Wisdom from the Jesuits: Climate change signals a vapid spirituality

Jamie Today, S.J., displayed Ignatian Spirituality at its finest in his November 15th piece at Ecojesuit, “Healing a broken world from our communities: Thinking and praying on the gift of creation.” He says our drought-riddled parched lands betray parched souls.

Some background: Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus after a soul search in the wake of a battle injury. He once romanticized warrior knights and longed for their books during his convalescence, but only found stories of saints. He read them and was hooked. Ignatius abandoned the sword and, along with others, eventually established the Society. Mockers called them “Jesuits,” which meant something akin to “Jesus freaks.” The band replied, “Yes, we are.” They thanked everyone for the brand, kept it, and conceived themselves as “contemplatives in action” while marching under the motto, “finding God in all things.” The order is known for running their clerics through rugged and lengthy training as well as establishing prestigious universities (Georgetown, Boston College, Creighton, and many others), although that was not their original intention.

The ever-dedicated Jesuits provide a link between withdrawn Trappists and street-smart social activists.

In true Jesuit fashion, Today sees environmental care as a spiritual issue: “Care of creation requires a constant spiritual renovation. The invitation to become custodians of creation is an invitation to care for our own lives, for our inner life.”

Here are the first two paragraphs, followed by a link:

In his first homily as Pope, on 24 April 2005, Benedict XVI said: “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”

Eight years later, on 7 April 2013, just named Pope Francis said something similar: “We are the guardians of creation, the plan of God inscribed in nature, the custodians of each other, and of the environment. Do not let the signs of destruction and death accompany the journey of our world! But in ‘guarding’ we must also look to ourselves.”

For the rest, tap here.

Borrow The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything by James Martin, S.J. to learn more about them.  Or buy it. It’s excellent. Tim Muldoon’s The Ignatian Workout gives contemporary application to The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, a month-long training regime of prayer and meditation.

Pairing the contemplative and active life helps us understand another Jesuit, former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, more popularly known as Pope Francis. The pontiff speaks of deep devotion and faith at one moment and practicality at the next. Ignatius would only smile.

Jesuits spark controversy wherever they wander. They played a key role in cleaning up the Mother Church during the Catholic Counter Reformation, but they were feared. Catholic European monarchs even pressured Pope Clement XIV to suppressed the order in 1773 and, in the irony of ironies, many members fled to Protestant lands, where the suppression was not enforced.

Pope Pius VII lifted the ban 41 years later.

They’re still prone to trouble. Some pressed orthodoxy’s bounds in the more radical forms of liberation theology, which left Pope John Paul II less than amused — and their weak spot seems to be arrogance. Father Martin re-tells a joke circulating the Catholic orders:

One (joke) has a Jesuit, a Franciscan, and a Dominican dying and going to heaven.  They are ushered into God’s throne room, where God is seated on an immense, diamond-encrusted gold chair. God says to the Dominican, “Son of St. Dominic, what do you believe?” The Dominican answers, “I believe in God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.” God asks the Franciscan, “Son of St. Francis, what do you believe?” The Franciscan says, “I believe in your son, Jesus, who came to work with the poor.” Finally God turns to the Jesuit and from his great throne asks, “Son of St. Ignatius, what do you believe?” The Jesuit says, “I believe … you are in my seat!”

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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