A spirituality that reconciles us with creation

A spirituality that reconciles us with creation

Pantaron in Mindanao, Philippines. Photo credit: P Walpole

José Ignacio Garcia, SJ

The latest issue of Promotio Iustitiae, the highly-respected publication of the Social Apostolate, is titled “A spirituality that reconciles us with creation” and was recently released by the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) from the Jesuit Curia in Rome. Ecojesuit strongly recommends the reading of this valuable issue and offers a quick presentation of the contents.

The first article, by Fr. Xavier Savarimuthu, SJ, “The future we want requires “reconciliation with creation,” is a very interesting reflection that links the human expectations with the need of reconciliation with creation. “The future we want” was the motto of the last UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and Fr. Savarimuthu refers to it to express the necessary commitment for this reconciliation that needs to seek first the Kingdom and has to fulfil needs and avoid greed. Fr. Savarimuthu is a lecturer at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India, and is a member of the core group of GIAN-Ecology.

Contemplation to attain love and ecology” by Fr. José Alejandro Aguilar, SJ is the next contribution in the issue. Fr. Aguilar works in Nariño, Colombia in the Suyusama Project on sustainability and was a member of the Task Force that wrote Healing a Broken World. He makes a very detailed analysis of the contemplation to attain love in the text of the Exercises and one interesting comment he makes is that in confronting these challenging times, there is a very strong temptation is to ignore them. But with this, we are putting ourselves far from God:

One of the dangers that we have to take into account is that we are facing enormous challenges, like those of social and environmental justice, or when we ignore these challenges, it is like turning spirituality into a refuge. But if God works, if God suffers, this flight is not of the world, it is of God’s. Wishing to flee the world, in reality we separate ourselves from or create a God which is a projection of our perplexity, of our scepticism, and deep down of our indifference. It is the narrowing of a heart which can no longer connect to the suffering of the world, or to those who no longer care about the pain of others, nor the wounds of a broken world. (p. 14)

Fr. Prem Xalxo, SJ lectures on Morals at the Gregorian University in Rome and his article “Interplay of faith and justice in environmental Issues” is a meticulous analysis of the relationship between faith and justice, the faith that does justice. He deepens into the concept of justice to find the connections with the ecology and also gives very interesting insights about the ministry of reconciliation that GC 35 calls for in the Society:

Reconciliation implies the restoration of a ruptured relationship. Reconciliation with creation would mean restoring the interdependent human relationship with creation, reaffirming the will to use everything on the face of the earth for human wellbeing and the wellbeing of the whole of creation, setting aside hostile and aggressive attitudes and actions towards the created order. Reconciliation is both a gift and a task, and its preeminent mark is love, respect, and commitment to justice. The God of the Holy Scriptures is the God of love, mercy, compassion and justice. He is the source and measure of mercy, love and justice. In his mercy and love, he makes his justice prevail and reconciles everything to himself in Jesus Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (p. 19)

The article written by Fr. José de Garcia de Castro, SJ, “The Ignatian mystical foundation for our option of ecology,” is a praise to the experience of consolation. From this experience, called mystical as it places the individual immediately close to God, it’s possible to develop a faith-based engagement in favour of nature. Fr. García de Castro teaches at Comillas University in Madrid, Spain and is one of the leading specialists in Ignatian spirituality.

The proper working of consolation is loving labour on behalf of history. We might say that, understood in the Ignatian sense, the work of the Spirit in us does not consist in our presenting to the world the experience we have had of God in some intimate moment apart from the world. It does not consist in giving the world what we have received from God (that is, it is not the Dominican schema of “contemplata aliis tradhere”). Rather, it means going forth lovingly toward that world which calls us out of the love that it has already received and that sustains it. What we do (work/ministries) is a loving dialogue for the construction of a pneumatological ecosystem which is continually moving creation, in the midst of its groans (Rm 8,22), toward its final destiny, its Omega Point, Christ. I believe that, given the great urgency we feel to “heal” so many wounded parts of the world, we can find here a solid mystical support for our action and for linking it to a religious option for ecology: the world is God’s World. (p. 25)

Fr. James Profit, SJ is very well-known because of his work at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Canada, a retreat house with a long engagement on spirituality and ecology. Fr. Profit is one of the pioneers of this engagement among Jesuits and is very much recognized because of it. In the article “The four-week dynamic: The spiritual basis for reconciliation with creation,” Fr. Profit makes a quick but fairly complete route through the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises. He shows both the inner process in the Exercises and the connections among the four weeks. Fr. Profit reminds us the central role Jesus plays in the history of salvation, also when we are considering the ecological implications of this salvation:

As Christians we understand this cry to be the cry of Jesus on the cross. We seek to experience with Jesus the suffering of the earth. This is not about our actions, or lack of them. Our focus is on Jesus on the cross. We experience Jesus suffering in the increasingly dry and hot seasons which have become more of the norm. In the scarred earth of the Canadian oil sands developments, we see the crowning of Jesus with thorns. The disciples’ abandonment of Jesus is not unlike our abandonment of the earth. We go with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane as he surrenders to his suffering and death. Do we surrender to the death that is needed, or do we fall asleep in denial? We get in touch with the despair of the disciples as they witness the crucifixion. We experience the emptiness and hopelessness of Holy Saturday. We grieve the loss of species.(p. 29)

The final piece is a text that was published in Ecojesuit last 15 December 2012, “The Dream of an Older Jesuit” by John Surette, SJ. It is a frank and humble exercise of prophecy by a Jesuit companion at the time he became 78 years old. Fr. Surette, a member of the New England Province, USA, looks for the most outstanding among the signs of our times and finds that “the slowly growing awareness that Earth’s web of life is under ever increasing stress and diminishment.” He invites fellow Jesuits to join efforts in order to deal with these challenges:

We are confronted with the hardest reality of our times, namely, the fate of Earth with its human community. As a Company of religious men I see us being called to make a religious response to Earth’s fate. This appears to be the most challenging role that we Jesuits have ever been asked to assume. It is soul size. It will require that we move beyond any denial and paralysis and that we move into the future with hope, courage, and intention. In my dream this future begins with embedding our passionate love of humanity within an equally passionate love of Earth and its web of life. This love will lead us into working with others to bring about a mutually enhancing relationship between Earth and its human community. (p. 33)

We are convinced that this issue of Promotio Iustitiae will be very much appreciated by readers as it gives a deep understanding of the relationship of ecology and spirituality, and more specifically with Ignatian spirituality.


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