Last week as part of a lawsuit settlement, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota released the personnel files of 18 monks it says were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors….. Just a few days ago Pope Francis issued a reminder of his and the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage as a fierce debate rages in Italy about a vote that could give legal recognition to same-sex couples. A Roman Catholic friend observed with dismay “the Catholic glass is now below half empty.”

Following a meeting with Pope Francis on January 15th, a group of Finnish Lutherans were offered Holy Communion by Roman Catholic priests at a mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica. ……..Another Catholic friend smiled and said “the Catholic glass is half full and filling.”

I suggest that we probably spend far too much time looking at glasses, whether half full or half empty. There is a much bigger world out here and people are caught up in a great transition. Perhaps we are too close to it right now to understand its extent and all ramifications.

The Pew Research Center observed this past week that Americans may be getting less religious, but feelings of spirituality are on the rise. “The growth of the unaffiliated population and their decreasing religiosity have been the main factors behind the emergence of a less religious public overall,” according to the Pew report. “But, interestingly,” the report continued “the rise in spirituality has been happening among both highly religious people and the religiously unaffiliated.” I have seen this same phenomenon in my part of Europe. Sunday mass attendance is very low, but retreat centers are full. That great hunger for a taste of the Divine.

We may not yet be on the edge of a new Great Awakening, but something fascinating is going on. Coincidentally this week a friend emailed a reflection by the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I connected with it immediately:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are, quite naturally,

impatient in everything to reach the end

without delay.

We should like to skip

the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being

on the way to something unknown.

something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability —

and that it may take a very long time.


And so I think it is with you.

Your ideas mature gradually —-

let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today

what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)

will make you tomorrow.


Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of

feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

A big Amen! Thank you Teilhard de Chardin.


15 thoughts on “Something New

  1. Your comments are so true for many of the changes we would like to see in our Church. However, one that cannot wait, which manifested itself in the Battle Creek Catholic Community these past two weeks, is how Bishops/Priests still do not “get” the fact that their primary charge is to protect the laity first, not their fellow priests who are surrounded by sex abuse scandal. It is time to admit that the Clergy cannot, and should not, police themselves. At the very least, somehow the Laity much be a part of the oversight, from small parish, all the way to Rome. This Church of the “Good Old Boys Club” and “absolute power” must end. It is, after all, an institution. One for which we must work as one toward the Kingdom of God. Priests, or not, they are just men, and they make very poor decisions when it comes to one of their own.

      1. Amen, amen. The example of what happened in Battle Creek is at once discouraging-telling us some clergy have a long way to go in matching words with deeds and respecting the laity-and encouraging, in showing how well the laity did step up and challenge the local church leaders to do the right thing! It was done in a very insightful and respectful way and–effective!

  2. Jack, as always your comments provide much fodder for reflection and contemplation. we’re spreading your messages to a wider audience within our purview and have been encouraged with the responses we get. leading people to a deeper relationship with their God aids in overcoming the despair engendered by an increasingly fearful and contentious world. may your voice and insight continue to rise in the hearts of all who have the privilege to read your blogs!! Annette and Lee Packard

  3. Thanks, Jack. Reminds me it’s time to retread deChardin.
    If I recall, when he lived in Paris, he was near the Hotel Raspail (rue Dupin or next street over.

  4. The systemic corruption of the Ruling Elites of Roman Catholic Absolutism, as enshrined in Canon law, continues to cry out for reform. Without independent lay oversight, Roman Catholic children will continue to be raped by clerics and their crimes will continue to be kept secret because Canon law still requires it.

    The thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin remains the best hope for the future of the Church. His
    “Christifcation” of the Universe offers hope for the future unity for Christianity. His use of the term “Christ” is offset by his emphasis on the power of Creative Love. His use of the term “Christ” may be an obstacle for non-Christian readers depending on the definition of the word “Christ” meaning divinity, or “Christ” meaning “Anointed One.” His primary insight and emphasis about the continuous dynamic presence of Love is both prophetic and profound.

  5. Jack, for me the most incouraging thought in all the action/inaction, polarization, demanding expectation, etc, of these days is, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God”, and be open to the Spirit in our own lives as we try to fulfill our own part of the mission. We don’t need for anyone to change or laws to be passed so we can live the Gospel as we see it. Trusting in the Spirit is necessary and usually, at least for me, difficult.

    You are very encouraging to me on my journey these days. If you are interested, I would like to share with you offline my challenges during the recent holidays.

  6. Jack, I want to bring your attention to The Teilhard de Chardin Project at We are attempting, in the words of Doug Comstock “that it’s time to retread deChardin.” And we agree with Deacon McDonald that “The thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin remains the best hope for the future of the Church.” May we post your blog on the Teilhard Project website?

  7. Thank you for this post. I understand that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says: “We are impatient of being on the way…” It is an important role of any church to create a safe and friendly environment for those who are on the way. I think that the role of religious orders is unsubstitutable in this effort.

  8. When Church leaders say that reforms in the Church move at a glacial pace, it makes me chuckle. Do they know how fast even some glacier-temperature waters can move??
    Here in the Pacific NW, USA, we have the remnants of the Great Missoula Ice Age Floods all around us. Back then when the massive ice dams broke repeatedly, the ongoing water rushed from Missoula, MT to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River channels. It is estimated that it ran 65-80 mph & had a volume of water 13 times that of the entire Amazon river today… See Wikipedia —
    HaHa 🙂

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