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  Vol 48 no 1


BETWIXT HEAVEN AND CHARING CROSS

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Contents

Robert R. Marsh

How are we to understand the nature of those 'spirits' which are the object of the process of the 'discernment of spirits'? Most commonly, perhaps, these are equated with psychological movements occuring within a person. Here it is argued that such a limited understanding leads to an impoverishment of the discernment process. A richer alternative approach is suggested.

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Richard Boileau

Although the aims of psychotherapy and spiritual direction are clearly different, the two disciplines have the capacity to learn from each other. Richard Boileau, a permanent deacon from Canada, describes a method of psychosynthesis that can aid a person's spiritual progress by working with their sub-personalities.

Sue Yore

Although they are separated by six centuries, the works of the English mystic Dame Julian of Norwich and of the American writer Annie Dillard complement each other. Both draw on the experience of the human capacity to maintain an optimistic outlook in the face of inescapable suffering. What might such optimism have to say about the nature of creativity?

Jean-Marc Furnon

The 'Mass that takes its time' has proved attractive to a large number young adults in Paris and beyond who were finding little to sustain them in more regular church services. A description of this form of celebration is accompanied by an analysis of the impact that it has on those who take part in it.

Bonnie Thurston

Preaching, in all Christian denominations today, faces the challenge of taking account of the findings of academic biblical criticism, while still helping people to hear the God who speaks through the texts which we have inherited. By considering a number of biblical passages, Thurston shows ways in which this might be done.

Gerard J. Hughes

The former Master of Campion Hall in Oxford used one of the paintings in the Hall as the basis for a University sermon. He reflects on the ordinariness of a key event in the Christian story, and how this can itself provide a basis for faith.

James Menkhaus

Ignatius divided his Spiritual Exercises into four 'Weeks', each of which corresponds to a particular dynamic common in the spiritual life. Menkhaus shows how the analysis of personality for which Shakespeare's plays are noted can be used to illuminate aspects of these four dynamic processes.

Anthony Mifsud

Forgiving a serious wrong that has been done to you surely presents one of the greatest challenges of human life. Nevertheless it may well be necessary for anyone who desires to make spiritual progress. Misfud offers practical advice on how someone who desires to forgive another might best proceed.

Book Reviews

on cosmology in the New Testament
on a new Spanish account of Jerónimo Nadal
on the Spanish dictionary of Ignatian spirituality
on clericalism
on Anglicanism
on faith and reason
on an anthology of early modern Catholic sources
on Charles Taylor
on twentieth-century Catholic theologians

From the Foreword

IN THE FINAL SET PIECE of the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius invites exercitants to recognise God present in all things—‘the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest’ (Exx 236)—as well as in the human beings who surround them, and the gifts they acknowledge that God has given them. Indeed, Ignatian spirituality is often summed up in the phrase ‘finding God in all things’. This points to the truth that our experience of God is usually mediated, that it is in experiencing aspects of the world around us that we come to recognise the presence of God at work.

To say this invites the question ‘How?’ How can I come to see God there in the richness and multiplicity of my everyday experience? Sometimes it may seem easy and natural. Many will glimpse God in gazing at a star-lit sky, as Ignatius himself did, or in holding their new-born child for the first time. It may well not be so easy, though, to perceive God in a crowded commuter train early on a Monday morning, or when I receive the diagnosis of a serious illness. If I am truly to be able to ‘find God in all things’, I need to grow in the ability, even to put myself in training. The word ‘exercises’ in the title of Ignatius’ book is not there by accident.

Many of the articles in this number of The Way describe ways in which the authors have found themselves able to discover God in unexpected places, or at least in places beyond the conventionally sacred settings of church, prayer and worship. Literature need not deal with explicitly religious themes to illuminate the quest for God. James Menkhaus shows how the dynamic of the various parts of the Spiritual Exercises can be brought home by Shakespeare’s dramatic explorations. Sue Yore’s essay compares the outlook of a US writer, Annie Dillard, with that of Dame Julian, the medieval anchoress of Norwich. Both women find that suffering is surprisingly able to reveal something positive about the nature of God.

Some today believe that psychology can explain human experience without the need for reference to God. For Richard Boileau, though, a deeper understanding of the workings of the psyche, such as psychosynthesis can offer through its analysis of sub-personalities, becomes a powerful tool in helping prepare people to encounter the divine. Anthony Mifsud recognises that the ability to forgive is a key element of psychological health, yet believes that, without a disciplined approach to the practice of reconciliation, forgiveness itself is likely to remain an unattainable ideal. Robert R. Marsh’s article goes further, critiquing an outlook that would reduce talk of ‘spirits’ in the practice of discernment to no more than psychological experiences. He urges the reader to adopt a broader view of the world, a cosmology that might still find room for angels.

A third group of writings here acknowledges that even in seemingly religious experiences it is not always easy for the people of our time to discover God. Bonnie Thurston knows the impact that literary and historical criticism have had upon the Bible. She enthusiastically promotes a style of preaching which, without denying the discoveries of this kind of critical approach, is still able to hear God speaking through the ancient sacred texts. The sermon first preached by Gerard J. Hughes at the University of Oxford is an excellent example of the kind of homily that she advocates. Finally, Jean-Marc Furnon describes a contemplative Eucharist, which sets up the kind of conditions that might make it relatively easy to hear what it is that God wants to say to us.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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