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April 2013 Vol 52 No 2


Everyday Mysticism


Ignatius, Gratitude, and Positive Psychology: Does Ignatian gratitude develop Subjective Well-Being?

The question of whether the practice of spirituality has any measurable effects in the life of the practitioner is a fascinating one. Tom Carson addresses it by focusing upon gratitude as a key attitude promoted within Ignatian spirituality. Can this attitude be shown experimentally to have a positive effect on psychological well-being?

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The Marian Antiphon of Francis Bernardone: A Reflection upon the Relationship of the Virgin Mary with her Son in The Office of the Passion of St Francis

In his Office of the Passion, St Francis of Assisi rearranged quotations from the scriptures to form fifteen ‘new’ psalms. Although he puts these words into the mouth of Jesus, much is revealed in them about Francis himself. Here Ruth Evans considers what this Office tells us about the relationship between Francis and the Virgin Mary.

Discovering Joy: Four Thought Experiments for the Fourth Week

The final main section of the Spiritual Exercises, the ‘Fourth Week’, deals with the resurrection of Christ. Rob Marsh believes that it is often given short shrift, both in theory and by directors in practice. He here proposes four ‘thought experiments’ that might help us to understand and appreciate this part of Ignatius’ programme more fully.

The Mystical Theology of Karl Rahner

The twentieth-century theologian Karl Rahner believed that in the future Christians would be mystics, or they would be nothing. He also acknowledged that it was difficult to arrive at an agreed definition of mysticism. Harvey Egan here examines Rahner’s mystical theology, asking what this can tell us about a ‘mysticism of everyday life’.

MAGIS: The Search for More

For almost a decade now Jesuits have been running youth programmes under the heading Magis, a term used in Ignatian spirituality to mean ‘more’ or ‘greater’. At the heart of these programmes is the process of discernment, acquiring the tools to be able to recognise more clearly where God is leading the life of the one who discerns. Ludger Joos describes the experience of such programmes.

Metanoia and transformation II: Fourteen Points

In this second part of his essay (begun in the January 2013 issue), Norman Todd adapts the ‘fourteen points for management’ described by W. Edwards Deming to the transformation of the contemporary church. He argues that such transformation is constantly necessary, and the attempt to implement it can itself be a powerful promoter of Christian joy.

‘A Raid on the Inarticulate’: Eliot’s Four Quartets and the Christian Journey.

The Four Quartets of T. S. Eliot are complex poetry, allowing for multiple readings and interpretations. Here Keith Ravenscroft offers a theological approach to them, and in doing so discovers ‘a work of profound Christian witness’. They stand as a monument to the poet’s attempt to find and articulate the meaning of his own life, as well as that of his contemporaries.

Praise: The Fundamental Attitude in the Church

Towards the end of the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius included a series of guidelines for ‘thinking within the Church’. Many of these are framed in terms of aspects of church life and practice that are to be regarded as praiseworthy. Antonio Guillén asks what this might have meant in the sixteenth century, and how far it might still be useful for us today.

From the Foreword

LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE, the great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner suggested that all Christians would have to become mystics if their faith was to continue to have anything to offer the world. By this he meant not that they would have to be constantly hearing supernatural voices or seeing heavenly visions, but that they would need to be able to present a faith rooted in their personal experience of God rather than simply repeating and relying upon doctrinal formulae that they had received. Of course, trying to articulate your own experience in the light of that of others is a more challenging task than simply passing on time-worn formulations. But, crucially, doing so may well be the only effective way to convince an age that respects the witness of life much more than it does abstract teaching.

The articles in this issue of The Way explore different facets of how this ‘everyday mysticism’ might look. Three of its basic attitudes might well be joy, gratitude and praise, all elements of what Ignatius of Loyola termed ‘consolation’. Rob Marsh asks how the joy of the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises is to be experienced, finding an answer in looking beyond ourselves to the figure of the Risen Christ. Gratitude, Tom Carson argues, should be such as to produce measurable differences in our psychological health and well-being. And praise, as presented by Antonio Guillén in an essay originally published in the Spanish journal Manresa, arises from a felt experience of the work of the Spirit of God.

This personal experience of God, which lies at the heart of everyday mysticism, is also the key to discernment, that learnt art by which one becomes increasingly aware of the promptings of God in daily experience. Ludger Joos describes a programme that he has been responsible for developing, initially running alongside the increasingly popular World Youth Days, which introduces young adults to the practical exercise of discerned living. Norman Todd, in the second of two linked articles, applies similar ideas to the wider Church, which he views as in this respect semper reformanda, continually in need of transformation.

Two more articles address the question of the link between faith and experience as shown in the lives of two contrasting figures. Ruth Evans considers St Francis of Assisi. He left little personal writing, preferring, even in the Rule that he devised for his order, simply to link scripture passages together. Evans believes, however, that one of his works, the Office of the Passion, can tell us much about the experience of prayer that shaped the saint’s life. Keith Ravenscroft reflects upon the very different approach to be found in the writings of the modernist poet T. S. Eliot, reading his Four Quartets as an extended attempt to articulate a faith credible in his own time.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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