There is a very active JPIC group in the parish of Rosebank, Johannesburg. I have done some work with them on eco-spirituality and was asked by the newly formed Justice and Peace group of a neighbouring parish to facilitate a workshop on eco-spirituality with them.
This was really enriching: a deeply spiritual experience for me and for the group. It was my first real public expression of my passion for and my calling to devote time and energy to the care of our mother the earth and of the universe.
I started by explaining to the group, who already felt convinced that the work of justice and peace was for all Christians, that right now the culture of destruction and oppression of our mother the earth, in which we are all involved to some extent, is at the root of all the injustice in the world.
We talked about the Great Commandment: Love God and love others as you love yourself. My question to them was the same as that of the Pharisees: “and who is my neighbour?”
It was delightful when we arrived at the conclusion: the ‘neighbour’ refers to everyone and everything that has been made by God, loved by God and kept in existence by God.
We also went, very briefly, into the meaning of ecology as the pattern of relationships between organisms and their environment and of spirituality as having a connection to God and the spiritual world.
The group was really interested in the correlation between “loving myself” and “loving everything else God has made simply because God loves me and it, and keeps me and it in existence.” What was really significant was the deepening appreciation of the truth that God is truly present in all God has made and God loves it all totally.
To offset some of the questions about we Catholics never having been exposed to all these ideas and that this type of thinking has only become popular with the New Age movement, I took the group on a short tour of the eco-spirituality teachings that have been ours from the Bible to “Laudato Si” of Pope Francis.
The workshop concluded by our talking about what it means to live the eco-spiritual path in our lives today.
The final, and to me, the most precious sharing was “We thought Justice and Peace was only about governance, revolutions, heroes and villains. Now we know and understand that it is also and always about living in harmony with our mother, the earth and ourselves. We are so excited to be walking this path with each other.”
Elaine Pearton rsm
South African Province