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Reclaiming our Eco-Human Spirituality

by | May 30, 2019 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N.

On May 10, 2019 the religious women and men ministering at the United Nations came together for a day of retreat at Saint John’s University. The theme of our reflection together was Integral Ecology: Reclaiming our Eco-Human Spirituality.

Pope Francis has insisted so clearly that the ecological crisis of our times is spiritual in its roots. This represents a clear summons to profound interior conversion “whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in [our] relationship with the world around [us].” What is needed is a spirituality merciful and compassionate enough to motivate significant personal and social change.

In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (LS), Pope Francis asserts that humankind and the environment are reeling from the effects of the “rapidification” (LS 18) of “super-development” (LS 109). This pursuit is spurred relentlessly by the one-dimensional techno-scientific rationality that spawns the culture of indifference (LS 106-108) and relativism (LS 123). The one-dimensional anthropocentricism has hollowed human existence of its transcendental value. Many believe that the mental age has run its course. We are now in need of the mystical age. This age offers humankind an opportune time to realize that we are part of the whole and that our connections/life styles are essential for the survival of life in our planet.

In Laudato Si’ we received the much awaited “awe-filled contemplation of creation” (LS 125) that Pope Francis has ingeniously woven into the papal document. This ingenuity serves to alert contemporary women and men to the need to “water the vast inner desert” (LS 217) in human civilization with the dews of the contemplative and prophetic mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi.

Only the dews of mystical moments enable contemporary women and men to awaken within themselves the insightful exhortation of Ali al-Khawas, as cited in the Encyclical: “There is a subtle mystery in each of the movements and sounds of this world. The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sways, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.”[1] In this mystical experience, the “distance between the creatures of the world and the interior experience of God”[2] no longer exists.

This experience of oneness is indispensable to the contemplative mysticism woven into the spaces of Laudato Si’. In our retreat we tried to embrace the sense of oneness with creation that is attainable and profoundly transformative.

We discerned together the importance, for our advocacy work at the UN, of the new emerging mystical anthropology that portrays the humans as ‘homo spiritus’ deeply connected with all creation in a co-creative spirit. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Teilhard de Chardin – 1955). Assuming the assertion by D. Toolan, that “the human is that being in whom the universe comes to itself in a special mode of conscious reflection,”[3] along with T. de Chardin it is safe to conclude that the human is the reflexive consciousness of her/his being as a homo spiritus because the phenomenon of spirit “is the thing we know best in the world since we are itself, and it is for us everything.”[4]

We understand that is essential for our ministry of political advocacy to live in a “wakeful” state at all levels, and that this consciousness will connect us with reality in a different way. We also reflect on how the relational model of today is unsustainable economically, anthropologically, ecologically, politically and theologically. For us Integral ecology is a call for a new relational model. We understand that what is broken is the human co-existence:

  • Within the species
  • With the other species and the other forms of life

Deep/Integral ecology proposes a change of mind, of vision, of paradigm… Now is the time to build it with the new cosmology that returns to the roots of the ancestral peoples. Therefore, rescuing the deep values ​​that connect us is key in this commitment. We must annul the current principles of anthropocentrism (dominion, consumption) and walk together to a new principle of ‘ecologization’ (greening) in which we, the rational species, have a role to play alongside all the other species and forms of life.

Coming from this retreat I have been thinking that for our Vincentian family it would be important to have a new formation that connects contemplative and prophetic mysticism with our charism. Having laid this contemplative foundation, the eco-sensitive formation should empower us for a prophetic ministry encompassing the following: (a) A sharp “critique of the ‘myths’ of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset”; (b) The restoration of the “ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God”; (c) The development of an ethics of ecology that enables “people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care” (LS 210) of the poor and creation.

Furthermore, this eco-sensitive formation can give us the elements of exercising a prophetic “ecological citizenship” to really experience “environmental responsibility.” This responsibility entails pragmatic implementing of eco-sensitive practices borne of “sound virtues” and “good habits,” ranging from “avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices” (LS 211).

Indeed, the practice of a contemplative and prophetic mysticism transforms the human mind and heart into “sacred spaces” to savor therein the sacredness of creation and the poor. Grounded in this contemplative and prophetic mysticism, we, the members of the Vincentian family, can contribute to a creative dialogue that aims to enkindle “a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life” (LS 207).

[1] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, Footnote 159. See Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch, ed., Anthologie du soufisme (Paris: Sinbad, 1978), 200.

[2] Ibid.0

[3] David Toolan, At Home in the Cosmos (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 177.

[4] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc: 1969), 93.




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