Dreamboat Teilhard

If Miriam McGillis is the spiritual mother of the vision here, and Thomas Berry is the grandfather (see previous post) then Teilhard de Chardin is the great-grandfather.  Yesterday the sisters told me that Mother Ruth, the founder of the Community of the Holy Spirit, was interested in Teilhard’s work, and sent Sister Elise to meetings of the American Teilhard Association from the early days of that organization.

Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin

A memory.  As an early adolescent, I fell in love with Teilhard.  My mother had borrowed from the library an over-sized picture book about his life which I carefully, slowly, poured through.   Life Magazine or Time must have had an article about Teilhard around this time (early sixties) because I cut it out and slid it into the frame of my dressing table mirror.  While other girls in my class were in love with John or Paul or George or Ringo, whose pictures adorned their mirrors, the photo of Teilhard looked gently upon me when I combed my hair or polished my nails.

This memory and a myriad of other childhood passions floated up from hidden places behind my mind while I was at Genesis Farm in May.  This movement of theology and practice begins with the Universe Story as a context for human beings as part of a great whole, and not the endpoint and crown of creation.  It seems so basic to me. 

When I taught confirmation classes as a parish priest, I began with the cosmos and the timeline of the Big Bang to the sliver of human history.  (From Carl Sagan: if the Big Bang were to occur on January 1, it takes the whole of the year until the very last seconds before midnight of December 31 before human history begins.)  I provided biological timelines of life on earth to color and keep in their confirmation notebooks. I gave the confirmands thought experiments like this one: “If it were possible to know about intelligent beings in other solar systems, and we knew of a being that was, say, green and covered in eyes, would you say that being was made in the image and likeness of God?”  I loved to watch the debate, because some children instinctively and vehemently believed yes, the being is in the image and likeness of God, and other children seemed horrified at the idea.  No, they reasoned, only human beings on earth could possibly be in the image and likeness of God.  Of course I never gave them answers.  My role was to help them imagine and question in exponentially wider ways than they were usually encouraged to think.

Now I’m the beginner again, working my way through books by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme and related works, especially ones linking Christian mysticism to the new story.  And it’s time again to find a picture of my gentle hero of adolescence, and put him among the icons of saints and guides of my turbulent adulthood, as I enter this threshold of  “the Great Work.”

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have  discovered fire.    -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

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