Saturday, January 26, 2013

Teilhard de Chardin and the Cosmic Christ

One could say that the whole of life lies in try to see more and to see better is not therefore, just a fantasy, curiosity or a luxury. See or perish. This is the situation imposed on every element of the Universe by the mysterious gift of existence. And thus to a higher degree this is the human condition. (Teilhard de Chardin-"The Human Phenomenon")

I find myself having to give a talk on the book "Hymn of the Universe" by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and so I am preparing. Teilhard is not easy to understand and so I keep rereading and reevaluating. Teilhard- Jesuit priest, philosopher, scientist (geologist, paleontologist) and mystic had keen powers of observation, he could truly "see" and understand.  I keep trying to "digest" parts of his work and thought in small amounts.  I've already done this once before and now I'm tackling "Christ in the World of Matter" which is a chapter in the book.
Teilhard called Christ, the Total Christ, the Cosmic Christ as well as the Universal Christ. He envisioned Christ as a "divine Being with a divine head connected to the body of the entire Universe, all of it living in a sea of divine love." I am a deep person but this is very deep material. But I like it because it's challenging and I also like it because I believe that Teilhard knew what he was talking about, genius that he was.
St. Paul put it this way-"Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible...all things have been created through Him and for Him. He himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1: 15-17).
Teilhard died in New York City in April 1955. He was 73 years old. During his lifetime, he was a controversial figure in the Church but he has been vindicated and his thought even supported by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. In John Paul's encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia he wrote, " the many times and places in which I was able to celebrate it.......This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and so to speak, cosmic character. Yes, cosmic. Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation......."
Pope Benedict in his homily on July 24th, 2009 said this, "The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy; so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin; in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host....."
I say Amen to that!

(Fr. Peter Schineller, S.J., gave the first talk on Teilhard in the series and the above quotes (from John Paul II and Pope Benedict) came from material he gave out during that lecture. I thought I should note that.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Aaron Swartz-Losing Hope-Choosing Suicide

Another sad story in the news of someone self-destructing. Another case of a talented, highly intelligent, wealthy person unraveling to the point of choosing suicide. As reported in the news, Reddit co-founder and computer genius Aaron Swartz committed suicide recently in his Brooklyn apartment. He was due to face trial in February for a controversial computer hacking case.  His death came exactly two years after his arrest on allegations that he breached a computer network to download millions of pages of documents kept at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He had pleaded not guilty.
Swartz was remembered as a computer genius who at the age of 13 designed his first website. But apparently he had suffered from depression for many years. Depression must be treated, especially when someone is going through a crisis, otherwise the unthinkable can happen, which is what happened in this case.  This should never have happened. He was only 26 years old. He lost hope and hopelessness and despair can be deadly.
When I speak to parents about the value of religious beliefs and the benefits of children and adults having a relationship with God, I tell them the importance of prayer for helping children deal with stress,  rejection and uncertainty.  In the modern world children are exposed to all kinds of horrific news accounts, tragedies and day to day struggles. A relationship with God, believing God is your best friend and someone you can always count on and turn to, in all situations, is crucial for children and adults, now more than ever.
I have no idea what religion Aaron Swartz was, or if spirituality or religion was important to him but I do know that without a deep relationship with God, life can be arduous and difficult at times, especially when someone is going through a crisis. Life must be lived with hope and the certainty that tomorrow can be better.
Last week I spoke to Catholic parents. I stressed the importance of prayer for children, especially attending Mass (for Catholics it's Mass that's important but for those of other religions, their own rituals  are equally important). Parents have to keep the lines of communication open, eating dinner as a family is very important and a simple way to achieve that. Simple things are known to make us happier and I gave them a list of those things.
I'm sorry for the grieving family of Aaron Swartz. May he rest in peace. May they gain comfort from the hope that the soul survives bodily death and he is at peace.

UPDATED- I read in NY's Newsday (1/22/13) that Aaron Swartz facing "13 felony charges of computer fraud, was offered a plea deal that would have required a prison term of four to six months, but he staunchly rejected any offer that entailed pleading guility to a felony or serving any time." To think he could have struck a plea deal, spent a few months in jail, and put it behind him and yet he chose suicide instead is just so sad.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thou Shall Not Steal-Bundles of Hay

In case you needed anymore evidence that we are living in strange times comes this news out of the Western United States. According to a New York Times article I read, "Cash for Hay Driving Thieves To Move Bundles," apparently all across the West "ranchers, farmers and county sheriffs are grappling with a new scourge: hay rustling"  or the stealing of hay. Sadly, it seems that because of record droughts in the West (2012 was the hottest year in U. S. history) and grass fires, the price of hay, grain and animal feed has hit record levels which has caused some thieves and even desperate farmers to forget that stealing is both a crime and a sin. "It's the economics of the times" said Jack McGrath an under sheriff from Colorado who has seen a rise in hay thefts. Most often these thieves strike during the darkness of night, in remote areas, stealing everything from grapes, beehives, avocados, hay and even agricultural machinery, which is valuable for scrap metal.
What is this world coming to? Even in rural America, agricultural crime is on the rise. Farmers are having to padlock their gates, paint their bales of hay with their brand name, so they can be identified and even going so far as to placing "bugs" on bales of hay to trap thieves and track them down.
The Hebrew Bible as well as the New Testament has a number of verses warning against the negative consequences of stealing. The most famous of course is "Thou shall not steal" the seventh of the Ten Commandments. Pride causes people to think they can get away with stealing, but God says over and over again in the Bible,  there are dire consequences to taking what doesn't belong to you.
So when caught what did one thief tell the sheriff who had pulled him over, "Can I take it back?" And the sheriff said, "No!" Well, it's not that easy.....when you break the law, you just can't say, "I'm sorry."
A few more strange effects of global warming and drought-a loss of common sense, dignity and good decent values. The world needs prayer more than ever.

The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of one's labor. For the sake of the common good it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right of private property. 
(Catechism of the Catholic Church-2401)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The New Year, Writer's Block, Creation and NYC

I'm not really totally sure what writer's block is but I think I have it. I just don't feel motivated to write and I'm not sure why. But write I must. Bear with me.
I was staying up in the mountains for a few days, with my  husband, to bring in the New Year. The place where we were staying was at a high elevation in the Catskill Mountain range. At night I could see the universe, so many stars shining brightly. They are the stars we can't see in the city or the suburbs because of the light "pollution." The night sky as viewed from the mountains is a wondrous thing, it was awe-inspiring. How anyone can think that creation, life and our beautiful planet is an accident is beyond me. I'll never understand that. I am inspired by God's magnificent creation and the order, complexity and intricacies of creation "speak" to me of a divine Creator.
Yesterday I was in Manhattan on a day trip with a group of like-minded women who like to explore our city and the surroundings. We went to the New York Public Library, an historic landmark on 5th Avenue. For someone like myself who loves books, it was "heaven." The famous Rose Main Reading Room with its 52 foot high ceiling, beautiful chandeliers, the decorative, gilded ceiling with murals of clouds, and thousands of reference books is something to see. There are so many treasures in New York City, the Main Library is surely one of them.
A favorite part of the weekend for me will be on Sunday morning, when I speak to young children about Epiphany. They love the story, I've done it before. The story of the three wise men, bearing gifts for the baby Jesus, the star that shined brighter than any star, that led them to a great Divine King.... there is so much to capture their religious imaginations and deepen their faith.
And so, seeing their young faces, listening to their responses, which will demonstrate their innocent faith and belief, having them respond to questions about the baby Jesus and the gifts they will bring to Him, that will certainly be the highpoint of my weekend.