Written by Fr. Joseph Ly Van Thuong, OP
We are living in the spirit of Laudato Si', a very topical Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on "Care For Our Common Home".
Fortunately, all students of Spirituality and the Environment: JPIC of ICLA, AY 2016 had a nice opportunity for a two-day visit to the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, a green museum in Baguio City of the Philippines, on October 14 - 15, 2016.
I would like to share some aspects of my own personal experience about the interesting journey of our class.
First, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary is situated in a 2.8-hectare land in the heart of Baguio City. It is not a wide place compared to many other places, but it is a very peaceful location covered by green pine trees, bamboos and other trees and decorated by many different kinds of multi-color flowers. Here, we breathe in and out the very fresh air, and we seem to hear the whispers of our mother earth through the rustling and fluttering of pine leaves. Here, too, we raise our voices with the birds' singing and insects' chirping of "Praises to the Lord."
Second, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, as a green museum, encourages us to become more conscious of the earth's limited resources and be aware of how our actions affect their power to sustain life. “The earth's resources are being plundered… The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future…” (Cf. LS, no. 32).
Third, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary not only enlightens us to love nature and to live with the simple and natural things that are very familiar to us in our daily life. A small landed house with its thatched roof and without the material conveniences of the modern world remind us about the spirit of Christian poverty, as the example of "the poverty and austerity of Saint Francis [to be] no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled" (LS, no. 11).
Fourth, as its mission, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary not only promotes a holistic understanding of the Earth through scientific data, but also preserves the values of ancient customs and traditions of the indigenous cultures and the rich spiritualties of all great religions of the world through the language of symbols. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and cultural traditions and true religions of the peoples all over the world (Cf. LS, no. 146).
Finally, visiting Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary help us to love all things that God created with the spirit of deep thanksgiving, to live a peaceful mind and to be satisfied with simple things in life in order to deeply sympathize with the poor and share the suffering of our mother Earth. In other words, to live the ecological spirituality we are invited to sacrifice a part of our life to God, to the happiness of others, to the fraternity, to justice, to peace, to human dignity, to the universal cosmos and to all God’s creatures. In short, to be close to nature is to be closer to God.