Returning to Las Cortas de Blas in Valladolid, Spain is always a joyful and pleasant experience and where we are welcomed in the house of Pady Miranda, a good friend. Pady’s house is located within the Torozos Mountains of Tierra de Campos in Castilla, now fully covered by a cereal crop. Meanwhile, the sun is warmer in April, leaving behind the cold winter and heralding the harsh summer.
Pady, with his family, transformed part of the facilities of an old farmhouse, 20 km from Valladolid, into a farm school and a hostel, receiving school groups. These kids will break the cycle of urban life (home-school-home) and will get involved in the longer cycle of life in relation with nature (animals, plants, water).
This time at Cortas de Blas, a group of 40 people met – families, friends and Jesuits – to celebrate Easter together and in so doing, to have a shared experience. From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, we dedicated time to silence, reflection, and liturgical celebrations, but we also spent time walking, appreciating nature, recognising the different colours and scents. Celebrating Easter was an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to our faith, but it was also a chance to ask ourselves what is the meaning of our lives.
Among the questions we asked amongst ourselves was the future of young people. The fact that our group included those with families and children allowed us frame our questions in relation to ecological and environmental challenges in a more urgent way. Will future generations enjoy abundant resources such as water, food, and energy? Or will predictions that seem to be apocalyptic come true? Increasing fear is unnecessary as it paralyzes and what we need is to develop generous and sincere relationships that allow us to sustain hope, bolstered by the presence of the risen Jesus.
Undoubtedly, the messages from scientists and analysts can be viewed as discouraging and pessimistic and perhaps cannot be otherwise, given that these are coming from results of research activities. No one wants to be deceived when the doctor gives a diagnosis. This is the job of science: to produce verifiable information that try to understand phenomena.
How can we ensure that words like hope or commitment, change and solidarity are meaningful and not empty words? I think that all of us who gathered at Cortas, and also others who in one way or another share their lives with others, weaving networks of communities, are building relationships based on gratitude, in recognition of the other, and having an integrated relationship with the environment.
No doubt this experience of life together shows us the possibilities and the risks of a sincere relationship with ourselves, with others, with creation, and with God. We need to build communities that promote these values and that care for the following features:
The capacity to face and work with reality. It is essential that communities have this sense of concern to understand what is happening around us. We need to ensure that we have a consistent analysis of our situation, one that resists a conformist and inclusive spirit and one that can integrate, because we cannot design a future only for the strong and capable. Communities that have limited understanding of the reality around end up exhausted because their energy is consumed solely in sustaining themselves.
The ability to recognise that they are integrated with their environment. We cannot live in isolation from the place we live. The processes of urbanisation accelerate people’s loss of connectivity and relating to the land. When we live without roots, we become strangers to each other and without a “geography” linked to our lives. The neighborhood, the people, need to establish relationships with the land and the environment. Finding the time and space to meet and relate, especially when everybody is busy with schedules and deadlines, is an expression of this need for meaning and belonging.
The ability to sustain hope. This is a great challenge for our times and communities and groups that are hopeful are able to continue in the medium and long term. In a keynote address on Climate Change: Building the Will for Action at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, United Kingdom, Ms Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that love is the element that is missing in many political negotiations. But, she also said, “I am not talking about feeble love. I am referring to tough love, the love that is strong enough to make tough decisions because we know it is the right thing to do. Because we understand that ultimately we are all inter-related, interwoven with one another and with this planet we cannot replace.”
This message is not new, but it is essential to reiterate and renew it to be able to continue the actions needed and not to forget it. Communities such as those that we met at Cortas are a strong support in our personal search for meaning. The ties that are now interweaving are building networks that allow us to build a sustainable future.
At the Easter Vigil, we sang the Easter proclamation with a beautiful melody and with lyrics: “Darkness is a transition to life, light, and joy.” Hope is not weak and is the strength needed to walk in new and imaginative ways to face the challenges of our time.