Rhonda Miska, OP
“Looking at the climate crisis, we as humans have to be more than what we are,” wrote one of my Dominican University students in response to the call for “ecological conversion” in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home.
Of course, Pope Francis’ call is just one in a chorus of voices calling for action in response to the climate crisis. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is another powerful voice speaking words of great challenge. It is increasingly hard to avoid the truth that our carbon emissions are having serious negative impacts now and the future potential impacts are truly catastrophic. Regardless of one’s spiritual or religious orientation, there is an ethical obligation to “be more than what we are” in our relationship with the rest of creation.
Yet, despite the urgency of this summons, as spiritual directors, it isn’t our place to come into a direction session with an “agenda” but rather to meet the directee where they are. The question becomes: how can we deeply honor both our call to meet the directee where they are and invite ecological conversion? In the context of a spiritual direction relationship, how do we stretch those that we accompany in direction without telling them what to think?
In wrestling with this question in both my roles as spiritual director and an instructor with young adults who are inheriting a world that previous generations have damaged through greed and overconsumption, I have found I first have to pray through my own great grief. We cannot accompany our directees in hearing God’s call to ecological conversion in their own journey if we are not faithfully listening to and wrestling with that call in our own spiritual lives.
For me, this has looked like praying through a good deal of numbness, fear, and anger with the support of my own spiritual director and supervisor. It is a movement from despair to lament and finally to love. I need to come before God with the sense of feeling overwhelmed that arises when I truly take “a long loving look” at the reality of climate change and its implications. I recommend the work of Joanna Macy (www.joannamacy.net), especially her book (coauthored with Chris Johnstone) “Active Hope: How To Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy” as a resource.
Secondly, as directors we can practice what we preach by modeling care for creation in our ministry spaces. We can recycle, compost, use reusable cups instead of Styrofoam or plastic, and – most importantly – post that these choices are intentionally practices rooted in a faith commitment to sustainability. Many religious congregations or institutions have written commitments to care for creation which can be posted in a ministry space. The website www.webofcreation.org offers a checklist for churches or other ministry spaces to do an environmental audit and is a good place to start.
“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue,” writes Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. As spiritual directors, we have the sacred responsibility of accompanying directees in discerning God’s calling forth greater love, justice, wholeness, and peace. And through asking for the grace to undergo our own ecological conversion and modeling sustainability and reverence for Earth, we can call forth this virtue of care for our common home.
Rhonda Miska, OP is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa who made first profession of vows in July 2018. She lives in Chicago and ministers as an instructor and spiritual director at Dominican University. Rhonda is part of Spiritual Directors International’s 2015 cohort of New Contemplatives Initiative. Read more at www.rhondamiskaop.com