Xavier de Benaze, SJ
La plateforme and Co is a youth apostolate activity launched during the school year 2013-2014 in Paris by the French Jesuits and aims to integrate different Jesuit youth ministry initiatives in Paris and also to promote new ones.
Twenty young people then gathered and asked themselves “What do we do now?” “Quid agendum?” wondered Saint Ignatius when he came back from Jerusalem. This gathering led to the design of an interesting and intensive full-year program of formation called Ecology and Hope by Gaël Giraud, SJ, an economist and senior researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS in French), Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne, University of Paris, and the Paris School of Economics.
Ecology and Hope is one of the formation paths offered by La Plateforme and Co and after the initial success in 2014, a new program is offered focused on Laudato si’. This formation path is designed to allow participants to explore the link between faith and ecology combining practical experiences, training, sharing, and prayer. With the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius as a bacjground, participants can find a way to “bring order to one’s own life” and to enter into an ecological conversion, as Pope Francis is calling us.
The activities are organized in four phases of six weeks each, with the meetings taking place one evening per week.
Phase 1: Getting started: Experiences and sharing
In 2014-2015, an experience was shared at each weekly gathering such as preparing a vegetarian meal with unsold items from a supermarket, learning to contemplate the urban environment to find its recreational spaces and the beauty, resonating this kind of prayer in the Psalms, among others. There was recognition of other participants as fellow travelers, sharing their experiences, fears and difficulties. For 2015-2016, excerpts from Laudato si’ will be read and shared in small groups to help link daily moments of prayer and reflection.
Phase 2: Training, dialogue and celebration
This period of training will be heavily focused on the encyclical of Pope Francis and enhanced by solid testimonies of Jesuits involved in COP21 and Christians working in the environmental field. Finally, a “green” celebration will help to give thanks for all we have received and to prepare for a practical implementation.
Phase 3: Experiments
This phase focuses on the effective implementation of the training. After a semester of activity in 2014-2015, two projects were launched:
- The planting of a vegetable garden at the Jesuit community of Rue Blomet to “put one’s hands on the ground” and
- The preparation of an exhibition on “Ecology, COP21 and faith” for the parishes of the diocese of Saint-Denis, which is the poorest region in France and a crossroads of immigration with a diversity of people coming from all backgrounds. This is an area where the integral ecology which Pope Francis speaks about is both a reality and a daily challenge.
For the new path this year, some projects are added that links with different social realities, such as refugees through the Jesuit Refugee Services, to reflect the strong appeal of Francis in his encyclical: “Everything is connected.”
Phase 4: Spiritual Exercises in Ordinary Life (SEOL) to receive the fruits granted by God
This last phase was hold jointly with other students and young professionals participating in other activities of La platforme and Co and offers each participant a basic initiation to prayer following the experience of Saint Ignatius, in order to find God in daily life and so love more deeply.
After the 2014-2015 program, it is interesting to note that the activity really allows everyone to make a personal path, giving the organizers the necessary confidence to launch a new edition of the program this year.
We are not looking for a uniform experience of Laudato si’. Each one joins this program because the connection between faith and ecology raises questions or is felt as seems vital. From this starting point, and supported by the group and the activities, each person develops a personal path that is made with the Lord.