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  Vol 48 no 2


SPIRITUALITY AND THE TWO CULTURES

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Contents

Peter Steele

Three men who shared rooms at the University of Paris in the early sixteenth century went on to shape the earliest history of the Jesuit order. Peter Steele presents three poems that illuminate the characters of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier and Pierre Favre.

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Colleen Carpenter Cullinan

The writings of Terry Tempest Williams reflect on humanity’s place within nature, and oppose the ways in which we despoil creation. Here Colleen Carpenter Cullinan shows how the theme of resurrection provides a key to a deepened understanding of Williams’s work.

Beth Crisp

In our ‘Spirituality and Living’ strand, Beth Crisp offers an account of her experience of serious illness, and asks whether, without romanticising, it can offer an opportunity to ‘find God in all things’.

Mary McKeone

‘Children should be seen and not heard’, the old adage instructs. Mary McKeone’s years of experience, first as a teacher and later as a chaplain, suggest that, on the contrary, young people have much to teach those who are able to listen deeply to what they have to say.

Janet Tanner

The great revival in Celtic spirituality in recent years has often focused only on its appreciation of the natural world. Here Janet Tanner brings another aspect of its tradition to the fore, that of the books produced to help those involved in sacramental reconciliation.

J-M. Laurent

Jean-Michel Laurent has been involved in the formation of members of his religious congregation, the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), for many years. This article is the first of three extracts from a reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary priestly training.

Elena Ene-Vasilescu

The modern and postmodern periods have seen an emphasis on the individual which has led to a fragmentation of communities and of belief systems. How can church art, and in particular icons, help people to recover a sense of cohesion and community in today’s world?

Mariola López Villanueva

In presenting the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises today, it is common to invite the exercitant to pray with the stories of biblical men: Zaccheaus and Bartimaeus, John and Peter, Abraham and Jeremiah. Might the experience be different if one concentrated on the women who find their place in the biblical narratives?

Book Reviews

on a new collection of essays by Jon Sobrino
on the New Atheists
on eco-theology
on Bernard Lonergan, John Courntey Murray and Karl Rahner
on women in the Church
on discernment in the desert fathers
on Aelred of Rievaulx
on evangelicalism in Northern Ireland
on prayer and Gerard Manley Hopkins
on science and belief
on speech about God
on theology and the imagination

From the Foreword

THE YEAR 2009 MARKS the fiftieth anniversary of C. P. Snow’s influential lecture on the ‘Two Cultures’. In it he argued that the divide between the sciences and the humanities was hindering contemporary society’s attempts to solve many of the problems it faced. In the half-century since then fields of learning have become, if anything, even more specialised and subdivided; the challenge he pointed to faces us ever more starkly. However spirituality is, or at least has the potential to be, one discipline that can bridge this division, drawing on the insights of both art and science to further its quest for God and its appreciation of God’s creation. In this issue of The Way, something of the richness that can result is illustrated.

Terry Tempest Williams is both a literary writer and an ecologist, with an MSc. in Environmental Education, who campaigns tirelessly to preserve the wild places of the earth. In an era of widespread environmental degradation by industry, global warming and mass extinctions, this might seem to be a futile and thankless task. Yet, as Colleen Carpenter Cullinan shows, the notion of resurrection lies behind a hope that allows Williams to continue to work for the cause that she believes in. In a personal reflection, Beth Crisp offers an account of finding herself in the hands of medical science, an experience which led her into a long search for meaning as well as for forms of prayer that could support her.

The culture of the arts and humanities is represented here by an article in which Elena Ene D-Vasilescu looks for the contemporary relevance of an icon-painting tradition stretching back centuries. Peter Steele uses three ‘secular’ poems to throw light on the characters of three of the first generation of Jesuits. In an essay translated from the Spanish, and first published in the spirituality journal Manresa, Mariola López Villanueva wonders whether the experience of making the Spiritual Exercises is different when the stories of the women in the Bible are preferred over those, more commonly used, which deal primarily with men. Janet Tanner delves back into the literary form of the Irish penitentials to see whether they might be able to enrich the Celtic spirituality which has become something of a fashion in recent years.

C. P. Snow’s lecture was in part a lament for what he saw as the decline in educational standards, and our last two articles here look to issues of teaching and learning. Jean-Michel Laurent’s piece is the first of three extracts we will publish in the coming months from a long reflection he has written on his experience of working with candidates for the priesthood in Africa. Here he asks how feeling can be integrated with thinking in the formation process. Finally, Mary McKeone draws on experiences as both a teacher and a school chaplain to consider what young people can teach their elders, and the dispositions required in those elders if they are to be able to learn.

Few would deny today that a well-rounded education demands some familiarity with both science and the humanities, and that solutions to the problems facing our species will only be found in approaches which integrate the two. We need more understanding of questions of fact (‘What are the causes of global warming?’) as well as better ways of resolving issues of value (‘What constitutes a reasonable standard of living?’). Spirituality faces a choice of its own. It can either remain aloof from these debates, other-worldly and ultimately irrelevant; or it can enrich itself by drawing on both the cultures, on science and the humanities, and thus provide resources for those who set themselves to address the world’s ills.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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