A few years ago I made a retreat on the spirituality of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the brilliant Jesuit paleontologist whose work originally was censored by the Vatican for its progressive theme of the connection between science and theology. De Chardin wisely asked his secretary to hide his unpublished writings until after his death should the squalls of discontent dissipate between his work and Rome.
Happily, this occurred.
In the retreat we learned that de Chardin’s mind and soul were governed by a depth of insight that saw all of creation connected to the Creator and thus part of a web in which all creatures: plants, animals, organisms, stars, and even rocks, take our very existence from this Source. The lovely prayer from the Acts of the Apostles (17:28a) repeated at Mass on occasion says it eloquently: “In God we live, and move, and have our being.” The basic reasoning in de Chardin’s science is non-dualistic; it is a connective science in which we are all related. Some scientists say that de Chardin’s thinking and theories are the same as that of the scientists who created the computer and the internet. “To be,” wrote de Chardin, “is to be in relationship.” Not just to know about something or someone, but to enter into the being of this creature. Not just to be an acquaintance, but to be a meaningful friend.
Doing this we are “part of becoming.” We are moving toward a greater union called cosmogenesis. This relationship shows where we can grow and where we can contribute. It enlarges our soul as well as the existence of the of the ‘other’ whom we are embracing.
In his superb encyclical on the ecological crisis, Laudato Si, Pope Francis illustrates the connection of all life in his first argument: What is Happening to Our Common Home? He has paid attention to his Jesuit brother’s plea, enforced with solid science, and said unequivocally, that total conversion is needed to correctly see how we humans impact the health of our planet from the smallest microorganism to the largest dependent mammals. The many proposals offered as solutions must be examined carefully on a global scale, says Francis, but they must be examined!! They must employ scientists, economists, theologians, journalists, policy makers, legislators, leaders of governments.
In order to convert to a personal spirituality of ecology I need to learn more about the Earth and its inhabitants. I need to learn of my connection to all of creation. How am I connected to the well-being of sea creatures being displaced by disappearing coral or the suffering of manatees starving to death because climate change is killing their food in shallow ocean waters. De Chardin always asked himself: “What holds everything together?” And in Colossians we read “All things hold together in him.”
It is encouraging that many of us recycle so consciously. And we choose to limit or eliminate our consumption of certain foods and to grow our own food. But we can do more. I believe our conversion is firmly vested in political action. So, I might reflect on these questions:
What group can I join to bring my concern and passion for protecting our Earth?
Get on line and investigate where these groups are in your community.
How can I learn more about the crisis we are experiencing?
Can I organize a reading group on climate change where individuals can share what they are learning and use it in political action?
Can I create prayer services centered on the climate crisis for my community or parish?
Can I ask for a piece of the weekly parish bulletin to share ideas on what parishioners can do to address climate change?
Can I create a parish committee which would invite speakers for educational input leading to action?
I promise to share a bibliography very soon on de Chardin and other profound thinkers on our need for conversion to do something about our climate crisis. We can now, however, start by admitting to our human connectedness to all of life. What creates instability in one portion of life, creates it all the way to our human needs. We need to respect the role the lowliest among us plays for the welfare of the so-called highest.
I do suggest for starters to delve into Laudato Si, the Pope’s passionate encouragement for a truly Christian spirit to motivate our conversion to the realizing and nourishing the connectedness of all of life.
You might want to cut and paste this lovely prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin which was inspired, no doubt, from his mystical love of God in this treasured universe.
“The day will come when,
The winds, the tides, gravitation,
We shall harness for God
The energies of love.
And, on that day, for the second time,
In the history of the world,
we will have discovered,
Please consider these questions and suggestions carefully. Take them to prayer. The Earth and all of Creation cries out for our commitment.