The last hope filled messages of Daniel O’Leary
Horizons of Hope: Unpublished Fragments of Love
by Daniel O’Leary (Columba Books, €19.99/£17.99)
The cosmos as revealed by modern science is one of the subjects that theologians avoid if they can. That vast expanse of time and change is just too difficult to fit into a religious scheme whose cultural horizons seem, for most people, to begin 7,000 years ago.
The late Fr Daniel O’Leary was not one of those. His last days were devoted to coming to terms with his own mortality and the meaning of God’s love. He wrote about it in Dancing with Death. That book was a most moving narrative which was widely reviewed and admired.
Here in this posthumous book, Margaret Siberry, his anam cara, who was close to the man and his thinking, has selected from materials left on his laptop, other papers and uncollected articles from The Tablet, a sort of philosophical testament.
Fr O’Leary was able to find in those vast eras of time not silence; the silence which Pascal admitted quite terrified him. For him, they were not silent – but spoke volumes. He thought mankind benefited from discoveries in cosmology and science and had come to develop “a truly incarnational faith”. There are echoes here surely of Fr Teilhard de Chardin SJ in La Messe sur la monde, and La Coeur de le la matiére, but expressed with a kind of clarity that Jesuit philosopher did not always reach.
Fr O’Leary found a consolation and a foundation for his faith in a deep inner conviction of being loved by God. What Fr de Chardin found in the seemingly empty wastes of Central Asia, Fr O’Leary found himself in the endless depths of cosmic space.
The earth – due to mankind’s own action – is facing a crisis which some simply refuse to see: their imaginations are bound only by the immediate future – of the rest they have no notion – yet they live behind a barrier of fear, refusing to see their share in creating where we are.
Daniel O’Leary, however, provides others with a refreshing vision. But reading his meditated and considered words may persuade many to adopt a more charitable and hopeful view. Those who have read his last complete book, and were moved by it, should obtain and read this book, which is a sort of essential companion – a closing of the circle as it were.
The themes of these last writings are placed in perspective by his opening words – which is not always the case with books. Knowing that “we are living through momentous and divisive moments in the growth Christianity”, he starts by saying: “When the planets have all been charted and occupied, the mysteries of God unveiled; when the wisdom of the wise has left no more questions and when all the exploring, discovering, inventing and dreaming are completed, when the maps of life are spread out across the fields of eternal evolution, and the full story of a trillion years of creation is spoken out for the first time, it will be finally clear that all growing is God’s growing, that all healing is God’s healing that every age was an age of love.”
From there this book will lead its readers into many new places, but the thought “that every age was an age of love” always lies behind his explorations.