Monday, March 26, 2007

Praying for patience.

For a while, I've been meaning to write something about the French Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I've yet to find sufficient time and inspiration to craft the Teilhard mega-post that I'd like to see on this blog. For now, here are some words from Teilhard that have often spoken to me and may speak to you as well, either in Lent or at any other time of the year:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Often presented as a prayer, these words come from a letter Teilhard wrote to his cousin Marguerite Teillard-Chambon (note the subtly different spelling of the surname) while he was serving as a stretcher-bearer in the French Army during World War I. From this and other letters Teilhard wrote during the war years, we know that he and Marguerite corresponded frequently. Marguerite's letters to Teilhard have been lost, but from Teilhard's replies we can surmise that Marguerite often sought her cousin's advice on questions of faith and vocation. A young teacher and a writer, Marguerite was impatient to know how she could best serve God with the desires and gifts that she possessed. I believe I can identify with Marguerite in my own impatience, so I find that Teilhard's words speak to me as well.

For me, one of the most challenging things about being a Jesuit in formation is having the sense of always being in motion without quite knowing where I am going. To put it more concretely, the challenge comes in not being able to answer for myself what I will be doing in the future. As Teilhard writes, I often want "to reach the end without delay" and to have a clear sense of where I will be two, ten or twenty years from now, skipping the "intermediate stages" of discernment, dialogue and plain old waiting that are a characteristic part of Jesuit life - or, in a slightly different way, of life as a student or simply life in general. Thus, I find myself praying for patience - not simply in the sense of being content with "being on the way" to an unknown destination, but also in the sense of being thankful for the gift of my present circumstances without losing a sense of wonder in anticipating what is to come. As I pray for this sense of patience, I find consolation in Teilhard's counsel: "Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete." AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home