Tilling the soil
The unity of creation and humankind in the sight of God remains as important today as it was for Ignatius.
Once again the renewal of spring is at our door. Each Easter season reminds us that the once seemingly dead world of brown grasses and bare trees is alive, budding and poised to burst in brilliant greens and vibrant colors. It is the earth’s resurrection story.
Imagine standing in a gentle April rain, stopping to breathe in the familiar scent that it brings. The earthiness and freshness are captivating and herald the coming of more sun and warmth, as well as a greater clarity after a murky, cloudy winter.
St. Ignatius found immersing himself in God’s creation opened him to an attentiveness that deepened his prayer and heightened his ability to think and discern more clearly. An excerpt from an autobiography of the founder of the Society of Jesus titled A Pilgrim’s Testament: The Memoirs of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, transcribed by Luis Gonçalves da Camara and translated by Parmananda R. Divarkar, helps us imagine Ignatius standing beside the River Cardoner, watching the water flow: “… the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; not that he saw any vision, but he understood and learned many things, both spiritual matters and matters of faith, and of scholarship and this with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him.”
No wonder Ignatius reminds us in the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of the basic religious belief that God is responsible for all creation. In translating the Spiritual Exercises, Rev. David Fleming, S.J., helps us understand Ignatius’ thoughts: “All the things in this world are also created because of God’s love and they become a context of gifts, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we show reverence for all the gifts of creation and collaborate with God in using them so that by being good stewards we develop as loving persons in our care of God’s world and its development. But if we abuse any of these gifts of creation or, on the contrary, take them as the center of our lives, we break our relationship with God and hinder our growth as loving persons.”
Internationally, since the 1990s the Jesuits have advanced a renewed interest in studying and encouraging ecological solidarity. In 2010, the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus issued the document “Healing a Broken World” to encourage study, prayer and conversation about “the future of our planet” and the need to “preserve the environment, and thus, to protect creation and the poorest populations, who are the most threatened by the consequences of environmental degradation.”
The unity of creation and humankind in the sight of God remains as important today as it was for Ignatius and perhaps holds a stronger moral imperative now for our attention and our own deep reflection into how our faith urges us to value and preserve all of God’s creation. Spring invites us to stop, pay attention, breathe in fresh air and give thanks for the blessings of that created world. Giving thanks can lead us to deeper prayer and reflection on what each of us can do to preserve the world and its gifts for generations to come.
Dr. Susan Mountin, Jour ’71, Grad ’94, director of Manresa for Faculty, helps us till the soil of faith in a quarterly column on Ignatian values.