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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a ground-breaking paleontologist and Christian mystic whose vision encompassed the evolution of all matter toward a ﬁnal goal in which material and spiritual shall coincide and God shall be all in all.
Teilhard was born in 1881. In 1899, he entered the Jesuit novitiate, moving to England in 1902 when French law nationalized the properties of religious orders. After taking a degree in literature in 1902, he went to Egypt to teach chemistry in the Jesuit College in Cairo. There he fell in love with the east. Teilhard moved back to England in 1908 and began to synthesize his already vast knowledge of evolution, philosophy and theology. He was ordained priest in 1911.
Teilhard did research at the Natural History Museum in Paris, leading to the Sorbonne (University of Paris) where he completed his doctorate in paleontology. He went to China where, with other researchers, he made public the famous “Peking Man” hominid in 1926. Teilhard developed a vision of creation which held that evolution was the process by which matter inexorably arranges itself toward greater complexity until recognizable consciousness emerges. For Teilhard, this described a continuing process of human evolution that moves toward a new level of consciousness in which the universe will come to perfect unity and ﬁnd itself one with God. God, then, is the highest point of pure consciousness, always “pulling” the evolutionary process towards its promised destiny, which he called the “Omega Point.”
Teilhard struggled with the Roman Church that was suspicious of his seemingly radical and heterodox writings. He was forbidden to teach and had to defend himself against charges of heresy. Teilhard remained loyal. After his death, many came to recognize his vision as a deeply Christian one that sought to reconcile the Biblical vision of God’s ﬁnal triumph over sin and disunity with the undeniable discoveries of evolutionary science.
Shortly before he died, he prayed: “O God, if in my life I have not been wrong, allow me to die on Easter Sunday”. He died on April 10, 1955: Easter Sunday.
I Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of thy glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We offer thanks for thy theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who didst perceive the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of thy divine works and heirs of thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the ﬁrstborn of all creation, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of your glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We bless you for your theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who perceived the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of your divine works and heirs of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the ﬁrstborn of all creation, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of a Saint (3)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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