The Consecrated Life and the care of the common Home
Summary of the conference (Claretianum, December 12-15, 2017)
A Conference of the Claretianum, Insitute of Consecrated life, entitled “A garden to cultivate and preserve. The Consecrated Life and the care of the common home ” was held from 12 to 15 December 2017, has confronted us with a unique challenge, an urgent challenge, which certainly can not be postponed, but of which it seems that we struggle to be aware. Leading the world on the path of sustainable development is much more than a utopia: it is a duty.
On the same day of the beginning of our conference, on 12 December, French President Emmanuel Macron, openly confessed that “we are losing the battle against global warming “. Our Conference has mentioned that the Western paradigm of economic growth leads inexorably to self-destruction; because with the disappearance of the “prey” even the “predator” disappears. In reality there is another way of looking at the world, in the wake of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. This new look will be possible only after a radical conversion on the perception of society, environment, institutions, economy; in this conversion the economy should become at the service of all others. The conversion from “I” to “us” is not sufficient; it has to be “I” to “all of us”, which refers to the human family in its entirety, including the earth, which is also an integral part of this “all of us”. Above all we Catholics should seriously rethink the human-earth relationship, bearing in mind that we do not have much time available for this conversion. The Church itself does not yet seem to have taken the bold challenge that Pope Francis faces in the encyclical Laudato Si(LS).
However, in this conversion process we do not want to demonize technology at all. Human has always used the fruit of his talent, to adapt the surrounding reality to his needs. But the technological paradigm, that is technology as a system, moves its own steps driven by the idea that growth is unlimited. This belief, however, is simply wrong. In effect, the technique has become , over time , an instrument of power and domination, in the hands of a few, neglecting, if not ignoring, service to the common good. Instead it is essential to look at reality together with other people, overcoming all the possible partial and isolated readings. There is indeed an innate tendency to idealize things, with the risk of moving away from us, or worse of separating ourselves from them, that is, from reality. We feel more comfortable in a training centered on ideas and concepts – always partial -, forgetting that reality is nevertheless more important and broader, and more complex. Therefore, true formation can only come from an overall look, that is overcoming the short-sighted and narrow view of the specialist, and favoring instead the dilated gaze of the wise, who sees beyond and sees the whole. Modern man, particularly sensitive to the defense of his own freedom, often means the limit as a threat, as “the point at which a thing ends”, and not as “that from which a thing begins its essence” (Heidegger ). This misunderstanding leads him to consider technology as a systematic effort to overcome limits, and not as a noble and shared work that opens up a habitable space for humanity. The need, the unbridled desire to overcome the limit has unfortunately turned into the inexorable destruction of space. Now, between dominating the earth in a despotic way and being dominated by it, there is undoubtedly a middle way. Pope Francis, in LS reaffirms the peculiar value of the human being compared to other creatures, but it is a matter of dominating the earth in a responsible way, so that the hands of man become the humble extension of the hands of the Creator. And to create means always open space for everyone. But in order to offer a common living space, we need an overview that does not deal with diversity and complexity. We ask ourselves at this point whether the consecrated life is sensitized and is sufficiently prepared, to take a look and a formation of this type and of this magnitude. Do we not lose ourselves immediately, put ordering the objects of our cabin, while the ship sinks?
The scriptural approach to our subject has shown us how much the biblical theology of creation has developed anything but in prosperous and serene times, but rather in the face of experience of major disasters. It was conceived in the womb of a wounded land, of a destroyed city. This relevant insight opens us to the hope that the devastated land is called to be a married land, because everything and everyone is the result of a word pronounced with a loving look. Before we were born, we were conceived. We are a gift, that is, a “thought”, as we say in the beautiful Italian language. This blessed duality between the Creator and his creation causes astonishment, and everything develops in the key of the relationship, grateful relationship that blesses, through the cultivation and custody of the earth and of the brothers, a relationship in which the infinite patience of God renews things at the root, because “a good man is enough for there to be hope!” (LS 71).
Jesus himself remains faithful to the faith of his ancestors: creation is the fruit of a word that is accompanied by a look of love. “Jesus makes biblical faith his own in the Creator God and emphasizes a fundamental fact: God is Father” (LS 96). The “environmentalist” Jesus tells us that ecology consists in responding to the loving word that created us. We need to pray, to express our amazement before a God and of his creatures. We need to contemplate.
The Conference also helped us to consider nature in the perspectives of monks. The profound experience of the divine mystery is lived in the desert, on the island, in the sea: what matters is not the physical dimension of the place, but the sanctity of the men who inhabit it. The transformed man transforms the physical place. It’s like saying: change your heart to change the house where you live. Authentic beauty does not come from the external ornament.
We have then looked to the Christian East, which presents itself as a beacon in the care of creation. In fact, it is full of the glory of God. The original fall of man not only affects the relationship between God and man, but also affects and extends to the whole cosmos. Sin is realized in the world and against the world. In the West, the recovery of the liturgical sense will take place to the extent that one learns to relate in a different way in the temple of creation. Holiness is a material reality; it has to do with the opening of the living space, with the understanding of the logic of creation. The holy man knows how to live in this world, and the world recognizes him as such, as a saint, and the animals respect him. The holy man is canonized by the cosmos. In turn this cosmos that canonizes is called to salvation, because in all and in all is hidden the hand that has made us.
But how does consecrated life contribute to an integral ecology? Ecology, if it is not integral, is not even ecology. Ecology is not only “green”, because it brings the color of human beings. That’s why, I can not be a brother of creation, if I’m not my brother’s brother. The Ecology is not even an activity we control, but a reality in which we participate, as living elements of a common good, always superior to us. Therefore, the charisms of man are not conceived in isolation, and only when they are lived in harmony with everything else can they have a prophetic value. Here is what the creation teaches us: there is no life without difference. But the harmony of the common good will be an unattainable reality if we are not willing to assume the burden of sacrifice, since there is no common good without sacrifice: Mors mea vita tua.
Il Convention has offered us ideas for a ‘ ecological evangelization. Pope Franceso, in the LS, invites us to enter into dialogue with everyone and not only with the Catholic faithful. Dialogue becomes the tool and the key to addressing issues and solving problems. In fact, analysis and complaints are not enough: we need proposals “of dialogue and action that involve each one of us and international politics” (LS 15).
We require a true ecological education that contributes to the” development of new convictions, new attitudes and lifestyles “(LS 202). The direction is clear. It is therefore necessary to focus on changing lifestyles; it is not enough to change the lifestyles and thoughts , but change at the level of profound attitudes of the person, conceiving an ecological approach. The evangelical counsels, in this sense, must be transformed into humanization and maturing processes of the person, especially in the most profound instances, such as affectivity / sexuality, power and possession, autonomy and freedom, responsibility and decision, the training paths. Only in this way will they be able to “transform the person in depth” and to lead it on paths of inner freedom.
To “reorient the route” we also need an ecological spirituality. The Gospel invites everyone to a serious ecological conversion. The conversion to which we are invited is undoubtedly demanding. It requires: an attitude of gratitude, because the world is a gift received from the love of the Father; the awareness of being in communion with all beings in the universe and the development of creativity to responsibly solve ecological problems. In particular, we are invited to take seriously the sacramental and liturgical dimension, since in the sacraments nature is assumed by God and transformed into a mediation of supernatural life. Finally, it should be noted that the situation on our planet is alarming. The ship is sinking.
“A spiritual teacher Ali Al-Khawwas, – writes Pope Francis -, from his experience, emphasized the need not to separate too much the creatures of the world from the experience of God in the interior. He said: ‘We must not therefore blame the party for those who seek ecstasy in music and poetry. There is a subtle secret in each of the movements and sounds of this world. The initiates come to grasp what does say the blowing wind, the bending trees, the flowing water, the buzzing flies, the creaking doors, the singing of the birds, the pinching of ropes, the whistle of the flute, the sigh of the sick, the moan of the afflicted … “(LS 233, note 159). Yes, if the Creator has become a creature, then everything, without exception, is incarnate divine. Merry Christmas.
Xabier Larrañaga, cmf.