Contemplation- the ultimate type of prayer

Some would say that the small number of people “praying” to God is the reason that human life and behavior are not improving. But I believe that the futility of prayers becomes more obvious as world hatred and violence become more frequent in the 21st century. Reasonable women and men are coming to realize that we humans are expected to “listen” with our hearts and minds to the Sacred’s “voice” through the cries of the poor and those suffering from oppression of every sort.

The secularization of human cultures in the Western nations is the result of believing that God favors those who profess belief in God and punishes those who do not. Churches are emptying because the younger adults do not believe in the traditional description of a theistic God. Religions of the East, like Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and other non-theistic religions may offer a more “reasonable” understanding of the “creation” of the universe. To those of younger generations who have studied science, physics, and astronomy, the world is no longer subject to an interactive God. These and other sciences provide more factual explanations for planetary conditions, human disease, and even the make up of the universe.

The need for a different kind of prayer, like contemplation can result from the observation, reflection or meditation about any aspect of life. Such prayer can lead to another interpretation of the Sacred or divine which many refer to as “God”.

According to Ilia Delio, OSF, “The Teilhardian view of contemplation is complementary to that of Bonaventure and Franciscan spirituality on the whole. Whereas for Thomas Aquinas contemplation is an inner activity of divine union whereby one expresses the fruits of divine union in the world, a reflective act, for Bonaventure contemplation is an ascent into divine love whereby one hands oneself over in the act of contemplation. Stated otherwise, contemplation is the act of handing oneself over to God.  Hence one is led through suffering and death into matter’s dark brilliance of divine light. I think this is what Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. perceived as well in his “Hymn to Matter” below.”    

The thoughts and prayers of Pierre, while being somewhat traditional, are unconventional and even Deistic in some manner.          

Patient Trust by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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 of 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.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


Oh God, I wish from now on

to be the first to become conscious

of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;

I want to be the first to seek,

to sympathize and to suffer;

the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,

to become more widely human

and more nobly of the earth

than of any of the world’s servants.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881–1955)

A Hymn to Matter   or A Prayer over the Earth 

“I bless you matter and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured—a mass of brute forces and base appetites—but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature. . . .

I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word. . . .Raise me up then, matter, to those heights, through struggle and separation and death; raise me up until, at long last, it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe. Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn to the Universe, 68 – 70.

Admittedly, many think it’s foolish to have faith in a God that cannot be proven to exist. Even Paul of Tarsus, the author of many letters to early Christian communities, thinks those he addresses feel the same way, at least about the crucifixion of God’s Son, Jesus.”

Even a more hermeneutical understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus can reveal the difference between the theistic God of Jesus who cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and the Deistic God, who expects humans to follow the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” of Jesus, who found the different path to the Sacred than his fellow Jews.

Discernment or perception in the absence of judgment, with a view to obtaining Sacred or spiritual guidance and understanding is the result of reflection, meditation, and ultimately contemplation. As a result of this understanding, evolution and the other many discoveries of science have supported the belief and confidence that humans can arrive at what is best for the planet and those who live on it. Surely the observation and information provided by Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, and others has changed the way we view the planet and the universe. This should allow us to consider another more modern description of the Sacred and how one prays.

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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