Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, born in 1881 in Sarcenat, close to Clermont-Ferrand, was a Jesuit priest, geologist, paleontologist, and paleoanthropologist. Throughout his life this renowned scientist, a great theorist of evolution, sought to unite science and faith. Based in China between 1923 and 1946, he traveled the world and frequented the most diverse and varied intellectual, scientific, and philosophical milieus. He died in New York on April 10, 1955, on Easter Sunday as he had wished.
Among his most well-known works are two major spiritual texts: Mass on the World (1923) and The Divine Milieu (1927). In The Human Phenomenon (1940) he noted the place, and therefore dignity, that is unique to the human being as “axis and arrow of evolution”.
A man of passions
The fourth of 11 children, he received from his parents a natural education, within the meaning of both history and the current times, as well as a deep piety. He was animated by a quest for “Consistency.” He first thought he found it in rocks and stones but, paradoxically, it was in the fragility of the living, and a living being in evolution, that he found it.
Teilhard participated in World War I as a stretcher bearer, refusing all opportunities for advancement in order to stay close to the soldiers. He is listed in the Order of the Division of the Army, received the Military Medal, and then was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor at the request of his regiment.
His scientific work and contributions in geology and paleontology are recognized by the international scientific community, and a chair at the College of France was proposed to him but he was not able to accept it. In 1950, he was elected to the Academy of Sciences.
A Seeker of Unity
A Jesuit, Teilhard thought of being able to unify his founding double insight: the consistency of matter and the God revealed in Jesus Christ. Evolution proceeds from the most simple to the most complex, and humans are the key to the process of this history: God creates the world where humanity can meet Him. Unity is formed in movement. It is a new approach to the evolution of the universe. The individual is not isolated but inscribed in the cosmos.
He thus tried to create a synthesis between the place of man and the sense of Christ in the evolving universe. It is above all a Christological spirituality, an enlargened vision of the place and role of Christianity. Of a recapitulating Christ, beginning and end who awaits us, if we make the choice.
He was frequently misunderstood by the Church and suffered enormously for it, but his fidelity to the Church was without flaw because he did not disassociate the Church from Christ. One recognizes in his work most particularly the influence of the Fathers of the Church, Saint Paul, and Ignatian spirituality.
His life and work should be read like those of a seeker, a seeker who would not be on if he did not take “risks.” And it was in the name of Christ to whom he gave himself without return that he did it.