A Contextual Reflection on the Healing-Spirituality of
in the Context of Ecological Crisis
This personal contextual reflection is in commemoration of our fellow brother Blessed Eustáquio.
Eustáquio and Healing Spirituality
Father Eustáquio was one of the priests who had a special charism for accompanying humanity. One thing that comes to mind when I see his name Eustáquio is his healing charism. In my reflection, this kind of charism is not simply a charism itself, but more than that, it is primarily about a spirituality. Yes, it is about his spirituality of healing. Blessed Eustáquio and his healing spirituality are two complementary sides: because of Eustáquio, the act of healing is no longer simply a routine work. Through Eustáquio, the act of healing became a living spirituality which really touched the marginalised situation of humanity of his time. Eustáquio lived and worked at a time in which people suffered much due to many kinds of disease. In that time, his healing spirituality found its context. As I put into writing this reflection, I truly know that Eustáquio has passed away or in other words, physically Eustáquio is not present in our time right now. Does this mean that Eustáquio’s healing spirituality has ended? In order to answer this question, firstly, I would like to acknowledge that every human being in every age suffers his or her own suffering in particular contexts. People may suffer much because of disease, war, plagues, etc, and all these take place in a particular time and place.
Again, I raise a reflective question, “Has the healing spirituality of Eustáquio ended in this era?”. There is only one answer: Yes, it has or no, it has not. I simply want to say that right now, I live in a place and time that is quite far and different from that of Eustáquio. In my time, there are vast numbers of humanitarian black holes which are tearing humanity apart. There are various kinds of humanitarian crises. All these humanitarian black holes, in turn, generate massive humanitarian wounds in each age and all of these humanitarian wounds call for healing. A sincere awareness to choose and be concerned for one of the humanitarian black holes is a decisive choice in answer to the question above. In my reflection, I try show a deep concern regarding the ecological crisis, because for me, this is one of the worst humanitarian black holes of this era. In this framework, I use Eustáquio’s healing spirituality as the context for my reflection.
An Ecological Crisis Portrait: Human beings at the Threshold
Our nature now finds itself in its worst phase. Our common home “Mother Nature” is in crisis. It is screaming louder than before because of the damage we inflict on her. A call to consider the recent situation of our common home is really needed. Through this, as Pope Francis stated, we will get a new awareness that there is a constant accelerating process at many levels which in turn, are causing a vast number of problems in the life of humans.
Here, I might summarize some of the problems caused by this constant accelerating process. I have adapted these from Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si. Firstly, there is pollution and climate change. This planet (Earth) is beginning to be seen as a large landfill due to various kinds of pollution such as, air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution. These forms of pollution, in turn, create a wide range of health problems. Moreover, there is also global warming due to massive climate change. In recent decades, this global warming has been accompanied by a constant rise of sea level. If we pay attention we can see that those who live in the areas most affected by this global warming are the poor who are heavily dependent on natural reserves, on agriculture, fisheries, and forestry.
Secondly, there is the problem of water reserves. Another indicator of natural damage is the decreasing number of natural resources, such as water. In some big cities, the number of health water reserves is decreasing. At the same time, water-related diseases are found among the poor, including those caused by micro-organisms and chemicals. Furthermore, there is a serious problem in that there is a big tendency in some places to privatise natural resources, and thus turn them into merchandise which is subject to market law.
Another problem is the decrease in biodiversity and the increase in social deterioration especially as regards the development model and “throw away” culture on human life. Then there is global inequality. The global warming, caused by high levels of consumption in certain rich countries, is having a devastating impact on the world's poorest regions, especially in Africa where, due to rising temperatures, there is a decline in agricultural yields. These all, in turn, create problems that harms those who are ostracized.
All these portraits of our ecological crisis symbolise how humanity is at a threshold at this time. People today are suffering greatly on account of how badly we are behaving in relation to nature. The struggle for humankind today is quite heavy due to a double responsibility. Firstly, we have to think about how to survive, and secondly, we have to think of new ways to coexist with nature. Again, this is the real humanitarian black hole of our age, in which humankind finds itself at a threshold. We cannot simply lean on technologies to help us. The reason is our industrial systems are in their last cycle of production and consumption, and they have not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse the waste and its by-products. Here, I reflect that the root of ecological crisis in this era is not simply ethical, but primarily spiritual. In my reflections I see no other way for earth to recover except through a change in basic human attitudes in relation to nature. And, in this framework, I would like to offer ECO HEALING as my contextual reflection. This contextual reflection is one of my efforts as a member of SSCC to ground and revive Blessed Eustáquio’s healing spirituality for these times. Up to this point, I reflect that Eustáquio’s healing spirituality should find extended meaning in its application.
My contextual reflection is built on two foundations, namely a biblical foundation and what I call an ethical-cosmic foundation. Firstly, as regards the bible, there are many biblical inspirations toward the nature and its dynamic. But, for this moment, I am interested in what St. Mark has written in his Gospel, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature....” (Mark 16:15). Through this verse, I find two important insights such as, “Go” and “Proclaim the Gospel to every creature”. These two points, in my reflection, bring me to a new awareness of Christian mission (Go) and new mission target in this era (proclaiming the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE).
Christian mission in my reflection should find its extended meaning in its application. Going and proclaiming the Gospel is not simply about sacramental ministry anymore. It is firstly about accompanying humanity as Eustáquio did in his time. The how or the way of accompanying humanity depends on having a new way of seeing our mission target. Jesus asks us to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”. In my reflection, this mission statement contains an unlimited mission target which is not simply for human being, but for every creature. It means that the Good News (Gospel) should be proclaimed to nature as well, to the air, water, soil, trees, plants, etc. Up to this point, it is interesting to reflect on how our mission now is moving from Accompanying Humanity to Accompanying God’s Creation. St. Benedict, the Abbot, stated, as it is written in our Rule of Life, that our contribution to the Church is not simply based on what we do, but on how we live as well. Putting in this context, I might say that our calling to change our human basic attitudes in relation to nature is one of the ways of accompanying God’s creation.
Secondly, from an ethical-cosmic foundation, I believe that every creature is connected in the web of life. In other words, it means that what happens to one also happens to all. Or, with an ethical nuance I might say that, “who is not my brother in humanity is my brother in creation”. The proof that every creature is connected in the web of life is our human situation right now. If we dare to tell the truth, we are aware that our human respiratory diseases are primarily caused by massive air pollution. Again, what happens to one happens to all as well. This is how I understand the ethical-cosmic dimension of Eco Healing. If this is so, then, there would be no more suffering both for human beings and God’s other creatures. How can a brother harm his own brother or let his other brothers suffer? How can I help a brother (human) to get healthy water if healthy water-reserves in nature (brother in creation) is declining due to massive illegal logging. Indeed because of this we as humans and also our brothers in creation all suffer. Both get sick with various kinds of diseases.
In this context I believe that we need a healing spirituality that we can inherit from our fellow brother Blessed Eustáquio. We as humans and Mother Earth (our common home) are in a same situation in which we cry out and suffer due to various kind of diseases. Blessed Eustáquio has bequeathed his healing spirituality for us all. I might say that this is one of our missions for this era. The place where we live is our place for mission. We do not need to go to Belo Horizonte to visit the sick people and cure them of their sufferings. Through eco healing, as I see it, we can be the Eustáquios of our times wherever we are. His healing spirituality invites us to embrace God’s creation and creatures as brothers and sisters in creation.
Eco healing, in turn, as Pope Francis says, invites us all to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wasting with a spirit of sharing, and an ecological asceticism which means learning to give and not just abstain or fasting. This is a way of loving in which we move gradually from what I want towards what God and the world need (Laudato Si. 9). For me, eco healing, in turn, creates a pastoral conversion in which we are called day by day to meet God and be God’s partner in this world. Eco healing is one of our new missions in which we struggle for justice and love (Our SSCC Constitution, 4). Through eco healing, we struggle for inter-generational justice with a spirit of love. The ecological sufferings of this era reveal that we and the nature have not fully received the Gospel at all. And, in this context, our mission invites us to evangelization so that we enter into the dynamic of Christ’s love for His Father and the world, especially the poor, those who are suffering, the abandoned, and those who have not accepted the Good News. Finally, eco healing is one of the proofs which shows that we are available in responding to the need of the Church and that, we are able to adjust to every situations (Our SSCC Constitution, 6). Our Founders and Blessed Eustáquio have shown us how to do this.
Eco healing does not forbid us from taking and using the things in this nature. We have to know that our calling is not simply to cultivate the garden but also to take care of it. (Genesis 2:15). This means that there is mutual responsibility between human and nature. Each one of us can take and cultivate the things of nature that we need in order to survive. But, we also have a responsibility to ensure their fertile sustainability for the future (Laudato Si, 67). In our own communities, this eco healing invites us to be more efficient and aware of our use of clean water, electricity, making organic gardening, cleaning ourselves and the environment every day, reducing plastic waste, recycling waste for the arts, bringing our own drinking bottles. A healing spirituality starts from the small acts of healing similar to what Blessed Eustáquio did. Eco healing begins with small acts.
Up to this point, I might say that, Eustáquio’s healing spirituality has not ended. It is always renewed in our journey of life as SSCC members when we are able to adjust to every situation and when we are available to respond to the need of the Church.