Ninth Reflection

For Jesuit Bob Paskey, Laudato Si’ is an Ignatian Retreat Calling us to Ecological Conversion

For Jesuit Father Bob Paskey, Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ links Ignatian spirituality and ecology. Fr. Paskey is a member of the Jesuit Community of Maine, and while his current ministry is as a chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Portland, he has been working on ecology issues for 15 years. This included many years ministering to Native American communities in northern Maine. In the encyclical, Fr. Paskey sees reflections of St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises and the Jesuit vow of poverty. For Fr. Paskey, reading Laudato Si’ is more akin to a spiritual retreat than a document delving into the Church’s teaching, one that calls on us to seek a conversion of the heart, mind, soul, and ultimate how we interact with the rest of God’s creation. 

Fr. Paskey sees the climax of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Love, at the heart of the ecological conversion asked of us by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. With confidence that comes from surrendering to, being held by, and resting in God’s love, we are able to express that love in action. Laudato Si’ challenges us to respect and love all of God’s creation- all human beings, plants and animals and this respect for all creatures challenges us not to waste, but to consume with a conscience. Paskey believes this way of living and relating to God’s creation is embedded in the Jesuit vow of poverty. But it is a challenge to all of us to integrate this into our daily lifestyles by not wasting:

  • Material or man-made things (money, tech, books, food, water)
  • Human and non-human beings (poor, prisoners, fetuses, refugees, animals)
  • Spiritual and divine gifts (talents, charisms, time, apostolic energy, or community life)

 
Fr. Robert Paskey, SJ
Addressing the throw away culture, Fr. Paskey reflected, is a significant challenge. It is far beyond recycling items. We need to recycle or embrace those individuals that our culture would otherwise discard- the helpless, wounded, vulnerable, marginalized human beings, plants and animals. Our culture and economy allow us to write off those in prison, with much higher rates of Black and Latino men and women incarcerated in the U.S. But also homeless veterans, those who are unemployed, and people with mental illnesses. This same disposable culture allows us to rend holes in the seamless garment of life, discarding the unborn and people sick and dying or at the end of their lives. Programs for alcoholics and drug addicts are abundant on Native American reservations in the U.S., but we see far fewer promoting economic development.

We ignore deforestation and overfishing, Fr. Paskey noted. Our school leaders should be vigilantly protecting students, faculty and staff form unclean drinking water, hidden GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our cafeteria food, and fruit and vegetables sprayed with harmful pesticides. Laudato Si’ is a call to all nations to heal the earth and bring justice to our living communities. 

Ultimately, the goal of this ecological conversion is to better recognize that all of creation (living and non-living) are valuable and sacred, an integral and integrated part of God’s creation. We pray for the awareness to revere all God’s creatures, human and non-human.

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Eastern Point Retreat House
Eastern Point Retreat House, a grand house located on the Atlantic shore in Gloucester, Mass., has been welcoming retreatants since 1958.