Ecology of the Heart: Angela Merici & Laudato Si
Laudato si, mi Signor! Be praised, my Lord! Saint Francis’ invitation to unite with all creatures resonates with our Ursuline motto: Be Glory to the Only God. In the spirit of Saint Angela Merici, we seek to live in harmony with all creation, and so as Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, it is with great and eager hearts that we respond to the invitation of Pope Francis’ to embark on a 7-year pilgrimage towards integral ecology.
Our charism calls us to respect the diversity and dignity of God’s creation and open our hearts to the promptings of the Spirit. In so doing, we are becoming more aware of the Cry of Earth and the Cry of Humanity. In our 2020 congregational Chapter, we resolved to engage in collaborative relationships to more effectively respond to the global crises and societal challenges which confront our world.
The encyclical Laudato Si emphasizes the interrelation of these issues from the perspective of integral ecology, as reflected in the United Nations sustainable development goals. This integral perspective already informs much of what we do and how we do it, yet the urgency of the climate crisis, as indicated by most recent scientific data, and brought home by natural disasters, presses us to a renewed ecological examen and conversion.
Essential to our Gospel witness, we have attempted to model social and ecological responsibility in our institutions and through our mission. Our ministries, especially in Appalachia and Peru, have helped us recognize the close interplay of environment and human well-being, as well as the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation and pollution on economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities.
As we continue to learn more about the causes, impact and intersection of environmental issues and global crises, the Laudato Si Action Platform offers us an opportunity to amplify our Chapter resolution through a public statement of solidarity with the oppressed and exploited in our global community, even Earth itself.
In developing our own Laudato Si Action Plan, we are encouraged to consider what it is ours to do, according to our charism, mission, and present reality. Saint Angela further reminds us to discern “if according to times and circumstances there is a need to do something differently…” Science and conscience both call for a concerted effort to change ensconced patterns of domination, exploitation, and exclusion. Yet, this transformation first requires metanoia – a change in mind and heart.
Saint Angela, following in the footsteps of Christ while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, experienced a mysterious blindness which opened the eyes of her soul. As we look upon the Spirit-filled world with the eyes of our heart, we discover the sacramentality of all creation, and reverence it as the graced channel and sign of God’s love and life.
As we foster sensitivity to God’s continuing revelation and goodness through creation, daily life becomes a constant encounter with God. Taught by Jesus Christ, we learn to live in this world with simplicity, freedom and moderation.
Infused with the Beatitudes, we manifest the spirit of poverty by sharing with those in need, and working for justice, freedom from oppression and equitable access to the world’s goods. Our conscientious care of the environment and earth’s resources honors the gift of our Common Home.
Saint Angela’s spiritual vision is born out of the experience of darkness: Saint Oscar Romero noted, “Some things can only be seen through eyes which have wept…” Like us, Saint Angela witnessed a world on fire – Brescia was burned and bloody, sacked again and again. With Christ, she looked upon the devastation with compassion as with and to others she reached out in mercy.
To its turmoil and corruption, she spoke Truth and Reconciliation –restoring relationships. So also, by our life in a community of Christian love we are to witness a way of love and peace for gathering up all creation into God’s plan. Siate piacevole… We are to be a peace-willed presence wherever we find ourselves…wherever we find our neighbor.
Saint Angela herself guides our commitment. Grounded in the Gospel, Jesus Christ is her only Treasure, hidden in the field which is the world – this world in which he lived 33 years for love of us. In the very earthiness of each individual creature, she sees with the eyes of her soul the inscape of its own unique God-given dignity, beauty and purpose.
She is obedient – listening and hearing – every creature out of reverence for Christ and consonant with her own integrity. Thus, created and sustained in Trinitarian love, she exhorts us to strive to form community – living in harmony with one another, with all creation, and with the Lover of us all.
As Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, we express our charism as: “A contemplative love of God and a resulting openness and eagerness to serve the needs of others. This prayerful grounding in God’s love reveals our interrelation with all creation (apart from “use-value”) and inspires our service: for, as Sharon Bidwell says, We care for what we love….
Seen through the prism of Laudato Si, the place of others in our charism is illuminated: the light of Truth refracts into bright colors; the spectrum is broadened, inclusive and diverse. Others embraces all of creation…
Yet, we honor the distinctiveness of each one… individually… as an icon inscribed on the heart: for as Saint Angela says: this is the way true love acts and works… Our Ursuline charism invites us to live integrally this ecology of the heart.
May the Lover of us all enlighten us, the Holy Spirit inspire us, and Jesus Christ teach us to build community and live together in harmony in this world God so loves. Soli Deo Gloria.