On the 50th anniversary of the death of Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., the Jesuit Thomas M. King wrote a short profile for America commemorating the accomplishments of this scientist and priest:
Teilhard was striving for sanctity by working in science, and this effort would require a new understanding of what it means to be holy. The traditional understanding of sanctity regarded secular work as a “spiritual encumbrance” and viewed “the world around us as vanity and ashes.” To come to the things of God required rejection of the things of earth. So says the First Letter of John: “Do not love the world or the things of the world” (2:15). Likewise, St. John of the Cross: “Desire to enter into complete detachment, emptiness, and poverty with respect to everything that is in the world.” Worldly knowledge and secular concerns were thought to lead to pride. “Study to withdraw the love of thy soul from things that be visible, and turn it to things that be invisible,” wrote Thomas à Kempis.
As the 20th century advanced, seminaries still recommended such texts, but most Christians no longer found in them the expression of a human ideal. Nonetheless, when Teilhard’s Divine Milieu was finally published in 1958, the dedication came as a shock: “For those who love the world.”