SJ 4.2 and the Planet Wide Environmental Challenges
This blog contribution turns out to be playful and serious at the same time. It aims at highlighting the responsibilities of institutions as the Society of Jesus, the Ignatian Family and the Roman Catholic Church – and not only these – in the midst of the planet wide environmental challenges. It attempts to offer a “network” frame to better understand these responsibilities. I am not sure it will work, but I surely do hope so, when I continue to hear the message heralded by the media that we should not really expect much from COP16.
There is fascination when one looks at the phenomenon of the World Wide Web – it represents a complex network in full evolution. That is the reason why expressions as Web 2.0 or even Web 3.0 are used. It struck me that I could do something similar with regard to the Society of Jesus, so as to sketch the complex network it represents. And while doing so, I was also struck how this network representation provides us with a powerful tool to discern how to serve the world and God’s people, precisely in the midst of the planet wide environmental crisis.
SJ 1.0 represents, so to say, the Jesuits as individuals. They are people who have made a particular choice in their lives and who have gone through a process of formation and spiritual growth, in which discernment takes an important place. Jesuits share the engagement with the Spiritual Exercises and they belong to an organisation ruled by Constitutions.
Jesuits are also organized in provinces. It is their primary network – their Provincial knows each one of them and assigns missions. We could call this network:SJ 2.0. In their missions, assigned to them by their provincials,Jesuits have always had collaborators and friends, but recently they have become more aware that these really share in their missions and take responsibilities in these, also at the level of discerning and deciding how these missions are best articulated. This is, so to say, SJ 2.1. Of course, this leads to reflections on SJ 1.1: how does the individual Jesuit relate to non-Jesuit collaborators and friends?
Recently, Jesuits have become more deeply aware of regional networking, precisely because they experience differences at that level: there are Indian Jesuits, European Jesuits, US Jesuits, Latin American Jesuits, African Jesuits, etc. There is a level of identity and mission that reflects these regions, and it is given shape in conferences of provincials. This level could be called SJ 3.0, and we have become aware of significant and interesting, challenging, differences in our perceptions of the world. Of course, at this level the relationships with collaborators arise in new ways, that are often culturally determined: meet SJ 3.1.
And then, there is one more level, and it is crucial: SJ 4.0, the universal, planet wide Society of Jesus. Jesuits have that sense that they have places to feel at home all over the world – they belong to and feel part of a really big organisation, truly transnational. Here we find a solidarity and a loyalty that areborn deep in the personal experiences at level SJ 1.0 and that find concrete expressions at levels SJ 2.0 and SJ 3.0. And again, Jesuits are learning how important it is to change the o in 1, also at level 4: SJ 4.1 is emerging as a solid reality.
In the perspective of Ignatius Loyola, SJ 4.0 receives great importance. He enshrines this level of network in the so-called fourth vow of obedience to the Pope concerning the missions. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope is the person in charge of the broadest perspective, of a universal view on the world. We could, therefore, – and even if Popes are human beings and may not always be capable of this broad view – explain the fourth vow and SJ 4.0 as follows: whatever concrete mission Jesuits are involved in, they are invited to heed the universal perspective, to become aware that in the very concreteness of their experiences and actions the larger vision of God over the universe is at work and at stake.
Networks SJ 4.0 and SJ 4.1 strike me as particularly important with regard to planet wide environmental challenges. The Society of Jesus and the Ignatian Family (indicating the Jesuits and their collaborators and friends … the expression may not be the best, but I use it for lack of better) are organized so as to have a universal and planet wide perspective and scope of action, even and precisely when they are committed locally and concretely. They enjoy the resources and possibilities of an organisation that can address worldwide challenges, such as climate change. Moreover, they can take into account the differences at levels 3, 2 and 1, in a spirit of creative collaboration in solidarity. Jesuits and collaborators in various parts of the world, in the rich countries, in the emerging countries, in the developping countries, in those countries and places that already suffer the consequences of climate change, belong to one body that exists in a profound solidarity at level 4.
One could even be tempted to introduce SJ 4.2: the universal Society of Jesus and the universal Ignatian Family are becoming aware of their relationship to the planet, to nature, to creatures of all kind, alive or not. SJ 4.2 means that Jesuits, collaborators and friends begin to act together with nature, accepting creatures as partners in the mission of creation. The fourth vow, the vow of universality, concerns not only human beings, but the whole spectrum of creatures. The challenge is to take into account, in concrete missions, the existence of these creatures, to act out of the awareness that our lives depend upon them and are lived in solidarity with them. The alliance that expresses our belonging to the same creation becomes the scope of the word “universal”. The existence of SJ 4.2, of course, invites us also to think of SJ 1.2, SJ 2.2 and SJ 3.2. We are learning to ask the question: what does our alliance with nature and with the planet mean at personal, provincial, regional and planet wide perspective. Our network is becoming richer and fuller, but also more demanding.
SJ 4.2 opens up a very interesting perspective on planet wide challenges and on the climate change crisis. It reveals a hitherto unsuspected mission and opportunity, an expression of what it means to belong to the Society of Jesus or to the Ignatian Family.
Is it necessary to say that I suspect the existence of RCC 4.2, where RCC stands for Roman Catholic Church? And why should we think that RCC is the last step? But, at least, I would suggest to take seriously both SJ 4.2 and RCC 4.2.