We are in the “Laudato Sì” Week. For this reason, I am going to dedicate the reflections of each day of this week to different aspects of the sixth chapter of the encyclical (nn. 202-246) on the ecological conversion in the key of culture, education and spirituality. Three nouns “culture, education” and “spirituality” that the Pope interconnects when asking us to reorient the course of humanity from ecological conversion:
“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal”. (Pope Francis, Laudato Sì, n. 202)
The three nouns in action: culture, spirituality, education
A very general trend in the past has led us to distinguish, to divide “so as not to confuse.” Today we feel called to contemplate diversity but without exclusions, in a vision of totality (holistic). We have distinguished very well what is culture, education and spirituality. But what happens when the three nouns are understood as a human “trinity”? So, culture has a lot to do with spirituality and education, education with culture and spirituality, and spirituality with education and culture. And from this “human trinity” emerges the “new consciousness”, “the new paradigm”, the “ecological conversion” that humanity needs at this time.
- Culture is the fruit of the cultivation of the mind, heart, imagination, creativity, and spirit. Culture germinates in a certain space on our planet (bio-mole, or bio-region): in contact with the landscape, with climate, with the community of the living (bio-cenosis) … that is, in contact with the ecological environment in which each human group has been placed. Therefore, our planet is enriched with an impressive variety of cultures, which reflect the treasures that the human spirit holds as a possibility. Culture is continuous creation…. And what truthful is that “God creates creators” (Andrés Torres Queiruga). Without culture the human being is objectified, brutalized, falls asleep, becomes wild.
- Education, properly understood, is “something else.” This is how José Luis Corzo titled one of his books: “Educating Is Something Else”. It is not cloning, it is not in-doctrine, it is not in-training, it is not filling the intelligence of the students with content. Educating is helping others to create talent (José Antonio Marina); to discover and activate the artistic, artisanal, political, spiritual, religious vein that each human being carries within himself or herself. Education is the art of inventing, that is, finding (in-venio) the most surprising seeds, which have to germinate within the contexts of our common home, the earth. “Nobody educates anyone” (Corzo), but together we bring to birth what has already been sown by the Creator. Education creates connections, harmonies. It is good news for human communities. Education discovers talents and enables their creative and cultural display. Where there is no “school that e-ducates” the creative energy is wasted, the blood that should circulate through the body of humanity and the earth is lost.
- Spirituality: but not only education, also spirituality. There is no spirituality without connection with the spirit. That invisible dimension that inhabits us, that we call “conscience”, “in-intelligence”, “love”. We are not just appearance, visible body. We are inhabited by “something mysterious” that is gradually awakening. And that “spirit” connects, interconnects: understands, discovers, falls in love, is ecstatic, is borderline, tries to reach the limits, shudders. And if there is an invisible world (“Creator of the visible and the invisible”), it connects with it and feel—albeit partially—communion with everything “holy” –with the other dimension. And in that world, what we call “the divine” awaits us, “a Covenant that shakes and fascinates.” Spirituality dreams the impossible: “You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Saint Augustine). Without spirituality, the human being “goes crazy”: instead of launching ramps, one discovers obstacles and closed doors; the limits of the visible are for him or her “the end.”
The triple connection: cultural, educational and spiritual
It is a success that Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Sì” invites us to unite what we have so many times separated: culture, education and spirituality. I must confess that the word “formation” is positive to me only when it is understood as a process of “transformation”: mere training can create “clones”. It is necessary to educate, to get afloat, to activate the transformation process that each one carries within: to make possible the dream of the Creator. This is why the word “education” is so important.
Culture, Education and Spirituality are, then, three dimensions of the same reality, three moments of a single process. Education tells us more about the ascetic and ethical dimension; the spirituality of the mystical dimension, without both aspects being strictly separable. For this reason, ecological conversion requires that a new model of education and spirituality and culture be introduced into the Church. Educating, being spiritual is “something else.” For this reason, we welcome Pope Francis’ invitation to an “ecological conversion.”
Magical and energetic connections
The “disconnection” deprives us of the available energy and of so many relationships that are possible. Sometimes we are forced to move from one place to another until we find “coverage” or connection spaces. But this is not enough either: it requires knowing “the key,” otherwise it is the case of “open networks.” Connected, we discover that we are not alone, that it is possible to enter a magical space of information, relationship and exchange.
There is another type of “connection”, the “energy connections,” which are also within our reach—they are also open networks—and of which we are hardly aware; among them is the spiritual connection, with the world of the Spirit, of the holy Mystery—terrible and seductive.
The connection—whatever the type may be—frees us from solipsism, from cloistered in our self, from narcissism. Thanks to the connections we discover ourselves in the Whole, in a context that exceeds us everywhere. Then we discovered that not everything depends on me, that I do not dominate everything and that when I try to do so I become impoverished. How different it is to discover the mysterious world in which I am inserted! The perspective from which I see this reality is certainly too pretentious: it is nothing more and nothing less than the “connection” with the three persons of the Holy Trinity.
We have been created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26), we are children of the Creator Abba. The Spirit constantly testifies in us (Rom 8:14-16). Let us discover ourselves inserted in that current of life: being born of God, being configured in his image and likeness, listening to that melody of the Spirit that constantly evokes our identity. We are constantly being born—not from any limited reality—but from the Source from which everything exists; we are the result of surprising Creativity, of an omnipotent creative power. And also, “in his image and likeness” If we are sons and daughters of that reality, if we truly believe in it (I believe in God the Father-Mother Almighty!), how can we not discover that same energy in us? The covenant with our God is impressively energizing and that is why it is rightly said that “God creates creators.”
Those who know the secrets of nature, physics, and the quantum, tell us that generative and autopoietic energy already acts on the smallest particles even producing enormously complex processes. Those who best know the secrets of the human being (of his intelligence, of his spirit, of his body) know how we are moved by an incessant spiritual and bodily activity that we often do not know where it comes from and where it goes. When we confess “I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator” we are recognizing the inexplicable phenomenon of the effects of creative energy.
This is the energy that reproduces life on our planet, that renews the beauty that day after day seduces, surprises and mobilizes us. It is the energy that makes us discover in ourselves new spiritual organs, capacities that seemed to us non-existent (Etty Hillesum).
The creative energy of the Abba works in human beings, in the exuberance of the vegetation, in the perfection of animal life, in the relationships that we establish between ourselves and with all reality, in the history that we are weaving. Are we not sons and daughters of the creative Abba? If we are vitally connected with Him, with his Mystery, Will not come to us—who have been created in his image and likeness—that creative, generative energy? “Multiply and be fruitful” (Gen 1:28) was his mandate to our first parents.
We are not children of God just because of a title given to us in baptism, but because all creation groans for it. Nor is God our Father-Mother only in the beginning, disregarding us later: the relationship of paternity-maternity and filiation is permanent. It is uninterrupted connection.
So, I ask you: Abba, what creative possibilities are there in me that I have not yet been able to develop? What kind of paternity or maternity do you grant us so that we can exercise it like you? What can we dream, design and carry out to be more similar to your maternal-paternal, creative nature? How to live connected with the All for everything has its echo in us? Culture, education and spirituality … what a great trinity for us so small!
THE VOICE OF MOTHER NATURE
English Translation: Fr. Alberto Rossa, cmf