by Catherine Devitt
Laudato Si’ offers a deep ethical and spiritual meaning of what personal and societal transformation could look like in the age of climate breakdown and ecological loss – an approach that goes beyond the superficial expressions of the word so often found in the policy literature to which I am generally exposed to.
There are two core themes within Laudato Si’ that for me, have impacted personally and professionally.
First, the concept of integral ecology, which recognises the deep interconnections of Life, and calls for an ecological approach which is also social, and, inseparable from the common good.
By bringing together the environmental and social dimensions, this fits nicely with what environmental justice seeks to achieve – and offers the advocacy and policy world the impetus and framework to move beyond technical remedies and fragmented policy solutions, to open up space for dialogue, sharing of knowledge, and a collective, holistic response to environmental and social problems.
Caring for the earth isn’t a cost or sacrifice, but rather, an opportunity for transformation that is positive and progressive for humanity.
Secondly, the idea that the bond between care for nature, care for the poor, and commitment to society necessitates an interior peace is striking.
Caring for nature, and grieving its loss can ignite a sense of personal anxiety, hopelessness, and despair that erodes the joy of life and eats away at any sense of inner contentment, motivation to act, and hopefulness for the future.
Even during this challenging time of ecological loss, I am reminded by Pope Francis that inner peace and caring for the earth can come from being serenely present, from contemplation and appreciating the small things, and finding satisfaction in everyday encounters, in contact with nature, and in prayer.
I strongly believe that Ignatian spirituality can offer a pathway forward to help realise the inner peace that Pope Francis believes is so closely related to Earth-care, and indeed, a number of Jesuits have already considered this potential in their reflections on ecology and Ignatian spirituality, some of which include: Ignatian Spirituality and Ecology: Entering into Conversation with the Earth by Joseph Carver SJ, Ecology and Ignatian Spirituality, by Jose Antonio García SJ, and The Spiritual Exercises and Ecology, compiled by James Profit SJ.
This is simple environmental action which takes us to the heart of what it means to be human: “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (LS 12).
Catherine Devitt is the Environmental Justice Officer at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, a faith-based non-profit organisation working to combat injustice and marginalisation in Irish society, through analysis, education and advocacy in Dublin, Ireland.