By Jorge Roque, SJ
The Society of Jesus continued to show its fidelity to the Holy Father, an essential part of its tradition, when naming “Care for our Common Home” as one of the Universal Apostolic Preferences. Ever since the publication of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has called on Catholics to undergo an “ecological conversion” in which praise and reverence of God leads to service to our globe.
Importantly, environmental concern has a distinct tenor when lived out of Catholic faith. Among the most memorable statements made by the landmark encyclical was a strong reminder: “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” Discouragement and despair do not lead to decisive action, even if they are frequent ingredients in the summons to address global climate change or untrammeled deforestation.
With this statement, the Holy Father placed the call to ecological conversion within an Ignatian framework. Any service Catholics offer for the environment comes out of praise and reverence for the Creator who so lovingly fashioned creation. Otherwise, activism falls in danger of becoming misanthropic. Our common home must remain a joyful mystery. Contemplation helps us perceive it and gives us the resolve to live out the simplicity Pope Francis and now the Society of Jesus are asking us to find.
We will lack hope and enthusiasm for this apostolic preference if we do not grow in our love for the natural world. Contemplation increases our desire to live more harmoniously with the limits besetting our world. When our vision of the world is informed by prayer, we can cry out, “[e]ven the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God” (Ps 84: 1-3).
If this grace from prayer excites us to live more sustainably, then we must become aware of where our sloth or apathy to the globe’s future comes from. After all, it’s easy not to care. Blindness to the beauty of creation and deafness to our stewardship of it means that the modern throwaway culture is in danger of winning. Pope Francis followed Pope Benedict XVI by giving this diagnosis: “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.”
The call is to let the Lord’s consolation ripple into our relationship with reality. Ultimately, any change we want to see in the world has to begin with us. We can begin by asking for the grace of ecological conversion, desirous of living simply. Caring for our Common Home will keep us from praising God with our lips while serving the throwaway culture with our hands.
— Jorge Roque, SJ, is a regent at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston. Watch his video on the fourth Universal Apostolic Preference on YouTube.