As we celebrate Earth Day, we are reminded of Pope Francis's call in Laudato Si’ to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God, creation and one another. The following is an excerpt from an Ecological Examen developed jointly by Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The Examen asks you to reflect on your personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend your ways and to promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.
Begin the Examen by placing yourself or your group in a posture that allows you to be open to the ways the Spirit is working in you. There are six steps in the Examen.
1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?
I begin my Examen by centering myself in the midst of God who is the God of unconditional love and infinite creativity. I imagine how this God of love created the beauty of the universe. “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 dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” 1 I see that God is part of every facet of creation, operating in the world in the smallest organism to the greatest mountain range. I give thanks to my God who created all the Earth, all the creatures upon the Earth, the fishes of the sea, the birds that soar through the skies, the water that gives us life and all humanity. I give thanks to a God who molded me in my mother’s womb and who crafts me into the person who I am today. I thank God for my life and for all that God has provided me to sustain this very life. I recognize all I am and all Creation that surrounds me is a gift from God.
2. I ask for the grace to see creation as God does – in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?
I ask for the grace to look at the world as God does – to see the world in its infinite goodness, diversity and interconnectedness. “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, I see the close relationship between all creatures and our common home and how we are dependent on one another for our mutual well-being. Like God, I rejoice in how the earth and the creatures and people who inhabit it are all wonderfully made. But like God, I also hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” I hear how “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” I see signs of our sins reflected in the “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” I see how indigenous peoples have been displaced from their lands and seen their water contaminated due to an economic system that prioritizes profit over people and the common good. I recognize how a “throwaway culture” discards not only things but people as “leftovers,” and how it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most from climate change. I see how poor people and persons of color disproportionately live in neighborhoods near industries that produce contamination and waste, whether in urban cities, rural areas or in precious natural biomes such as the Amazon. I see how poverty, inequality and globalization contribute to “social exclusion [and] an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services.” I am pained by the increasing negative impacts of globalization on the earth and humanity. As Pope Francis exclaims, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.”
3. I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?
How present am I to the world around me? How do I show my love for God through my respect for creation and my neighbor? How does my environment shape who I deem to be my neighbor or part of my community? Who is left out?
Where are the most polluted areas of my community and in the world? Who lives there?
How do I use water throughout my daily life? How am I a responsible steward of this gift? How do my consumption patterns and demand for energy impact the availability of clean water for communities in my country and around the world? Who has access to clean water, a basic human right, and who does not?
Do I recognize that eating is a moral act and that “how I treat my food is how I treat my home?” Do I take more than I can eat?” Do I waste a lot of food when many around the world are hungry? Am I conscious of where my food is grown and under what conditions? Am I aware of the energy and water that went into the production of my food, and the impact on the environment?
4. I ask for the grace of conversion towards ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?
In my desire for reconciliation with creation, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace of ecological conversion. I acknowledge the ways in which I personally have chosen convenience, selfishness, and greed over ecological and social justice. I also acknowledge the ways structures, patterns, and cultures of sin impact my life, the lives of people on the margins and the earth. Through my recognition of where I have fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters, and through God’s mercy, I pray for a conversion of heart to amend my ways. I seek through my prayer and actions to reconcile myself with God, creation and humanity. I ask for the grace to become someone who chooses to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized and acts to contribute to a more socially and ecologically just society. Seeing the joys and suffering of the Earth and its creatures and persons across the globe, I also see “signs of God’s work, of the great ministry of reconciliation God has begun in Christ, fulfilled in the Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.”
5. I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?
God calls us as caretakers of the earth not simply to take the earth’s resources for our own benefit, but to use the earth’s resources to praise, reverence, and serve God. By working for environmental justice and reconciliation with creation, we reverence the God of love and co-labor with God towards Christ’s own mission of reconciliation and love. We “are called to help heal a broken world,” to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter. This means embracing a new sustainable path forward and a “new way of producing and consuming [that] puts God’s creation at the center.” I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity. With the entire Ignatian Family, I take up this challenge by identifying personal concrete action steps to live more sustainably. In what ways through my actions can I stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis? In what ways will I advocate for environmental policies that care for creation and the most vulnerable?
6. I offer a closing prayer for the earth and the vulnerable in our society.
“A Prayer for Our Earth”
All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
(Laudato Si’, n. 246)
Caring for creation doesn't stop with Earth Day! Learn more and view the full Ecological Examen, available online and in booklet form. Find out how you can get involved with the work of the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.