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January 2011 Vol 50 no 1


THE WAY AT FIFTY
Looking Back and Looking Forward


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Contents

The Way, 1961–1986

John Coventry SJ was Provincial of the Jesuits of what was then known as the English Province when they first published The Way in 1961. To mark its silver jubilee in 1986 he wrote an article in Letters and Notices (an internal publication of the Province) describing the journal’s origins and the ‘somewhat chequered history’ of its first 25 years. Here those reflections are made available for the first time to a wider readership.

The Glory of God in St John’s Gospel

A primary concern of early numbers of The Way was to make biblical spirituality (a new concept for most Roman Catholics at the time) accessible to a broader audience. Jack Mahoney shows how this aim continues today, with an article investigating the pastoral significance of the theme of the glory of God, common to the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

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Into the Desert

Continuing to mark The Way’s 50th anniversary, each edition this year will reprint an article from a different decade of publication. John L. McKenzie’s article, from the very first number of the journal, looks at different ways in which the experience of the desert helped shape people’s experience of God throughout the Bible. McKenzie was perhaps the foremost Roman Catholic biblical scholar of the 1960s, and died in 1991.

Can Christians an Muslims Pray Together?

During his pontificate Pope John Paul II risked controversy by praying publically together with members of the Muslim faith at a number of events which enjoyed wide coverage in the media. Christian Troll here asks how we can make sense of what is taking place on such occasions, if we are not to risk falling into a shallow syncretism or relativism.

Mistress of Vision

Exploring feminine images of the Christian God may sound like a relatively modern preoccupation, associated with the development of feminism since the 1970s. However Amy Hereford argues that the writings of the Victorian poet Francis Thompson employ such images in new and creative ways that are deeply rooted in events of his own troubled life.

Making Ourselves One in the thought and spirituality of Chiara Lubich

A key theme of Ignatian spirituality is that of 'inculturation', the process of adapting one's presentation of the gospel to the culture of those being addressed. Toufic Makhoul here shows how the thought of Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement, arrives at a similar way of proceeding from a subtly different series of motivations.

A Spirituality For Scientists: historical Overview

The possibility (or impossibility) of a link between science and religion continues to be a topic guaranteed to make headlines. François Euvé believes that this debate recognises ‘the rightful … autonomy of earthly affairs’, in a phrase taken from the Second Vatican Council. On this basis, he demonstrates links between the contemporary quests of science and spirituality.

Book Reviews

and on Christian–Muslim relations
on mysticism
and on spirituality and surviving sexual abuse
on praying the Spiritual Exercises
on the Song of Songs

From the Foreword

FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH The Way was published for the first time. Although Pope John XXIII had already announced his intention to hold the ecumenical council that would come to be known as Vatican II, as yet it neither had been summoned nor had met. The rediscovery of Ignatian spirituality that would be such a feature of the following two decades was foreseen by few. January 1961 was the month that John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States, and it was a few months before the construction of the Berlin Wall, that potent symbol of Cold War divisions. It was, as the cliché has it, a different world. So what led the Jesuits of what was then the English Province, and in particular James Walsh, the editor who would guide the journal through its first twenty years, to establish a journal of spirituality? The editorial in the first number explains that,

… the true current of the Church’s spirituality in our generation is reflected in the new impetus given to the study of the Bible and of the Fathers, in the re-patterning of the liturgy and in the new pastoral emphasis on the sacramental life of the Mystical Body.

These different currents were swiftly eroding the strong grip that a somewhat narrow neo-scholastic theology had had on the Roman Catholic Church for much of the previous century. The renewed emphasis on biblical spirituality was opening up ecumenical possibilities unthinkable only a few years earlier. And the reform of the liturgy (not least its adoption of the vernacular) would soon transform the ordinary Mass-goer’s experience of church. It must have seemed a highly auspicious time to be founding a publication that would, as the same editorial promises, ‘understand and interpret as faithfully as possible the Church’s spiritual message to her children at the present moment’. Even if the language feels somewhat patronising today!

Jump forward fifty years, and nowadays The Way believes itself to be providing ‘a forum in which thoughtful Christians, from different walks of life and different traditions, can reflect on God’s continuing action in human experience’ (see the mission statement inside the front cover of each current issue). A broader, more ecumenical, readership is addressed by a wider range of writers—it was not until the twelfth issue of The Way that you find an article written by a woman; and indeed the first non-clerical contribution was sufficiently novel to be entitled simply ‘A Layman’s Point of View’. An emphasis on experience has replaced a predominantly biblical or patristic outlook. But the desire to identify and reflect upon God’s action in the present historical moment has not changed. It is this that has always held the journal securely within the tradition of Ignatian spirituality, even when, as in this number, it offers contributions with different roots.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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