Jules Chevalier and the Integrity of Creation

By Warren Perrotto, MSC (taken from the Sacred Heart Villa Diary, July 7, 2022)

I was riding with a gentleman who frequently spoke about the “integrity of creation.” When we arrived at our destination, he tossed his soda bottle out the window onto the parking lot. I was upset and confronted him immediately about all his frequent talking about cherishing and caring for all of God’s creation. I received no response.

The “integrity of creation” discussion continues to be on the front burner for Catholic social teaching. It is not just individual opinions or groups concerned for our planet’s welfare and beyond. It reached the height of a universal dialogue between and among nations.

For Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and members of the Chevalier Family, the integrity of creation is constitutive of our charism. Respect and care for creation is a living protest against the abuse of God’s gifts to humanity and a joyous witness to our eternal life. (MSC Constitutions, 36) No. 24 of the same constitutions urges us to imitate the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus. We must be attentive to all human needs to be respected as persons, the need for love and peace, for freedom, justice, and truth. I wonder if we couldn’t add after “truth” the “integrity of creation?”
The Chevalier Family has a precedent for committing our lives to the “integrity of creation.” The writings of Jules Chevalier include a “theology of creation.” Indeed, creation gives itself to God totally; it loses itself in God. For Chevalier, the Sacred Heart is the natural and supernatural centre of the whole of creation is the Sacred Heart. The Heart of God comes, hastens down to his creation, borne by a single weight of infinite love, and the heart of creation rises towards God, drawn by an attraction that dominates all others. Thus, creation has a purpose. In Jesus, creation gives itself to God totally. (Cf. Daily Readings, June 13)

Chevalier also urges us to respect God’s creation. He believed that created things must help us reach our end is God. He notes, Doubtless, God by right as Creator owns both us and all things; his dominion is absolute; but he still wishes to possess all by gift and wishes that everything be given to him…My final end who is God. Everything outside of me must help me reach him…All things are made for us and put at our disposal, and so it is our task to sing in their name the hymn of thanksgiving, to lend them our voice, our heart, our faculties in order to give glory to God…but with us everything in nature turns to heaven, bows down, prays, adores. (Daily Readings, March 2, June 12-13)

In 1900, Chevalier wrote, How marvelous it is this material world. What perfect unity in his indescribable variety! Not a being in isolation! On the contrary, everywhere, a union of forces, a combination of relationships, each thing is important for the whole and the whole important for each thing. It is an immense network—all the links of which hold together and converge of a central point: human beings. Yes, it is in human beings that his unity is achieved; it is also in human beings and through them that the created world takes part in the soul’s worship. Let us not forget that this is God’s aim, to include the material world in the religion of human beings so that God might be glorified, known, and loved. It is in order to be loved that God wishes to be known, love is the final world for all our relationships with God, the summary of the whole of religion. Indeed, God does not create from a distance, sending existence to us like the sun, its rays. He is in us, in our most intimate depths, more present to us than we to ourselves. (1900)

Chevalier’s creation theology includes a cosmic dimension. Creation was a wonderful, marvelous sight, an angelic world, a material world, and a human world—a created trinity, one in man, knowing, loving, and glorifying the uncreated Trinity, which forms a splendid, beautiful and eminent unity. And all this is for and with unconditional love. With our feet, resting upon the earth, creation, we become one with our Creator. Chevalier asks, How could God hate the universe after having created it? (Daily Readings, November 13)

Spirituality of the Heart is not just condensed words on paper; it conveys a living reality of a person’s life. It is an appeal for action to worship and act on behalf of justice, truth, love, and peace. Thus, following the footsteps of Jules Chevalier, members of the Chevalier family are summoned to be faithful to their Christian responsibility to give an effective witness to the values of the Gospel…evangelizing and transforming the world in the spirit of the Beatitudes. (MSC Constitutions, 36) This order includes love and concern for creation and maintaining our guardianship to be proper stewards of God’s designs. We must defend this principle and oppose that which impairs the will of God for the universe. When we see creation as a sacrament of God’s presence in the world, we realize that we are the earth’s inhabitants, stewards of creation, not creation’s owners.

Regrettably, we live in a wounded and fragile ecosystem because of our “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has endowed.” (Laudato Si, 2) Pope Benedict XVI noted, Truly, the world is dark whenever men and women no longer acknowledge their bond with the Creator and thereby endanger their relation to other creatures and to creation itself. (January 9, 2012, address to the Diplomatic Corps) We seem to be alienating ourselves from a quality of life for sustaining a healthy home for the common good of all.

When walking through the streets of Mexico City, breathing in black fumes from cars, buses, and trucks, as well as living in the Los Angeles smog, that occasionally filters into San Bernardino, CA, I am convinced that we are in a “global warming” environment. However, standing on top of a California mountain on a beautiful clear day, breathing in the fresh air, makes me not only thank God for the beauty, but I wonder if we are indeed in for an ecological disaster. I sometimes I believe that Mother Nature or Mother Earth has decided to change her appearance through a natural environmental shift, which is the reason for our ecological crisis.

Several years ago, I came across the term “post-normal science.” This phrase includes trading truth for influence. The environmental scientist, professor, and director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, Mike Hulme, confirmed this word in an interview in 2007. He admitted that “scientists—and politicians—must trade (normal) truth for influence. (Melanie Philips, The World Turned Upside Down, NY: Encounter Books, 2010, p. 278. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/perception+management) Now when a scientist admits this, we are in trouble. Of course, I am far from being a scientist, but I understand that science discovers facts and then formulates a theory from what it has studied. Post-normal science seems to be a politically correct system that invents facts to manipulate opinion.

Additionally, in his novel, “The Whole Truth,” David Balducci uses the phrase “perception management.” This phrase can cover a multitude of sins. It seems that this expression is not a fantasy of fiction but is a reality in our world today. Perception management refers to: Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviours and official actions favourable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ perception+management) This definition makes me wonder how much conveyed truth or conveyed fabrication is in the global environmental discussions.

Notwithstanding whatever one believes, reality witnesses that our environment and ecosystem are in grave danger because God’s creation and “nature” are having to defend themselves against the limitless pretensions of human beings as creatures…humans are sawing off the branch on which they sit. (Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), In the Beginning, 1995)

No! We cannot be prophets of doom. Individuals and communities are called to love, honor, respect, and save our earthly home. I strongly advocate clean air, clean water, “green,” and recycling. I support the defence of human life and our natural environment. But I do not support those self-interest groups that often usurp our God-given resources for profit, contaminate our earthly home, and leave many human lives in abject poverty. I am not slanted this way for politically correct reasons but because I believe God calls humanity to be just stewards of our home and the whole of creation.

If we journey on a God-centered path, we will recognize that our stewardship transcends all the scientific, technological, liberal vs conservative political, cultural, environmental, and ecological ideologies and correctness. Following this God-centered trail, Jules Chevalier’s apocalyptic vision can move steadily and realistically to its final fulfilment:

The Word coming from the Heart of his Father made the world emerge from nothing, and from the Heart of the Incarnate Word pierced on Calvary, I see a new world emerging, the world of those he had chosen. And this creation, so fertile, full of grandeur and inspired by love and mercy, is the Church, the mystical body of Christ, which makes the new creation present on earth until the end of time. Above all, science should produce the love of God. (Jules Chevalier, MSC 1900)