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April 2014 Vol 53 No 2

Glimpses of Heaven


‘Glimpses of Heaven upon Earth’

To be a Christian is to believe that the Spirit of God is at work just as much in the repetitive chores of everyday life as in peak moments of mystical prayer. Madeleine Delbrêl was a twentieth-century French mystic who committed herself to living among and working for the poor of a run-down Parisian suburb. Teresa White describes some of the ways in which she encountered God in that setting.

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Falling in Love with God

Falling in love can be understood as one of the deepest of human experiences, or as nothing more than a fleeting and superficial romantic attachment. Richard Boileau argues that, far from being shallow, the idea of falling in love with God can powerfully capture the essence of what it truly means to speak of God being merciful.

The Shakespeare Sermon

The Right Reverend John Stroyan has been the Anglican bishop of Warwick since 2005. This homily, preached in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of last year’s celebrations to mark the birthday of William Shakespeare, employs ideas taken from Shakespeare’s plays to deepen an understanding of the image of the wheat grain found in chapter 12 of John’s Gospel.

‘Like an Island I Had Not Rowed to’: God-Talk In The Poetry Of Anne Sexton

Poets who wish to write on religious themes can choose either simply to draw on traditional language and imagery, or attempt the more difficult task of reshaping this to reflect their own experience more accurately. Anne Sexton was a poet who took the second of these paths, and Bonnie Thurston assesses how successfully she achieved her goal.

Outcast, Stripped, Pierced: A Personal Look at the Spiritual Journey of St Francis and his Relationship with Society

Ruth Agnes Evans began her religious life as a Poor Clare Sister, following a Franciscan rule. Here she explores what an early biography of St Francis of Assisi, the Legend of the Three Companions, tells us about the saint’s struggles to understand what God was calling him to, and his subsequent attempts to shape his life in accordance with that understanding.

Questions of Translation

Nicholas King, a Jesuit who teaches theology at the University of Oxford, has recently completed and published a new translation of the Old and New Testaments. Here he explains why he thought the work involved in producing such a translation was worthwhile, and outlines some of the issues that the task led him to consider.

Seeking God Everywhere and Always: Ten Trends in Global Spiritual Direction

Spiritual Directors International is an organization that exists to support the work of spiritual accompaniment around the world, and Liz Budd Ellman is its executive director. Here she draws on her experience in that role to present ten areas of current growth and development within this ministry as it is practised across the globe.

Reflections on Evangelii nuntiandi

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Synod of Bishops called by Pope Paul VI to discuss the evangelisation of the modern world. The document he wrote after this Synod, Evangelii nuntiandi, is as relevant today as it was when first published. Thomas W. Jodziewicz looks at the methods it proposes for a contemporary dissemination of the gospel message.

Modern Family

Timothy Daaleman is a medical practitioner who specialises in family medicine. An encounter with a sculpture in a Washington shrine showing the Holy Family resting on the flight into Egypt led him to reflect on his own experience of married and family life. Seeing his parents reflected in the statues of Joseph and Mary offers him a deeper appreciation of his own call to fatherhood.

Thomas Merton and the Future Of Liturgical Renewal

The US Cistercian monk and noted spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, died in 1968, just as the reform of the Roman Catholic liturgy sanctioned by the Second Vatican Council was getting under way.Liturgical reform had been a matter of great interest to Merton, and here Patrick Collins offers a personal view of what an ongoing reform influenced by Merton’s perspective could look like.

From the Foreword

T HE IDEA THAT ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ (Luke 17:21) is perhaps the central theme of the good news that Jesus Christ came to bring. This echoes the insight of the Hebrew Bible that God’s will for us is not something distant and almost unattainable, but near at hand and capable of being understood and lived (see Deuteronomy 30:11–14). All those who want to take these assurances seriously are thereby led to ask themselves where in the world around them they are able to encounter the Kingdom of God or experience indications of God’s will. The writers in this issue of The Way offer a variety of responses to such questions.

Many would hold that the word of God can be experienced most directly through the Christian Church, speaking through its scriptures, teaching and liturgy. Each of these, however, needs to be expressed in terms that can be understood in different cultures and historical periods. Since the Reformation translators of the Bible have worked ceaselessly at this task. Nicholas King, who has recently completed one such enterprise, reflects on the issues that it raises. Patrick Collins draws on the writing of the US Cistercian Thomas Merton to offer a personal view of the updating of liturgy. Thomas Jodziewicz considers the continuing relevance of one authoritative attempt to outline how the word of God might suitably be addressed to the modern world, Pope Paul VI’s teaching document Evangelii nuntiandi.

Another direction in which the phrase ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ might point is reflection upon the example of those among whom we live. The Church has always held up the witness of some who have, in its opinion, managed to live according to the values of the Kingdom in a variety of different ways. Francis of Assisi is one of the best known of these examples, yet, as Ruth Evans shows here, he himself did not discover the full implications of this kind of life without a struggle. A lesser-known example is offered by Madeleine Delbrêl, a twentieth-century French mystic who, as Teresa White demonstrates, experienced the reign of God in the everyday life of a poor Parisian suburb. And Timothy Daaleman is prompted by his encounter with a statue of the Holy Family to recognise God at work in the lives of his own family.

Good literature, whether or not it deals with specifically religious themes, can open for the believer another window on God’s presence and action in our world today. The Anglican bishop of Warwick, John Stroyan, draws upon the plays of Shakespeare to elucidate Jesus’ saying about how a grain of wheat must die if it is to be truly fruitful. Bonnie Thurston believes that in her poetry Anne Sexton strove to shape a language capable of expressing something of what it is to experience the transcendent breaking through into everyday reality.

Those subject to such experiences may well need help to interpret them if they are to be able to influence their lives for the better. Liz Budd Ellman, executive director of Spiritual Directors International, suggests ways in which this ministry of interpretation is currently developing within the Christian Church.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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