Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Youth, Seminary, and the Controversy at Lourdes

Linda D Pastryk, Salve Regina University


This study centers upon Teilhard de Chardin’s early formation as a Jesuit priest, trained in theology and trained in the sciences. Each of these areas contributed to Teilhard’s particular worldview, which placed God concretely at work in the natural order. Near the conclusion of his seminary training, Teilhard expressed this view in his published article on the healings at Lourdes. In this article, Teilhard confronted the prevailing scientific view regarding miraculous healing, proposed by the French medical doctor, Jean-Martin Charcot, with the countervailing position of the Roman Catholic church on the Lourdes’ healings. This opportunity to research and write on Lourdes provided him an entry to contemporary discussions regarding science and religion, in this case, miraculous healings. Teilhard’s thinking on the controversy at Lourdes revealed his assimilation of the scholarly exchange of professors and seminarians at Ore Place, Hastings, England—his last stage of theological training. The community at Ore Place represented a key stage in Teilhard’s developing theology. In this dissertation, I will delineate the factors of Teilhard’s early life which contributed to his formation as a person of faith and as a scientist, up until 1909—the year he completed his article on Lourdes. To this end, I will discuss his familial upbringing and early schooling (Chapters 2, 3 and 7), the terrain of his geographical birthplace (Chapters 5 and 6), the specific context of Teilhard’s seminary training (Chapters 4, 8, and 11), the related secularizing policies of the French government in nineteenth and early twentieth-century France and some of the prevailing philosophical theories (Chapter 9), the responses of the Roman Catholic clergy to an increasingly secular Western society (Chapter 10), the prominent medical practice of Charcot, and the development of Lourdes as a site for miraculous healings (Chapters 12 through 16). In Chapters 17 through 18, I present a translation and explanation of Teilhard’s article on Lourdes which demonstrates an integration of his scientific studies and field work with his theological studies. In chapter 18, I identify an Ignatian perspective in Teilhard’s Lourdes’ discussion, derived from the Spiritual Exercises, as well as, connect his Lourdes discussion with Les Yeux de la Foix by his Ore Place peer, Pierre Rousselot. I conclude with a summary of Teilhard’s interpretation regarding the perspective of the Church and official science on the occurrences at Lourdes.

Subject Area

Biographies|Religious history|Science history

Recommended Citation

Pastryk, Linda D, "Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Youth, Seminary, and the Controversy at Lourdes" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI13878371.