Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Being Saved" By One Another

In August, 1964, I was sent, with my newly-ordained classmates, to St. Anthony’s Parish, Detroit, MI, for a year of pastoral training. St. Anthony’s was a large east-side inner city parish, composed of Polish, Italian, Irish, Slovak, and German ethnic minorities. Though predominantly white, the neighborhood was in major transition, with more and more African-American people moving into the area.  About eight months before our coming to St. Anthony’s, the Precious Blood Missionaries, who operated the parish, along with a neighborhood Lutheran pastor, key people from Wayne County Catholic Social Services, the Catholic Youth Organization, and the Protestant Community Services in the area, embarked on a new, ambitious social service experiment: possibly the first of its kind in the nation, known as the Interfaith Community Center, officially launched in October, 1964. 
The idea was, first, to assess the needs of the people in the surrounding neighborhood, then to have agencies based at or working out of the Center address specific needs in a coordinated way. It was so successful that, later, the City of Detroit honored the Center with a Citation of Award recognizing its innovative work. In 1965 The Catholic World publication described the Interfaith Community Center as: “...the one outstanding example in the country of ecumenism in action, rather than [just] in dialogue or in friendship.
The late Fr. Urban Hoorman, C.PP.S., our pastoral training director, recruited us early on, sending us out to take a door-to-door social survey of some 500 of the 1200 neighborhood families. In the few weeks before our classes began, we hit the streets in our collars and black suits to ask questions and gather information using a form designed by the Center.  It would be putting it mildly to say that our awareness of the “real” world was greatly enhanced! Only years later would we begin to appreciate not only the skills we developed, but more importantly the hands-on experience of being immersed in and confronting a radical societal and cultural shift in one of the major urban areas of the U.S.  We met all sorts of people and, predictably, we regaled each other and our mentors at dinner each evening with stories of bizarre humor and deep pathos.  
One day I was walking along the street and a lady was working in her yard.  She saw my collar and stopped me saying, “Can I ask you a question?”  “Of course,” I replied.  “Are you saved?” she bluntly asked. I sensed immediately that she was probably of a more fundamentalist persuasion and that this was a test!  “Why, yes, I believe I am,” I said.  “Well, how can you say that?” she wondered, it being fairly obvious that I was a Catholic priest, and that she was quite convinced that anyone like “that” was a lost soul! Luckily, our Scripture professors in seminary had done a superb job in teaching us, and the fruits of their labors were all stored fresh in our memory banks! Without trying to sound too self-assured, hard for most clergy, but especially for one newly-ordained, I tried to give her a reasoned and thoroughly Scriptural justification for my conviction about my personal salvation.  She listened intently during our short discussion, and in parting allowed, “Well, I can see that you’re a very sincere person.”  Somehow I don’t think my apologia stood the test in her mind, but at least our parting was polite and friendly.
The phrase “Being saved” can have a lot of different meanings. Biblical scholar Joseph Fitzmyer gives a concise summary of the meaning of salvation, especially as Luke envisions it in his Gospel: "By it”, says Fitzmyer, “he means deliverance of human beings from evil, whether physical, political, cataclysmic, moral, or eschatological, and the restoration of them to a state of wholeness." (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles, Anchor Bible 31 (Doubleday, 1998, p. 301)
The writer of John’s First Epistle today (1 John 3:16-24), whether John himself, who would’ve been advanced in years at this time, or a writer in John’s tradition, gets right down to the business of describing what our “being saved” by Christ means: “We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us... One need only look, not just at Jesus’ death, but at his whole life to see how Fitzmayer’s words about Luke apply here: Jesus delivered human beings from physical, political, cataclysmic, moral, and eschatological evil, restoring us to wholeness through self-giving love. In light of that, the writer of 1 John can also say: “we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” I doubt that there’s any more important message for our times than the message of today’s Scriptures, particularly the Epistle.
If, indeed, St. John wrote the First Epistle, he’d had close to 60 years to reflect on the words and actions of Jesus, and on how they applied to his Christian community, particularly in the light of some of the challenges to faith being experienced at the time this Epistle was written. From what we can gather, John’s consistant message was love as embodied in Jesus the Anointed One. He himself had been called “the beloved” disciple, and knew firsthand what a relationship with Jesus felt like. As he grew older he grasped even more deeply how the two-fold invitation which Jesus so often held out to people -- “Love God” and “Love one another” -- was the essence, the foundation of living as a follower of Jesus. 
John’s message continues: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” A more literal translation from the Greek would be: “If anyone has the world's livelihood and sees a brother or sister in need, and shuts off compassion, then how does God's love abide in that person? It’s a message that’s all but lost on the world’s religious and political establishments’ rich and powerful today, the entitled, the have’s, the 1%, who so glibly “talk the talk” publicly, but harden their hearts and stiffen their necks against “walking the walk” as Jesus did, and as John bids his hearers and readers to do.“Word and speech”, according to John, have to be made visible in “truth and action”.
John goes on to say that a sure gauge of whether we have these two things in synch for ourselves is that our hearts will “condemn us” if we don’t. The Greek notion is that what is deepest within us will be bothered, it’ll nag us, if we claim to love, but don’t prove it in how we act. Contrarily, if we do act on what we say we profess, we feel a freedom, a confidence, a “boldness before God”, as John puts it, to ask for anything we need, knowing that God will grant it. Think for a minute about the situation described in the first reading from Acts (4:5-12). , Luke tells us that Peter, John and the former crippled beggar, whom they’d just healed at the Temple’s Beautiful Gate by the power of Jesus’ name, have been arrested and taken into custody. They’re hauled before “rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family...” Who, but a person totally sure of the saving love of Christ could confront such an assembly with words such as Peter spoke: “...this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified...This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders...‘ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved...That bold and incriminating statement isn’t really posed just against the Jewish leaders, but also against the Roman Empire itself. At that time “salvation” was purported to be the gift which the emperor brought to the empire, as indicated in his imperial title of savior. Peter is directly challenging the empire’s claims in the name of the true Savior.
At the end of John’s passage in the Epistle, he reiterates two things which God expects of us: 1) “that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ”, and 2) “love one another”. Those who faithfully do this, he says, “abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.” It’s the Spirit which we see at work in Peter as he speaks the truth to power in Acts. It’s the same Spirit by which Jesus, the noble shepherd of today’s Gospel (John 10:11-18), is able to lay down his life for those of his one sheep-herd. In both cases, as John has told us already in the Epistle, it’s all about love: about the self-giving knowing between the Father and Jesus and between Jesus and us, the relationship with God and with one another, the mutual abiding in the love of the Holy Spirit, who enables you and me to love in truth and action, to boldly confront evil wherever it exists, and even to lay down our lives, really or symbolically, for God and for one another.

In 2006 an article entitled “Ties That Bind” appeared in The Christian Century (May 2, 2006, p. 18), written by Stan Wilson, pastor of Northside Baptist Church, Clinton, MS. He related that his church has a unwritten rule never to ignore a member’s basic needs. One evening he asked his Bible study participants why they’d never made this policy, which they all knew to be true, explicit. Why not make official a statement that, no matter how hard it gets, the members will be there for one another. Wilson says that he never got an answer at that Bible study, as if what he suggested was perhaps too embarrassing, or violated an unspoken taboo, or simply reflected fear of the future, or of one another, or of commitment. He goes on to say that he doesn’t doubt that his congregation love one another. He just wanted them to say so. “But”, he says, “voicing our commitment is risky and profoundly countercultural. Our culture runs on fear and disordered desire...What happens if a little congregation breaks the rules and removes the fear by promising to care for one another? 
We might reveal the risen Son of God, the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for his sheep. 
With a living God loose in the world, we might no longer live in fear, and no longer believe that the world runs only when people look out solely for themselves. We might start to look out for one another, and violate one of the cardinal rules of our economic order. 
Easter has been known to evoke robust theological claims and rogue behavior. Peter and John annoyed the rulers and elders and were tossed in jail because they taught that in Jesus there is resurrection for those locked in the fear of death. 
That’s what can happen when people believe that the future is not theirs to secure, but belongs in the keeping of a Good Shepherd. They begin to live without fear. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lion of Alexandria

The Church attributes authorship of the earliest Gospel to Mark the Evangelist, one of the 70 disciples of Christ, and the founder of the Church of Alexandria, one of the original four major Christian dioceses. 

A common tradition identifies Mark the Evangelist with John Mark of the Scriptures (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37), though Hippolytus and others disagree. Mark is said to have become Peter’s interpreter, the writer of the first Gospel, the founder of the Church in Africa, and the bishop of Alexandria. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Peter apparently chose Mark at some point and made him his travel companion and interpreter. Mark, having recorded "notes" on the sermons of Peter, utilized them in composing his account of the Gospel. 

Mark is said to have left for Alexandria in the third year of Claudius (43 AD), arriving there around 49 AD, some 19 years after the ascension of Christ. There he founded the Church of Alexandria, the descendant of which today is the Coptic Orthodox Church. Aspects of the Coptic liturgy are said to be traced back to St. Mark himself, the first bishop of Alexandria. According to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.1), Mark was succeeded by Annianus as bishop in the eighth year of Nero (62/63 AD), probably, but not definitely, due to his coming death. Later Coptic tradition says that Mark was martyred in 68 AD.

Mark's feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the lion. In 828, relics believed to be those of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria by two Venetian merchants and taken to Venice, where a basilica was built to house the relics. 

 On June 22, 1968, Coptic Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria sent an official delegation to Rome to receive a relic of St. Mark from Pope Paul VI. The delegation included ten metropolitans and bishops, seven of whom were Coptic and three Ethiopian, as well as three Coptic lay leaders. The relic was said to be a small piece of bone that had been given to the Roman Pope by Giovanni Cardinal Urbani, Patriarch of Venice. Pope Paul, in his address to the delegation, noted that the rest of Mark's relics remained in Venice. The next day, the metropolitans, bishops, and priests of the delegation all participated in the pontifical liturgy in the Church of St. Athanasius in Rome.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Genocide Remembrance Day

Almighty God, our Refuge and our Rock, your loving care knows no bounds and embraces all the peoples of the earth: Defend and protect those who fall victim to the forces of evil, and as we remember this day those who endured depredation and death because of who they were, not because of what they had done or failed to do, give us the courage to stand against hatred and oppression, and to seek the dignity and well-being of all for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whom you have reconciled the world to yourself; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Real Jesus

What if...the next time you came to the Eucharist, when it comes time to pass the Peace, you turn to the bearded man next to you, and as your eyes meet his, you suddenly realize that it’s none other than Jesus the Lord? How might you react: frightened? startled? embarrassed? guilty? Would you feel overwhelmed? full of peace? overcome with joy?
One thing is sure: you wouldn’t be indifferent! You’d feel many or all of the same emotions which, as Luke hints in today’s Gospel passage (Luke 24:36b-48), the Apostles must’ve felt.
Luke’s and John’s accounts about what happened the day Jesus was raised from the dead reflects what was going on some time after the Resurrection event itself. At the time they wrote, the average Christian was being confronted and challenged by non-believers with arguments that Jesus’ resurrection had never happened. The original by-word-of-mouth traditions, as well as the later written accounts of the four Evangelists, carefully interweave facts and data about the Resurrection with answers to these challenges and arguments in order to help the early Christian communities to stand firm in faith, “to account”, as the 1st Letter of Peter says, “for the hope that is in you.
Luke records that Jesus’ followers become “startled and frightened” when Jesus himself is suddenly there among them. You’ll remember Jesus’ greeting, from last week’s Gospel: “Peace be with you!” Whenever Jesus comes and stands among us, which was his usual way of appearing to the disciples after the Resurrection, wherever he’s present, he brings peace. The disciples react as if they’d seen a ghost. They mistrust heir own eyes. Without their even saying a word, Jesus picks up on their anxiety and the unspoken fear and doubt in their hearts. He asks them “Why are you afraid and doubting?
Perhaps the reason that even those who were closest to Jesus are troubled is that they, like us, get stuck in their panic, their fright, their fear. How can we trust our perceptions, or other people, when we so mistrust ourselves?
One of Luke’s purposes is to refute some specific mistaken ideas about Jesus which challenged the early Church, particularly the views of those whom we refer to as Docetists. Dokein in Greek means “to seem, to appear as”. The Docetists held that Jesus‘ body was a sort of phantom, that he really didn’t eat or drink, or die, but only seemed to do so. For them, matter was evil and, therefore,God’s Son couldn’t have taken on human flesh.
Luke is very clear about how real Jesus is: “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see.” Luke then makes a curious observation: “ their joy they [the Apostles] were still disbelieving and still wondering.” Isn’t it strange how we frequently run around demanding proof from God? Then when God gives it to us, we find it hard to believe! We could imagine Jesus shaking his head in frustration and asking, “Do you have anything here to eat?” Maybe this was on a Friday, or perhaps his followers were still abstaining, because what they offer Jesus is some broiled fish! Ever the gracious guest, Jesus eats it while they watch! Surely a phantom doesn’t stand there eating fish and chips, but only a real person. And Jesus is definitely real!
The disciples are stuck, not only in fear, but in shallow faith. The evidence before them seems irrefutable. Jesus is standing there; they can touch him; they can see that he’s eating. Yet we get the impression that their hesitant joy isn’t out of any deep conviction about what his presence means or why he’s appeared to them, even though there’s some sense of security. He was dead and they were left alone and fearful. Now he’s back and everything will be OK...maybe.
You and I, too, can find ourselves “disbelieving for joy”. It’s easy to get caught up, anesthetized almost, in the security of wearing the label of “Christian”; the security of feeling emotionally righteous simply because we go to church and share the sacraments; the security of feeling safe because we say our prayers and do all the right things. All of that, surely, is a start, but it’s not necessarily a very deep level of faith. In fact, it risks becoming a false joy, a false security, a false faith, because like Linus, of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts fame, we can use our Christianity as a sort of security blanket.
Once Jesus‘ followers could accept his real presence, Jesus could move them on to the real meaning and purpose of his visiting them. He says, “Remember what I told you when I was with you, how what was written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Luke then observes: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures...”, and tells them that the suffering, risen Jesus’ repentance and forgiveness is to be preached to all, beginning in Jerusalem. “You”, he says, “are witnesses...” A witness testifies to or attests to a fact or a truth. Sometimes facts or truths are observable; sometimes they’re attained by reasoning or by faith. Jesus presents himself in both ways. His is a complete revelation of who he is, the Risen Lord.
Louis Evely writes: “We act as though we are specialists in bad news, when in fact we have been told by Christ that we are to be the bearers of glad rejoicing.” True joy is the counterpart of firm faith. As Luke records it, Jesus teaches us the real lesson of the Resurrection, of Easter: that the joy which he calls us to share among ourselves is precisely our sadness, our fear, our inadequacy, our shallow faith overcome: overcome by the reality of Jesus the Risen Lord who comes and stands among us.
It’s this to which the Risen Jesus calls you and me to be witnesses. We’re assured that our fear, sadness and weakness is overcome because our faith is anchored in the reality of Jesus who stands with us, here and now, and always. The One who “was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands...” (1 John 1:1) -- that is the One whom we proclaim. This real man who is also God’s Son has taken our humanness, our weakness and evil, and overcome it. Through the blood of his Cross Jesus enables you and me to be whole, complete and sound. To the extent that we accept his reality and presence in our own lives, to that extent we can share his message and his presence with one another. Our mutual witnessing is necessary for the resurrection always needing to happen in each of us, always some human weakness, or fear, or sadness needing to be overcome.
In today’s Collect we asked, “...Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work...” As you and I turn to one another in peace this morning, let it be a genuine sign of faith in Jesus who comes and stands among us, and of our commitment to do our part in fulfilling “his redeeming work”.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

St. Alphege/Aelfheah/Elphege of Canterbury (c. 953-1012)

From the 8th century on, Viking raids were carried out, first by Norwegians. In the 9th century the Danes joined in, beginning with a series of attacks on the east coast of England in 835. By the mid-9th century they had gained a firm foothold on Kent and East Anglia. The resistance to the Danes in the beginning was disorganised and, given the ease of conquest, they decided to settle permanently in England. This was the first step in the establishment of the so-called Danelaw which was the area in eastern and north-eastern England of the time which was under Danish rule. The Danes were never to leave England entirely.

Alphege was born into such a troubled time in the mid-10th century. He was a monk at Deerhurst, then abbot at Bath, and finally, through the influence of Archbishop Dunstan, he became the bishop of Winchester.

In 1005 Alphege succeeded Ælfric as Archbishop of Canterbury, and took St. Swithun's head with him as a relic for the new location. He travelled to Rome in 1007 to receive the pallium, symbol of his status as an Archbishop, from Pope John XVIII, but was robbed during his journey. While at Canterbury he promoted the cult of Dunstan. He also introduced new practices into the liturgy. He was present at the council of May, 1008 at which Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, preached his a sermon, castigating the English for their moral failings and blaming the latter for the tribulations afflicting the country.

In 1011 the Danes again raided England, and from September 8-29 they laid siege to Canterbury. Aided by the treachery of Ælfmaer, whose life Alphege had once saved, the raiders succeeded in sacking the city. Alphege was taken prisoner and held captive for seven months. Canterbury Cathedral was plundered and burned by the Danes following his capture.

The remainder of St. Alphege's story is recounted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles:

"A.D. 1011. This year sent the king and his council to the army, and desired peace; promising them both tribute and provisions, on condition that they ceased from plunder. They had now overrun East-Anglia, and Essex, and Middlesex, and Oxfordshire, and Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, and Bedfordshire, and half of Huntingdonshire, and much of Northamptonshire; and, to the south of the Thames, all Kent, and Sussex, and Hastings, and Surrey, and Berkshire, and Hampshire, and much of Wiltshire. All these disasters befel us through bad counsels; that they would not offer tribute in time, or fight with them; but, when they had done most mischief, then entered they into peace and amity with them. And not the less for all this peace, and amity, and tribute, they went everywhere in troops; plundering, and spoiling, and slaying our miserable people. In this year, between the Nativity of St. Mary and Michaelmas, they beset Canterbury, and entered therein through treachery; for Elfmar delivered the city to them, whose life Archbishop [Alphege] formerly saved. And there they seized Archbishop [Alphege], and Elfward the king's steward, and Abbess Leofruna, and Bishop Godwin; and Abbot Elfmar they suffered to go away. And they took therein all the men, and husbands, and wives; and it was impossible for any man to say how many they were; and in the city they continued afterwards as long as they would. And, when they had surveyed all the city, they then returned to their ships, and led the Archbishop with them. Then was a captive he who before was of England head and Christendom; there might be seen great wretchedness, where oft before great bliss was seen, in the fated city, whence first to us came Christendom, and bliss 'fore God and 'fore the world. And the Archbishop they kept with them until the time when they martyred him.

A.D. 1012. This year came Alderman Edric, and all the oldest counsellors of England, clerk and laity, to London before Easter, which was then on the ides of April; and there they abode, over Easter, until all the tribute was paid, which was 48,000 pounds. Then on the Saturday was the army much stirred against the
bishop; because he would not promise them any fee, and forbade that any man should give anything for him. They were also much drunken; for there was wine brought them from the south. Then took they the bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Sunday after Easter, which was the thirteenth before the calends of May; and there they then shamefully killed him. They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow; and his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God. The corpse in the morning was carried to London; and the bishops, Ednoth and Elfhun, and the citizens, received him with all honour, and buried him in St. Paul's minster; where God now showeth this holy
martyr's miracles. When the tribute was paid, and the peace oaths were sworn, then dispersed the army as widely as it was before collected. Then submitted to the king five and forty of the ships of the enemy; and promised him, that they would defend this land, and he should feed and clothe them..."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tenth Muse

Blessed Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695), whose full name was Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, was a self-taught scholar and poet of the Baroque school, and a nun of New Spain. Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today a Mexican writer, and stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature in the Spanish language.

Juana was born in San Miguel Nepantla near Mexico City, the illegitimate child of a Spanish captain, Pedro Manuel de Asbaje, and a Criollo woman, Isabel Ramírez. Her father seems to have been absent from her life. Baptized in 1651, the baptismal records describe her as "a daughter of the Church". She was raised in Amecameca where her maternal grandfather owned a hacienda. Juana was a devoutly religious child, often hiding in the hacienda chapel in order to read her grandfather's books from the adjoining library, something which was forbidden to girls. Amazingly, she learned how to read and write at the age of three. By five, she reportedly could do accounts. At age eight, she composed a poem on the Eucharist. By the time she was an adolescent, she had mastered Greek logic, and at age thirteen she was teaching Latin to young children. She also learned the Aztec language of Nahuatl, and wrote some short poems in that language.

In 1664, when she was 16, she was sent to live in Mexico City. She asked her mother's if she could disguise herself as a male student in order to gain access to the university. Not being permitted to do this, of course, she continued her studies privately. The Vicereine Leonor Carreto, wife of the Viceroy Antonio Sebastián de Toledo, served as her tutor. The viceroy, put the 17 year old Juana's learning and intelligence to the test when he invited several theologians, jurists, philosophers, and poets to a meeting during which Juana was asked to answer, without any preparation, many questions, including difficult ones on various scientific and literary subjects. She astonished all present by her responses, and eventually her literary accomplishments garnered her fame throughout New Spain. She was much admired in the viceregal court, and declined several proposals of marriage. Eventually, in 1667, she entered the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites of St. Joseph as a postulant, and in 1669, the Convent of the Order of St. Jérôme.

Responding to criticism of her writing, Juana wrote a letter, Respuesta a Sor Filotea (Reply to Sister Filotea), in which she defended women's right to an education. In response, the Archbishop of Mexico and other high-ranking officials condemned her "waywardness". By 1693, Sor Juana seems to have stopped writing rather than risk the Church's official censure. However, there is no undisputed evidence of her renouncing her devotion to writing, though there are documents which state that she agreed to undergo penance. Juana's name is affixed to such a document in 1694, but it belies her deep natural lyricism, and smacks of the kind of penitential documents couched in rhetorical and autocratic Church formulae, and suggests possibly someone else's authorship. She is said to have sold all of her extensive library, some 4,000 volumes, as well as her musical and scientific instruments. Only a few of her writings have survived, known as the Complete Works, probably saved by the Vicereine Leonor.

Sor Juana de la Cruz died in April 1695, at the age of 43, after ministering to other nuns stricken during a plague.

One of the most important books about Sor Juana, written by Octavio Paz, Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, 1989), deals with Sor Juana's poetry and life in the context of the history of New Spain. It focusses particularly on the difficulties women faced at that time trying to gain access to and become successful in the academic and artistic fields. Paz was drawn to Sor Juana's work by trying to answer basic questions about her personality and life: Why did she become a nun? What motivated her renunciation of her lifelong passion for writing and learning? Such questions, he realized, could be answered only in the context of the culture in which she lived, a world wherein the subjugation of women was absolute. In his book, Paz thoroughly analyzes Sor Juana's poetry and traces some of her influences to the Spanish writers of the Golden Age. Sor Juana's most ambitious and extensive poem, First Dream (Primer Sueño), is largely a representation of the desire of knowledge through a number of hermetic symbols, transformed into her own language, and utilizing her skilled image-making abilities. Paz concludes that Sor Juana's was the most important body of poetic work produced in the Americas until the arrival of nineteenth century figures such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mary Molly Brant (c.1736 – April 16, 1796)

Mary Brant (Konwatsi'tsiaienni = "Someone Lends Her a Flower" or Degonwadonti = "Two Against One") was a Mohawk woman who became known in the era of the American Revolution. Few facts are known about her early life. Named Mary, but commonly known as "Molly", she was born around 1736, possibly in the Mohawk village of Canajoharie, or perhaps further west in the Ohio Country. Her parents were Christian Mohawks, possibly named Margaret (Cannassware) and Peter. Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), born in 1743, was Molly's brother or half-brother, and became an important Mohawk leader.

The Mohawk are one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League. At the time of the American Revolutionary War, they lived primarily in the Mohawk River valley in what is now upstate New York. At some point, either before or after her birth, Molly's family moved west to the Ohio Country, which was used as an Iroquois hunting ground. After Molly's father died, her family moved back to Canajoharie. In 1753, Molly's mother married Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a Mohawk sachem of the Turtle clan. Possibly to reinforce their connection to Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a prominent leader, Molly and Joseph took their stepfather's name as a surname, an unusual choice for that time.

Molly Brant was raised in a Mohawk culture that was highly anglicized. In Canajoharie, the Brants lived in a substantial colonial-style frame house, used many European household goods, and attended the Church of England. Though Molly was fluent in Mohawk and English, it's not clear whether she was formally educated or whether she could read or write. A letter from 1782 is signed with "her mark", indicating that she may have been only semi-literate.

In 1754, Molly accompanied her stepfather and a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia, and then to Albany, where the men were to discuss a fraudulent land sale with colonial leaders. When General Sir William Johnson, the influential British Superintendent for Northern Indian Affairs, visited Canajoharie, he would stay at the house of his friend, Molly's stepfather, Brant Kanagaradunkwa. Johnson and Molly Brant became intimate, and in September, 1759, she gave birth to a son. Later, in Johnson's will, Molly is referred to as his "housekeeper", which at the time meant that she ran the household, served as hostess, and supervised the female servants and slaves. According to the historian Barbara Graymont, "Mary Brant presided over Johnson's household with intelligence, ability, grace, and charm, and she effectively managed the estate during Johnson's many and prolonged absences." Johnson and Brant's relationship was public, and Johnson used his connection with Brant to further his public and private dealings with the Iroquois. Brant's role as Johnson's domestic and political partner was well known. They lived together at Fort Johnson, and then at Johnson Hall after 1763. She became effectively Sir William's common-law wife or consort. 

The couple had nine children together, eight of whom lived past infancy. William Johnson died in July 1774. In his will he left land, money, and slaves to Brant and her children. Molly and her family returned to Canajoharie where she lived a comfortable life in a large house, and prospered as a trader.

Brant supported the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War. From her home in Canajoharie, she provided food and assistance to Loyalists who were fleeing from New York to Canada. Despite harassment from local Patriots, she remained at Canajoharie for the first two years of the war.
A turning point came in 1777 when British forces invaded New York from Canada and laid siege to Patriots in Fort Stanwix. In August, when Brant learned that a large body of Patriot militia was on its way to relieve the fort, she sent Mohawk runners to alert the British commander of the danger. This information enabled a British, Mohawk, and Seneca force to ambush the Patriots and their Oneida allies in the Battle of Oriskany. After this battle, in which Iroquois warriors fought on both sides, the war in the Mohawk Valley became particularly brutal. The Oneida and Americans retaliated against Brant by pillaging Canajoharie. Brant fled with her children to Onondaga, the Iroquois capital, her departure was so hurried that she had to leave behind most of her belongings.

Molly Brant continued her work of sustaining the Anglo-Iroquois alliance. At Onondaga, the Iroquois held a council to discuss what course to take. Most Iroquois favored assisting the British, but after the Battle of Saratoga, it seemed unlikely that the British could win. Sayenqueraghta, a Seneca chief, urged the Iroquois to withdraw from the war. Brant criticized Sayenqueraghta's advice, invoking the memory of Sir William to convince the council to remain loyal to the Crown. Much of Brant's influence came from her connections to Sir William Johnson and her stepfather Brant Kanagaradunkwa. Additional influence came from the fact that women in matrilineal Iroquois society had more political influence than women in patriarchal societies. Historian Robert Allen writes that "there is no substantive evidence to suggest that Molly was ever a clan matron or mother within the Iroquois matrilineal society". Others contend that, though she was not born to the position, she, in actuality, became one of the Mohawk matrons.

In late 1777, Brant relocated to Fort Niagara at the request of Major John Butler, who considered her influence among the Iroquois to be indispensable. At Niagara, Brant worked as an intermediary between the British and the Iroquois. In 1779, she visited Montreal, where some of her children attended school, but headed back when the Americans began their invasion of Iroquoia that year. She was only able to get as far as the British post at Carleton Island in Canada, where many Iroquois refugees had fled from the Americans, and there she continued her work as an intermediary. Nevertheless, Brant was unhappy living in an army barracks with her children. To accommodate her, the British built her a house on the island in 1781, where she lived with her children and four slaves for the remainder of the war.

Carleton Island was largely abandoned in 1783, and so Brant moved to Cataraqui, now Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Here the British government, in recognition of her service to the Crown, built her a house and gave her an annual pension of £100. They also compensated Brant and her family for their losses in the American Revolution. Hoping to make use of her influence, the United States even offered Brant compensation if she would return with her family to the Mohawk Valley, but she refused.

Molly Brant stayed in Kingston for the remainder of her life, and became a respected member of the community, as well as a charter member of the local Anglican Church. Her son George Johnson, known as "Big George" among natives, married an Iroquois woman and became a farmer and teacher; her daughters married prominent white men. Molly Brant died in Kingston on April 16, 1796, at about age 60. She was buried in St. Paul's Churchyard, Kingston's original burial ground, now the site of St. Paul's Anglican Church. The exact location of her grave is unknown.  Though no portraits of her are known to exist, there is an idealized likeness of her on a statue in Kingston, as well as on a Canadian stamp issued in 1986 (see above photo).

Since 1994, Brant has been honored as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada. She was long ignored or disparaged by U.S. historians, but towards the end of the 20th century scholarly interest in her life increased. She is commemorated on April 16 in the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada, and appears also in the Episcopal Church's Holy Women, Holy Men.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The One Who Comes & Stands With Us

The Day of Resurrection: Easter Sunday, which we celebrated just a week ago, is the greatest feast of the Church’s year, the feast from which all others originate. Every Sunday that follows is an Easter-in-miniature, a reminder for you and me, of its central place in our spiritual and liturgical life.
Aside from the primary focus of Christ’s definitive victory over evil and death, Easter gives hints of resurrection in other ways. With the arrival of Spring, surely varying in degree from year to year, as we’ve seen in recent days (!), we witness a transformation in nature, a resurrection, from cold and wind and storm to budding trees and blooming flowers. Fr. Pius Parsch says “Springtime is nature executing her Easter liturgy.” (The Church’s Year of Grace, Liturgical Press, Vol. III, p. 13) Nature becomes a holy symbol, a picture book of God’s beauty and love.
Another kind of resurrection takes place within the Body of the Church. For many, Easter is the actual anniversary of their baptism. In the Easter service the rest of us at least renew the vows we pledged in baptism. As the Church you and I are part of a new and holy revival, opening our minds and hearts to the energizing forces of the Risen Christ. Today’s Scripture readings give us specific examples of such renewal.   
John’s account of the resurrection and its aftermath in his Gospel reports four instances of people’s reactions to it: first, John the Beloved, who looked into the empty tomb and “saw and believed”; second, Mary of Magdala, who finds the tomb empty, to her great distress, but, when called by name, sees and knows that the supposed gardener is really Jesus; third, the disciples, whose cowering fear is turned into joy as Jesus comes and stands among them; and finally, Thomas, the focus of today’s Gospel passage, wherein Jesus “comes and stands” once more (John 20:19-31). For the Gospel writers Jesus coming and standing describes the way in which the disciples experience Jesus’ resurrection.
St. John writes from the perspective of an increasing split between the Jewish tradition and the newly emerging Jesus movement toward the end of the 1st century, even from before Jesus’ death. Joseph of Arimathea had kept his discipleship secret “for fear of the Jewish leaders”. Many people were reluctant to openly support Jesus’ ministry for the same reason. The blind man’s parents at the Pool of Siloam fear to tell the truth “because they feared the Jewish officials”. Not long after the Gospel was written, a writer of John’s tradition penned the 1st Letter of John, a passage of which is today’s Epistle., wherein the writer speaks of another split which has riven John’s community. Dissenters within the Christian community have compromised the truth which Jesus handed down: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.” When people or groups lose hope and become fearful, Christian confession weakens. Confusion, doubt and misunderstanding creep in and soon faith is shaken, even lost.
In the midst of such an atmosphere of hopelessness and fear, in the Gospel, Jesus suddenly appears with the disciples on the first day of the week, even though the doors had been locked. “Shalom = Peace be to you!”, he says. They see that it’s really him because he shows them his hands and his side. Though there’s also some hard-to-name difference, they’re nevertheless reassured that it’s Jesus and they rejoice, their sagging spirits replaced with smiles.
Jesus repeats his wish of peace, and tells the disciples that even as the Father has already sent him and continues sending him, so Jesus is now sending them. The word Apostle means “one who is sent; an emissary”. Jesus actualizes his prayer with an important visible action. Breathing on them, he says: “Receive Holy Spirit”, the Hebrew of which literally means holy breath. In essence, the Risen Lord sets God’s creative power into action, releases it, within the community of his faith-full followers. This isn’t in order to achieve some sort of spiritual pyrotechnics, such as fantastic miracles or babbling in tongues, but to carry forward in their lives and associations with others Jesus the Word, his message, his compassion and forgiveness, his servanthood. 
Throughout his Gospel and letters, John views sin as unfaithfulness, unbelief. The Risen Lord here empowers his community of disciples, through the Father’s life-giving Spirit, to isolate, repel and negate all that is sin and evil. Easter is Jesus‘ resurrection, his glorification as God’s Son, and the giving of the Spirit all rolled into one. This understanding finally enables the community of faith to shed its fear and doubt, and to realize that it’s never abandoned or alone. The Risen One comes and stands with them, always.
A person who has never doubted is a person who has never thought.” (Frederick Buechner) Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples the night Jesus came to them. Thomas appears twice previously in John’s Gospel: once in Chapter 11 where he’s referred to as “the twin”, and again in Chapter 14 when, at the Last Supper, he says to Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” 
Only in 1945, with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi writings in Egypt did scholars become aware of a series of references to Thomas the Apostle, which Jesus’ followers would’ve heard about or with which they’d have been familiar. This was a collection of 52 writings, including a well-preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel, called the Gospel of Thomas, as well as several other books. In that Gospel Thomas is called Didymos Judas Thomas, didymos being the Greek for twin. He’s pictured as a mystic seer, in contrast to his depiction in John’s Gospel. In the commissioning scene in the Gospel of Thomas Jesus challenges the disciples to tell him what he’s like, comparing him to something. Peter exclaims: “like a just angel”; Matthew responds: “like a wise philospher”. Thomas says: “Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.” Jesus then takes Thomas and withdraws, and speaks three sayings to him. When Thomas returns, his friends ask him: “What did Jesus say to you?” He answers: “If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.” In this Gospel, Thomas is a hero and the others seem less knowledgeable, but in John’s Gospel, it’s a literal-minded Thomas who seems not to understand. Given this as a background, it would be under- standable that, within John’s community, his followers might have looked skeptically and with some scorn at the claims of Thomas‘ followers.

When the other disciples tell Thomas that they’ve seen the Lord, Thomas reacts somewhat negatively and harshly: “Unless I see the mark of the nails...and put my finger in the mark of the nails...never will I believe!” Thomas personifies the lack of faith of some 1st century Christians. He needs to see, to prove, to have it all nailed down first. 

A week later, John recounts, Thomas is with them as Jesus makes a return appearance, again declaring “Peace!” He gets right down to business, inviting Thomas to “put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Don’t be faithless, but believing and faithful.” Thomas is dumbfounded. John doesn’t record whether Thomas ever acted on Jesus‘ invitation. Once the Risen Jesus had come and stood in front of him, all Thomas could do was to acknowledge the reality in words echoing Psalm 34:23 (“...arise to my defense, my God and my Lord!), as well as echoing the historian, Suetonius, who tells us how the emperor Domitian, who ruled during the time-frame of John’s Gospel, required that he be called, viz., “our Lord and God”. Voicing his faith in an ultimate confession, Thomas stammers: “Yes, it’s Jesus and he is God!” 
Jesus‘ next question to Thomas, and a good reality check for you and me, is kind of like:
Really?...have you believed just because you saw me?” He challenges us to examine our faith. The late Anglican Franciscan and biblical scholar, Barnabas Lindars, observes:  “Being absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter night, Thomas was virtually in the position of the Christian who has not seen the risen Jesus, and he should not have needed a further appearance in order to come to faith.” “Blessed are those,” says Jesus, who haven’t seen... and yet have faith that Jesus isn’t absent, that he’s always with us, always coming and standing before us in order that we can have faith.
John concludes with words which originally, before editing took place, concluded the whole Gospel. John says that he’s narrated these signs, only a few of many, many signs which Jesus did, “so that you may continue to believe”, to set your heart on, and to stake your life on, the Risen One who gives you and the whole Church light, love and life through a release of Holy Spirit as he comes and stands among us. 
Spiritual writer, Frederick Buechner, who I might proudly add is also an Associate of our Order of Julian of Norwich, says: “...if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.
...this is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith.” (John 5:4)  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955): Priest, Scientist, Theologian

Some of the saints' feasts get "lost" in the major celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus this first week after Easter. Nevertheless, a longtime "hero" of mine and of many others, I believe, deserves some attention.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was known to wrestle with questions: about life, about God, about nature and the universe. All his life he thirsted to know more and more about human beings and their world. For over 40 years Teilhard traveled the globe, to four of the seven continents, searching, digging, excavating. He sweated through the steaming jungles of Java and fought freezing winds across the barren wastes of China's Gobi Desert. Helping others to look beyond what the eyes can see, he gazed into the future, dedicating his life to making humanity's boldest hopes a reality.

Teilhard, as he was called, was born in the little village of Sarcenat in the south central French province of Auvergne on May 1, 1881. His father, Emmanuel Teilhard, was a wealthy gentleman farmer, archivist, and a man who had a taste for natural history, yet was very down-to-earth. Pictures show Teilhard and his family to be tall and slender people. An old Sacrcenat farmer once remarked: "I just met one of the little Teilhards -- eight years old and not more than six feet tall!

As a young boy Teilhard seemed unusually grown-up for his age. While only 6 or 7, he was busy acquainting himself with all of nature's elements, as he himself admits: " would have had to watch me as I withdrew, always secretly and without a word, without even thinking that there was anything worth saying about it to anyone, to contemplate, indeed, to possess, to savor the existence of my 'God Iron'. Yes, just that: Iron. I can still see with extraordinary clarity the whole series of my 'idols'. In the country a plough-key, in the town a hexagonal head of a metal staple, and later on little shell splinters which I collected lovingly on a nearby shooting range..."  His father encouraged his children in this, taking them for picnics and vacation trips, alerting them to the wonder of insects, plants and rocks.

Teilhard's mother, Berthe de Dompiere, was wise and religious. Teilhard later claimed that he owed to her all that was best in himself. At age 12 Teilhard entered the secondary school at Mongré. Though always a good student, he wasn't outstanding in religion, finding it difficult to adjust to the cut-and-dried manner in which it was taught. At age 17, in 1898, however, somewhat influenced by the philosopher, Maurice Blondel, he entered the Jesuit novitiate to study for the priesthood. Here Teilhard encountered a serious inner struggle in trying to reconcile the God "on high" of faith, adoration and love, with the God "in front", the God present in scientific research. "...The Cosmic Sense and the Christly Sense", he says, "definitely coexisted in my heart and irresistibly drew towards each other.

Having completed his studies in philosophy and theology in 1905 at age 24, he was sent to teach physics and chemistry in Cairo (Ismailia), Egypt, for three years, after which he went to Sussex, from 1908-1912, to complete studies in geology and paleontology. During this time he had his first realization of a movement from a "Less" to a "More" within the process of evolution. Teilhard's era was an age of science and discovery. Madame Curie had discovered radium. John Thomson and Ernest Rutherford uncovered the secrets of the electron and the atom. The Wright Brothers, fellow-citizens of my hometown, Dayton, OH, took to the sky for 59 dramatic seconds in 1903. And there were others: Peary, Marconi, Einstein, etc.

Teilhard de Chardin was ordained a Jesuit priest at Hastings in 1911, when he was 30 years old. He devoted the rest of his life to scientific teaching and research. During these years he became more and more involved in the science which was to be his life's focus: the evolution of the human being. He came across and was captivated by some of the ideas in Henri Bergson's L'Evolution créatrice (1907). Bergson held that matter is the degradation of energy of the creative élan vital, a sort of dead condensation-trail left behind by the movement of life. Teilhard, on the other hand, saw matter as life in its physico-chemical preconditions, sharing by anticipation in the vital upward movement of convergence of all things toward their final spiritual communion in the Pleroma, a scriptural concept of St. Paul's. Teilhard later met Abbé Henri Édouard Prosper Breuil (1877-1961), a French priest, archaeologist, anthropologist, ethnologist and geologist, noted for his studies in cave art in the Somme and Dordogne valleys, as well as in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, China, Ethiopia, British Somaliland and South Africa. It was Breuil who greatly influenced Teilhard to choose the evolution of the human being as his life's primary focus. 

By this time Teilhard had already done some excavating in Egypt, Spain and England. Questions of how life, especially human life, began intrigued Teilhard. For most folks in Teilhard's time, the Bible had long ago settled such queries. God created the world, then crowned God's work by creating man and woman, breathing into them "a living soul". This simple scriptural view was shored up by the teachings of Artistotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Almost 20 years before Teilhard's birth, Charles Darwin had proposed a bold new theory of "natural selection". Animal groups or species, he said, develop through a very long, continuous process. The strongest and most fit survive longer and develop gradually into new groups. If this were true, it meant that human beings possibly derived from a well-developed animal form, such as a primate. The theory of evolution, predictably, raised quite a storm and most people of the time rejected it. Nevertheless, the thoughtful Teilhard felt that evidence generally favored the theory.

In 1914 World War I began, and Teilhard's studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the medical corps. He served as a stretcher-bearer and unofficial chaplain with the 4th Regiment of Zouaves and Light Infantry. Often in the thick of battle, he several times retrieved the wounded or dead under heavy fire. He was later given the Military Medal for heroism. In 1915, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and promoted to the rank of Corporal. Throughout the war Teilhard continued thinking, writing, questioning. Even in the trenches he would study the geological deposits. He was determined to look beyond the evil and suffering around him to a richer future for the world and humankind which he perceived to be in a developing process.

By 1919, now 38, Teilhard had decided that professionally he would pursue a geological career, specializing in paleontology, and that as a priest he would strive to reconcile the facts of religious experience with those of natural science. Having received his Ph.D. in 1922, he taught geology at the Institut Catholique in Paris from 1922-1928. For a year, 1922-23, he served as President of the French Geological Society. In the spring of 1923 he set out on the first of many expeditions to China, writing about his increasing discoveries as he traveled, more than ever convinced that God was guiding the creative evolutionary process.

Teilhard returned to continue teaching in Paris in 1924, eager to share his findings. His research, he believed, confirmed that higher forms of life developed from simpler ones, and that creation has a purpose. He believed that the human being was becoming more intelligent, that both the world and humankind are moving toward greater unity, and that Christ stands at the center of all this. He was very much in tune with St. Paul's notion that Christ is the goal of creation and that in Christ all things and humankind will eventually be complete. Teilhard taught and spoke openly and honestly. Nevertheless, his "cosmic" views proved controversial to many and greatly disturbed his superiors. The latter considered Teilhard's ideas too unconventional to be commonly accepted, and feared that higher Church authorities would label him a heretic. At length the controversy became so heated that the Jesuit superiors forbade him to teach and asked him to leave Paris. It devastated Teilhard who was simply searching for the truth, yet now found his views and teachings under suspicion, not only by his own Community, but by the Roman Catholic Church as well. Obediently, he returned to China at his superiors' bidding, limiting his writings to the scientific domain and doing further scientific research. Teilhard's expressed his attitude during this difficult time: "I show by my example, that if my ideas are new, they make me no less faithful."

For almost 30 years, Teilhard de Chardin remained under the Vatican's cloud of suspicion, was barred from teaching in Catholic institutions, and had all his major works officially banned. Unfortunately, that continues, even to the present day. On June 30, 1962, the Holy Office issued a warning on Teilhard's writings: "Several works of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, some of which were posthumously published, are being edited and are gaining a good deal of success. Prescinding from a judgement about those points that concern the positive sciences, it is sufficiently clear that the above-mentioned works abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine. For this reason, the most eminent and most revered Fathers of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers." In 1981, on the centenary of Teilhard's death, Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, Vatican Secretary of State, issued a letter praising the "astonishing resonance of his research, as well as the brilliance of his personality and richness of his thinking." Casaroli asserted that Teilhard had anticipated John Paul II's call to "be not afraid," embracing "culture, civilization and progress." The media and other, in large part, interpreted this as implying that the warning against Teilhard's writings had been revised. The Vatican responded swiftly: "After having consulted the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, by order of the Holy Father, had been duly consulted beforehand, about the letter in question, we are in a position to reply in the negative. Far from being a revision of the previous stands of the Holy See, Cardinal Casaroli's letter expresses reservation in various passages—and these reservations have been passed over in silence by certain newspapers—reservations which refer precisely to the judgement given in the Monitum of June 1962, even though this document is not explicitly mentioned." Officially, the warning stands to this day.

 Despite the flack Teilhard took, he continued his research up to the time of his death, wrote privately, was invited to be part of various projects and expeditions, and to travel the world: China, France, the U.S., Belgium, Somalia, India and Kashmir and South Africa, among other places.  It's virtually impossible to list all of the things Teilhard wrote during this 30-year period. There are simply too many of them, in various forms. The best one might do is point out some of his major works, all of which were published in English only after his death, largely because they'd been on the Catholic Church's ancient Index of Prohibited Books, generally referred to as "The Index". Also, much of his work was written and revised over many years. The following is a short list, in the order in which they appeared in English, not the order in which they were originally written: The Phenomenon of Man (1959); The Divine Milieu (1960); Letters From A Traveler (1962); The Future of Man (1964); Hymn of the Universe (1965); The Making of A Mind: Letters From A Soldier-Priest 1914-1919 (1965); Human Energy (1969); Activation of Energy (1970); Man's Place In Nature (1973).

Teilhard's own words at various times during his 30 years of being silenced can shed some light on his firm commitment to truth and to his work, regardless of the cost. Here are just a few:
"...I am at peace, really, with the Church and with God...Always tending towards what is to come, yet admitting that the new thing cannot be born except of fidelity to what is, I know find myself quite beyond revolt."

"I now feel more the Christ of the Gospel than ever before in my life."

"How can I stop without failing in my most urgent duty to God and man?...I have decided to continue as before, trusting to the legitimacy of my cause. I know that that is what all the heretics said. But...they did not take up their position solely to exalt Christ above all things: and, basically, that is the only charge that can be brought against me."

"What distresses me is not that I am shackled by Christianity, but that Christianity should at the moment be shackled by those who are its official guardians: the same problem that Jesus had to face two thousand years ago."

"It is on this point of loyalty and obedience that I am particularly anxious to assure you that, in spite of apparent evidence to the contrary, I am resolved to remain a 'child of obedience.'"

"Don't picture me as an underground worker or as persecuted. The most you can say is that I am a man trying to express frankly what lies at the heart of our generation."

In 1951 Teilhard de Chardin moved permanently to New York City, residing at the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Park Avenue. After making several trips to South Africa, he revisited his beloved France for the last time in the summer of 1954. At 73 he was aging, but he never stopped writing and giving talks. "It is much less ideas", he said, "than a certain spirit I would like to spread.

In March, 1955, at a luncheon at the home of his diplomat cousin, Jean de Lagarde, Teilhard told friends that he would like to die "on the day of the Resurrection". On April 10, 1955, nearly a month later, Easter Sunday, he attended a concert, then joined friends for tea at the apartment of Rhoda de Terra, his personal assistant of six years. It was around 6:00 PM and the group had been engaged in an animated discussion. Teilhard had just laid a paper down on the window sill, when he fell forward to the floor having a cardiac seizure. He regained consciousness briefly, but died moments later, ironically having attained his wish to die on the day of the Lord's Resurrection. Teilhard's body was buried in the cemetery for the New York Province of the Jesuits, at their novitiate, St. Andrew's-on-the-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Teilhard once said, "Let truth appear but once to a single soul, and nothing can ever stop it from invading everything and setting everything ablaze." Lesser minds found it hard to keep up with him. Misunderstanding, stubborn opposition to new ideas and to change, and prejudice were frequently thrown in his way. Who would be surprised if he sometimes wondered if he dare to dream his dreams for humankind, or should he blindly obey those who lacked his vision? He walked the tight-rope of choosing to dream, despite the cost, at the same time maintaining his intellectual and spiritual integrity. Teilhard himself said that the most difficult task for us all is not so much solving our problems as knowing what they are. Brilliant as he was, even he didn't have all the answers. Perhaps that's why he could say, "In all my work I am conscious of being no more than a sort of sound-box, amplifying what people around me are thinking. Take from me what suits you and build your own structure.