Many scientists since Darwin's time
have realized that scientific searching
can result in the awesome realization
that creation is an ongoing process, set
in motion by an Eternal Creator.
In 1881, only 10 years after Darwin
published The Descent of Man, Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin was born in France.
After extensive study of hominid fossils
and early human societies, this Jesuit
paleontologist in 1938 completed his
most important work, The Phenomenon
of Man. His religious superiors found his
thinking unorthodox and forbade him
After Teilhard's death in 1955, many
of his works began to be translated and
published. He originated the concept
that humans are a phenomenon of
Earth's evolutionary adventure, which
is moving toward the Omega Point,
the Cosmic Christ. The influence of
Teilhard's ideas has been far-reaching
because very early he integrated broad
scientific knowledge with a deep sensitivity
to religious values.
At vespers on July 24, 2009, Pope
Benedict XVI preached about God's
power and goodness. He said: "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."
Influenced by Teilhard's work, the
late Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest
who called himself a geologian, recently
has provided our 21st-century world
with timely wisdom. His agreement
with Teilhard's idea that "we must consciously
will the further stages of the
evolutionary process" is clear in Berry's
major book, The Great Work: Our Way
Into the Future.
As a cultural historian, he was eminently
qualified to state: "Natural selection
can no longer function as it has in
the past. Cultural selection is now a
decisive force in determining the future
of the biosystems of the Earth."
To a large extent, the further development
of the human family in what
Berry described as the "sacred Earth
community"—the entire created universe—is in our hands.
Our times require that all of us appreciate
our part in this great work of cocreation.
As Father Berry explained in
1999, "The Great Work now, as we
move into a new millennium, is to
carry out the transition from a period
of human devastation to a period when
humans would be present to the planet
in a mutually beneficent manner. We
cannot doubt that we too have been
given the intellectual vision, the spiritual
insight and even the physical
resources we need for carrying out this
The evolutionary adventure continues!
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Sister Paula Gonzalez, S.C., Ph.D., taught biology at
the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio,
for 20 years. An environmentalist, she is a cofounder
and board member of Ohio Interfaith Power and
Light. A presenter of many workshops and retreats
in the United States and Canada, she lives in a former
chicken barn that is solar-heated.