Pope Francis: From the Via Negativa to the Via Transformativa

There lies a special relationship between the Via Negativa—feeling of pain and grief including that of Mother Earth—and the Via Transformativa.  The best worker of justice and compassion is the wounded healer.  We come to the work of compassion in touch with our own wounds and in that way can share solidarity with others who are undergoing injustice and oppression.  We stand with—not over.  Com-passion means passion-with.

“Filling the First Box” Students in the Beekeeping for Beeginners class for youngsters watch as Jon Zawislak gets ready to transfer honey bees from a transport box to their new home.(U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Mary Hightower), Flickr

In his recent letter for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis lays out a succinct appeal to deepen the Via Positiva, our love of the Earth, and to acknowledge the darkness of soul and society that is perpetuating the debasement of the Earth.  “We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator…. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation….”  Repentance—changing our ways and Letting Go—is part of the Via Negativa.

Pope Francis’ appeal for action constitutes the Via Transformativa. 

“Extinction Rebellion London” Photo by Alexander Savin, Flickr

“Appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders. I think in particular of those governments that will meet in coming months to renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death. The words that Moses proclaimed to the people as a kind of spiritual testament… come to mind: “Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 3:19).

“Second Harvest Food Bank Volunteers” Photo by Jon West, Flickr

We can apply those prophetic words to ourselves and to the situation of our earth. Let us choose life! Let us say “no” to consumerist greed and to the illusion of omnipotence, for these are the ways of death. Let us inaugurate farsighted processes involving responsible sacrifices today for the sake of sure prospects for life tomorrow. Let us not give in to the perverse logic of quick profit, but look instead to our common future!”  

The prophet in us says: “No!”  They mystic in us says: “Yes!”  We are all called to be both mystics (lovers) and prophets (spiritual warriors who resist).  The Pope concludes his call to action that God, “’the lover of life’ (Wis 11:26), grant us the courage to do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late.”

See: Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time.

Banner image: “Eco-Village 2” Joseph Oriel, resident of Eco-Village 2, standing with tire garden crops. Oriel, who was displaced from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the earthquake, learned organic farming from Peasant Movement of Papaye, which partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, to establish ecovillages for the refugees. A decade later, those ecovillages are becoming self-sustaining and sustainable.  Photographer: Wendy Flick www.uusc.org

For Deeper Contemplation

Meditate on what it means to be a part of creation and a steward as well.  Do you feel the same urgency that Pope Francis is speaking to about repentance and changing our ways?  What kind of action does that lead you to?

Discuss and study the Pope’s short letter below with others.


Recommended Reading

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”

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5 thoughts on “Pope Francis: From the Via Negativa to the Via Transformativa”

    1. Avatar

      Mary (et al.): Keep in mind, “Neither height nor depth, nor death, nor anything can separate the love of God from us.” -Paraphrased from Scripture [find source] and, now vintage, original song by M.T. Winter, MMS [“How High the Sky”]. Really. ?

    2. Gail Ransom

      Dear Mary,
      I have a friend who is a gardener. He tended that garden as he read Matt’s Original Blessing. We often talk about Creation Spirituality together. Last August he told me how he came across an abandoned furnace at the side of a stream where he was hiking. The furnace had not been used for 30 years. It was cracked and rusty. It was covered with vines, A tree grew up from its center further splitting the concrete hull. “Earth will be just fine,” he said. “She will destroy what we have made and reclaim the land. I’m not sure humans will make it, however.” I am fairly sure that we cannot destroy Earth. WE are not that powerful. We can destroy ourselves, however.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

  1. Avatar

    Genesis 1:26…has been historically interpreted as giving human beings “dominion over” the earth and all living beings, and has led to our practice of beings masters to whom the planet belongs and who have license therefore to use in any way we wish to profit us. Maybe the more correct interpretation of that verse would be to go to the root of dominion, the domus, and then to understand that how we treat our home will determine how we care for this garden of eden that we are to share and nurture for the pleasure of all our fellow creatures, two and four legged, winged and finned, for the earth does not belong to “just-us” as we have been admonished. We belong to this graced planet.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear John,
      Thank you for bringing up this provocative issue. You say domus is the root of dominion. Surely then it is also the root for domicile and perhaps dominate. What an interesting cluster of words: domicile, dominion, dominate. Some are comforting and some spark fear. I like your reversal towards the end. You artfully claim that the Earth is our domicile, our home. You inspired me to consider how we cannot live without our Earth home. We cannot eat. We cannot create our shelters. We would have nothing to stand on – literally. Perhaps, because it has power over our survival, Earth has dominion over us. Perhaps we should look to the gracious, resourceful, hospitable, regenerative, abundance she offers us as a definition of the word, “dominion”. And then follow suit.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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