Ecological spirituality: Learning to live differently


On 18, 19 and 20 November 2022, around sixty people from Justice and Peace, together with sister organisations Cáritas Española and CONFER; D. Romà Casanova, Bishop of Vic; and D. Javier Vilanova, accompanying Bishop of the General Commission, gathered at the Cave of St. Ignatius in Manresa. We have chosen this place for the annual days on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the pilgrimage of St. Ignatius from Loyola to Manresa. In addition to sharing the celebration of the Ignatian family, we make our own the intention of "seeing things new in Christ" because the wounds become a blessing and the damage we cause to people and Mother Earth needs to be transformed into forgiveness to reach absolute fullness, seen in a spiritual way, while we progress in the elimination of fossil fuels, which are the main cause of the climate crisis, and which continues to be another great disappointment of the COP27, which ended at the beginning of the conference. From the integral ecology, to which Pope Francis invites us in Laudato si' and Fratelli tutti, and from Ignatian spirituality, we deepen our commitment to the different ways of presence and influence in global society, "examining ourselves to see what we have done up to now, and what we ought to do" (cf. OA 48) in favour of the integral and supportive development of humanity.

The days were spent on a pilgrimage through the phases of the Ignatian spiritual exercises. Javier Melloni, a Jesuit, accompanied us in a talk on the first week to stress that the rupture of what we are is produced in the impulses of predation and appropriation that destroy the principles of reciprocity and relationship. María Toscano, professor of philosophy, from different historical, cultural and disciplinary contributions insists on the whole universe shouts, in every possible way, that it is the expression of the invisible. We are the child of the trinity and we are so with the earth and with the tree, therefore, our being makes sacred what it looks at, steps on, eats or wears. Every being is part of a sacramental reality that evolves and changes, and is part of a divine process. Enrique Lluch, professor of economics, shares the necessary change of the economy that kills dignity, hope and nature and calls it economicism.

Our Christian spirituality invites us to live differently and to work together to avoid inequalities, which are increased by unlimited forms of consumption, by the lack of control of surplus and by the globalised economy, which is a predator of resources and people. This economicist logic is a new form of colonialism that causes an increase in violence, wreaks havoc in various wars, and is rapidly destroying the living substratum of our common home, leaving more people on the margins, while increasing pollution and waste, and ignoring those who cannot keep up, as well as the loss of biodiversity. "Ecological conversion is becoming urgent. A new way of inhabiting the world is urgently needed, based on an ethic of sufficiency" [1].

The fourth phase of the exercises leads us to commitment and these days encourage us to defend human rights, peace and care for nature, considering future generations, based on the values and principles of the Gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Church. We see the urgency to act at different levels of local, national and global commitment, making clear our interdependent human, social and ecological reality.

The conclusion of the spiritual process is contemplation to attain love where what in the first week - praise, reverence and co-creation - is a statement or a framework, in contemplation becomes a transparency and a way of living. On Saturday afternoon we took a walk to the Well of Light where, in Íñigo de Loyola, the inspiration occurred. The inspiration symbolised the birth of the Ignatian apostolic mission through a new perception of the world.

Like him, we are also discovering new paths and are ready to follow them. At this meeting, we listened to the invitation to look with new eyes and new senses, to look deeper into the serious ecological crisis, which is not separate from the social crisis and which challenges us. We need to creatively transform the predatory attitude into a caring one; it is not enough to patch up the physical limits of life. This will make us to grow integrally in the spiritual dimension and allow us to build in an open way, incorporating the new expressions of the generations. For this, we have used the symbol of a spiral that iterates towards transcendence.

The ecological path is an innovative mediation to establish caring links with the living environment for a more caring and respectful society, based on closely connected fundamental relationships: the person in relation to himself/herself, to the eco-social environment and to God. "Each dimension needs the others. There is a multiple and diverse reality in which one does not know where the limits of each part are" [2].

There can be no change unless people are enriched in "a world that is more than human", in which the human and nature are integrated [3]. We want to "nurture a passion for caring for the world" (LS 216) and not get caught up in the globalising dynamic; weaving the relationships of life requires to respond to:

  • The repeated injustices committed against individuals, families and peoples who are deprived of their human rights, housing, work and territory. It is necessary to strengthen the community and the practice of political dialogue in order to move towards the recovery of the dignity of each person and their environment, seeking a balance between needs, desires and rights.
  • Inclusion that creates an open world (FT 87) where the meaning of life, one's own identity and intercultural dialogue of knowledge and beliefs are recovered, building a larger family that inhabits the common home (FT 17). Let us learn with humility from the original peoples, who maintain the most genuine admiration and relationship with the meaning of life and nature.
  • Care that heals relationships and renews dignity while favouring the depth of the natural beauty of the cosmos, overcoming the superficial and frivolous gaze of mere productivity and domination. Care towards our oppressed, punished and neglected common home (LS 2), towards the most discarded people, those who are left on the margins (LS 43; FT 64), care that builds human and ecological structures present in a transversal way in all public policies, care and conversion of our inner life, in symbiosis and relationship "with all things" (LS 233).
  • Synodality, understood as a Church with equal co-responsibility and participation, which commits the action of all people to care and the common good, on a shared path. A Church with open doors, Samaritan and in dialogue, in need of deepening and moving forward in its ecological conversion. As Diocesan Commissions, we commit ourselves to create spaces for reflection and revision, in order to make what we express here more concrete.

«An adequate understanding of spirituality consists in filling out what we mean by peace, which is much more than the absence of war. Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life». (LS, 225)

[1] V. Martín, Soñar con una fraternidad abierta y universal. Claves pastorales de acción caritativa y social a la luz de Fratelli tutti. Pág. 141. Madrid 2022 Edt. Cáritas Española.

[2] Raimon Panikkar, Ecosofía.

[3] Cristianismo y Justicia. Cuaderno 228. "El desperdicio de alimentos" Pág. 13. José Carlos Romero y Jaime Tatay.