfiguration: Teilhard de Chardin and Mass on the World

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

Repost From Last Year:

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  It was one of those rare instances during Jesus’ lifetime when His divinity was clearly apparent to his closest disciples.  The Transfiguration also had a special place in the life and theology of Teilhard de Chardin.  Teilhard’s grand vision was the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Christ being the radiating center of the universe.  For Teilhard, the Transfiguration was a precursor of the Second Coming when Christ would bring the universe home to Himself.

The Transfiguration was very influential in one of Teilhard de Chardin’s most beautiful writings, the mystical “Mass on the World“.  As a follow-up to yesterday’s Teilhard de Chardin “Quote of the Week” and in honor of the Transfiguration, we will have some thoughts on Mass on the World from N. Max Wildiers, a Belgian, Capuchin priest.  Fr. Wildiers received a doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome and has taught, for example, at the universities of Leuven and San Francisco. Fr. Wildiers was an editor and friend of Teilhard de Chardin.  The following is a modified form of the Introduction to the on-line version of “Mass on the World”.

Although the thoughts in Mass on the World had been crystalizing for several years, the specific meditation suggested itself to Teilhard de Chardin when, in the course of a scientific expedition, he found himself one day out in the Ordos desert in China where it was impossible for him to offer Mass. This happened, it seems, on or around the Feast of the Transfiguration, a feast for which he had a special love. Teilhard’s thoughts therefore turned to the radiation of the Eucharistic presence of Christ through the universe. He did not of course confuse that presence, the effect of transubstantiation in the strict sense, with the omnipresence of the divine Logos. His faith in the mystery of the Eucharist was not only ardent: it was also as exact as it was firm. But his faith was sufficiently strong and realistic to show him its consequences (or, as he put it, the “prolongations” and “extensions”). At a time when individualism was obscuring the fullness of traditional Catholic teaching on this mystery of oneness with the Body of Christ (and unfortunately it still is), Teilhard wrote: “When Christ comes to one of his faithful it is not simply in order to commune with him as an individual; . . . when, through the mouth of the priest, he says Hoc est corpus meum, these words extend beyond the morsel of bread over which they are said: they give birth to the whole mystical body of Christ. The effect of the priestly act extends beyond the consecrated host to the cosmos itself. . .: the entire realm of matter is slowly but irresistibly affected by this great consecration.

Earlier, in 1917, Teilhard de Chardin had written, in Le Pretre:

“When Christ, extending the process of his incarnation, descends into the bread in order to replace it, his action is not limited to the material morsel which his presence will, for a brief moment, volatilize: this transubstantiation is aureoled with a real though attenuated divinizing of the entire universe. From the particular cosmic element into which he has entered, the activity of the Word goes forth to subdue and to draw into himself all the rest.”

Such passages as these not only contain an exact affirmation of the essence of the Eucharistic mystery, but also make an equally exact distinction between the essential mystery and the further effects in which its fecundity is manifested: the growth of Christ’s mystical body, the consecration of the cosmos. They also bear witness to a plenitude of faith in which Teilhard de Chardin’s thought is revealed as being authentically and profoundly in accord with the thought of St Paul. He “shows himself preoccupied above all with giving his daily Mass a cosmic function and planetary dimensions . . This, of course, he considered could be linked up with the most orthodox theology of the holy Eucharist.”

A year after writing Mass on the World, Teilhard de Chardin further defined his thought, in Mon Univers: 

“To interpret adequately the fundamental position of the Eucharist in the economy of the world . . . it is, I think, necessary that Christian thought and Christian prayer should give great importance to the real and physical extensions of the Eucharistic Presence. . . As we properly use the term “our bodies” to signify the localized center of our spiritual radiations . . ., so it must be said that in its initial and primary meaning the term “Body of Christ” is limited, in this context, to the consecrated species of Bread and Wine. But. . .the host is comparable to a blazing fire whose flames spread out like rays all round it.”

The above writings are part of mainstream Catholic theology through the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and other leading theologians.  At each Mass, we celebrate the universal Body of Christ and the divinization of the cosmos.

For further reading on the Mass on the World, I would recommend two resources.  First, is the online version of Mass on the World by Religion Online.  This contains the entire text and is free of charge.

Second, is the outstanding book “Teilhard’s Mass; Approaches to The Mass on the World” by Thomas M. King, S.J.  This excellent book contains additional background on Teilhard de Chardin’s life, detailed commentary on “Mass on the World” and a prayer service based on “Mass on the World”.  Fr. King’s book is an essential resource for praying Mass on the World.

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (August 4, 2014): Trusting God


“Don’t worry about whether your life is worthwhile, about its anomalies, its disappointments, its somewhat obscure and sombre future. You are doing what God wills. In the midst of your anxieties and dissatisfactions you are offering Him the sacrifice of a humbled soul bowing, in spite of everything, to an austere Providence. You are deprived even of the joy of feeling that you are resigned, that you accept, that you love, and yet at the same time you want to be resigned to show that you are faithful. Don’t be afraid; al this toil is set to your credit and is a magnificent use of your time. It matters that others may do more good than you, and at less cost: the great thing is not to do good but to fill the place, even if it is more lowly, willed for you by God — It matters little that in your innermost self you feel, like the natural drag of a weight, a tendency to wrap yourself in your sorrows and shortcomings: there are plenty of other ‘natural’ ‘gravitational’ forces in us, what we call enjoyment, egoism, following the line of least resistance; but doesn’t truth consist of freeing oneself from these in spite of the compulsive attitude this temptation imposes on us? . . . If God for His part finds you a success, he would have you be.”

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest, 1914-1919 (pp. 66-67) (from letter dated August 22, 1915)

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