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“So, after all that, peace was only this!”

This disillusioned quote is from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). He was a French Jesuit priest, researcher, palaeontologist, theologian and philosopher.

When the lockdown in France was announced on March 16th, the French president declared we were at war, a difficult war against a brutal virus. Soon will come, for many of us here in Europe, the day after. What new opportunities for change will it bring? How will we manage them?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Covid was the First World War, during which he was confined for five years to the boredom and brutality of the trenches, working as a stretcher-bearer carrying injured soldiers from the battlefield.

When peace returned, he was horribly disappointed to find a world that had not changed. Then he realized that he had glimpsed, while confined in the trenches, the better world that he dreamed of, and that this fleeting vision was enough to mobilize his personal commitment and show him his way in this world.

Here is the full quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, written in 1919 just after the end of the war:

So, after all that, peace was only this! The peace which, during these long years of suffering, shone incessantly ahead of us, like a mirage… The peace that gave us the courage to hold on and resist because we thought we were fighting for a better world… But what this peace had in store for us was only this!

The war stripped away our surface banalities and conventions, opening a window onto deeper human needs and functioning. But now that peace has returned, so has all the old pettiness and monotony of our pre-war existence. Although moved, elevated and united for a time in our common posture of defence, people returned to their self-centred obsessions and preoccupations as soon as the grip of danger was gone.

Surrounded by the banalities of existence that have regained their dullness, with the contradictions of a society that has returned to its moral poverty and scattered individualism, I will patiently resume my usual occupations, illuminated by what I saw during those brief moments in the trenches when, for a great cause, millions of us were united together in the fight for the preservation of life.

But life is still beautiful! For I have glimpsed, from the top of the mountain, the Promised Land!”

If this global crisis can serve as a wake-up call to many things, including the profound changes that our societies must implement in their models of economic development and the way we must go about our daily lives on this fragile planet, it is important that our collective responsibility not detract from our personal need for change. In the aftermath of this crisis, it would be sad if our “self-centred obsessions and preoccupations” resumed as before.

Once we have been released from our present confinement, how will things be different in our spiritual, emotional and relational life? In the management of our work/rest rhythms? In how we consume, travel, slow down, study, help and think?

And how will things be different for those of us in Member Care?

For many of us during this time, the words of Psalm 46:10-11 have taken on special significance:

Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be honoured by every nation.

I will be honoured throughout the world.

The Lord of Heaven’s armies is here among us;

The God of Israel is our fortress.

Before we rush headlong into our new-found freedom, let’s keep sight of what this psalm invites us to do:

to be still, enough to pause and reflect;

to know, through all the turbulence, that He is God and worthy to be honoured;

to remember: He is here and He is present;

to rest assured: He is our fortress, and we are therefore secure.

 

The following questions may help us as we reflect:

  • What have I discovered about myself in this time of confinement?
  • What have I discovered about God?
  • What strategies have I acquired? What new strengths have I gained?
  • What limitations have I learned to manage?
  • What discoveries might I share with others?

Lord Jesus, we have not only “glimpsed, from the top of the mountain, the Promised Land”; you are our Promised Land. We know you and you know us. You are the way toward our dreams and desires for growth and change. May the communion of love that you invite us to enjoy with you allow your will to have full access to all areas of our lives. And may our lives, by your grace and your strength working in us, reflect more than ever your beauty, your consistency, your simplicity, your generosity and your joy. Amen.

 

[This month’s post is by Jonathan Ward of Pierres Vivantes, our board member representing France and other Francophone regions in Europe.]

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