Ecological conversion4 Feb 2022
In April 2022 the Ignatian Ecospiritual Conference is an opportunity to explore our interconnectedness with all Creation.
During the lockdowns in Melbourne due to the Covid pandemic we were only allowed to go 5km from our home. Fortunately, Doongalla Forest, on the outskirts of Melbourne, was within 5km of my home. I walked regularly in this wonderful forest during the lockdowns. ‘Doongalla’ is said to be the Wurundjeri word meaning ‘place of peace.’ It certainly became that for me during the lockdowns. It has become my place of prayer.
This cool temperate forest is the home of the majestic mountain ash and stringybark eucalypts, acacia trees and soft tree ferns. Here you will find yellow crested cockatoos, rosellas, kookaburras and many other birds. You can even come across lyrebirds wandering about in the scrub. If you are lucky you might come across a few wallabies and goannas that make their home here. For me walking in the forest helps me to become aware of God’s presence in all Creation. St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, believed in ‘finding God in all things.’ I experience God’s presence when I am out in nature, especially in Doongalla Forest.
In 2015 Pope Francis published his landmark encyclical Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. For Pope Francis, ‘The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dew drop, in a poor person’s face’ (LS, n233).
However, Pope Francis recognises that as Christians mainly living in large urban cities, we have become disconnected from God in Creation. ‘The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.’ (LS, n.21) because ‘We have come to see ourselves as her [Earth] lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.’ (LS, n.2) However Pope Francis states, ‘Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.’ (LS, n.139)
Pope Francis believes we are in great need of an ‘ecological conversion’ whereby ‘the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ becomes evident in their relationship with the world around them’ (LS, n.217).
Pope Francis wants us to realise that ‘everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of her creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth’ (LS, n.92)
Pope Francis’ hope is that this ecological conversion will lead to the development of an ‘integral ecology’ which includes ‘taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us, whose presence ‘must not be contrived but found, uncovered’.’ (LS, n.225)
In 2021 Pope Francis established the Laudato Si Action Platform where he is inviting people to make practical steps to care for our common home, Earth and all who live with her.
As part of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St Ignatius of Loyola, the Australian Jesuit Province is hosting the International Ignatian Ecospiritual Conference online from 25-30 April. The theme of the conference is ‘Living with Earth: Our Ecological Conversion through being with God in Nature’.
The International Ignatian Ecospiritual Conference is an opportunity to explore our deep interconnectedness with all Creation through mindful encounters with nature, reflection, sacred listening, and prayer. Opening ourselves to the ongoing ecological conversion we so desperately need to create a hope-filled future, will also inspire commitment to the creation of structures, policies and ways of proceeding that honour and nourish the web of relationships in which we all exist.
For further information about the conference go to the website – http://www.iiec.org.au/.