Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In requiem aeternam.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Born 1 May 1881

Entered the Society of Jesus 19 March 1899

Died 10 April 1955

R. I. P.

Every priest, because he is a priest, has given his life to a work of universal salvation. If he is conscious of his dignity, he must no longer live for himself but for the world, as He lived whose anointed representative the priest is. I feel, Jesus, that this duty has a more immediate urgency for me, and a more exacting meaning, than it has for many others - far better men, too, than I ... To bring Christ, by virtue of a specifically organic connnexion, to the heart of the realities that are esteemed to be the most dangerous, the most unspiritual, the most pagan - in that you have my Gospel and my mission...

Because I am a priest, I would henceforth be the first to become aware of what the world loves, pursues, suffers. I would be the first to seek, to sympathize, to toil: the first in self fulfillment, the first in self denial - I would be the most widely human in my sympathies and more nobly terrestrial in my ambitions than any of the world's servants.

The above words come from an essay Teilhard wrote in July 1918 called "The Priest." At the time, this young Jesuit priest was serving in the trenches of the Western Front as a stretcher bearer for the French Army. Teilhard's war service played a pivotal role in his intellectual and spiritual development, helping him to develop some of his major philosophical and social ideas and deepening his sense of his vocation as a priest in and for the world.

Forbidden to publish and sent into virtual exile in the last years of his life, Teilhard would find a measure of vindication and official rehabilitation after his death. Teilhard shouldered the burden of censure with patient humility, accepting his situation while hoping that his writings might later be appreciated and understood. The year before his death, Teilhard told some of his friends, "If in my life I have not been wrong, I would like to die on the Day of the Resurrection." Teilhard died in New York on Easter Sunday of 1955, fifty-two years ago today.

Later today, I'll be joining some other Jesuits for a drive up to the old novitiate in Poughkeepsie to visit Teilhard's grave. As we pay our respects, we will give thanks for ways in which our brother Jesuit has touched our lives and the lives of many others. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. AMDG.


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