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October 2010 Vol 49 no 4


DOCTRINE IN DEVELOPMENT

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Contents

Glimpses of Newman 1801-1890

John Henry Newman, recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, seems to have made a deep impression on many of those who met him throughout his life. To mark his beatification a selection of brief reports that people made of these encounters has been gathered here. Taken together they present a rich and varied description of the man in his own time.

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Consolation of Mind and Heart: The Search for Meaning and Happiness

In his work as spiritual director and counsellor, Richard Boileau has repeatedly encountered people who struggle to articulate their search for happiness and for meaning in their lives. Ignatius of Loyola spoke of the experience of ‘consolation’ as the prime indicator that one was moving along a path that led to God. Here Boileau considers how these two understandings of human fulfilment might relate to one another.

Beyond the Catechism: Faith and Reason

The Christian Church faces a perennial problem in trying to present ancient truths in modern language. An inherited technical language of theology can sit uneasily alongside an equally technical discourse shaped by contemporary science. Here John Moffatt, Jesuit chaplain to Oxford University, asks how we might begin to achieve a successful translation between the two modes of expression.

Women in Search of a Way

Sue Delaney is an Australian psychologist who has found her own spiritual journey enriched by the accounts that other women have written of the steps they have taken to make sense of their own lives. Here she reflects upon four such quests, and the relevance they can have for those who set out to discover God at work in their own lives today.

Poetry, Poetics, and the Spiritual Life

The philosopher Martin Heidegger and the theologian Karl Rahner both reflected upon the nature of poetry, and its capacity to reveal important spiritual truths. Here Robert Doud relates their thought to the writing of poets such as T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens and Friedrich Hölderlin, arguing that ‘all poetry points, however remotely and obscurely, to the gospels of Christianity’.

As I Was Going To Loyola …

Over the past forty years, thousands of lay Roman Catholics have found themselves influenced by Ignatian spirituality. Increasingly, this influence has spread to members of other Christian Churches. But how might this spirituality appeal to someone at what could seem to be the opposite end of the Christian spectrum? Patrick Baker gives a personal answer to this question.

The Metaphor and Mystery of Christmas

Most Christians today can readily accept that not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. Scripture contains not only history, but poetry, parable, refashioned folk tales, and moral fables. Ignatius Jesudasan asks how an understanding of metaphor can illuminate the gospel accounts of Jesus’s birth, and the faith of the community of believers whom these scriptures bring together.

Prayer and the Healing of Nature

Jesus urged his disciples to pray for whatever they needed, in confident expectation of receiving it. Often these needs include healing, on a personal level or more widely. Throughout the church’s history Christian thinkers have tried to understand the ways in which such prayers might “work”, if the responses they receive are to are to be more than capricious whims on God’s part. Govaerts considers some of the answers which have been given to this question, and offers a striking contemporary example of this kind of answered prayer.

Book Reviews

on two new guides to making a retreat
on Edmund Campion and the early English Jesuits
on faith, psychiatry and the New Atheists
on the life of Mary Ward
on declining church attendance
on spirituality and the experience of Asperger's Syndrome
on black Madonnas
on spirituality and mental illness
on a collection of writing by Ken Leech

From the Foreword

Cardinal John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism, was one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, and much of his thought would later be taken up by the Second Vatican Council. This edition of The Way opens with a selection of short extracts that describe not the thinking itself but the man behind the thoughts. Oonagh Walker and Joe Munitiz attempt to show something of the impression that he made upon his contemporaries. One of Newman’s key ideas was that of ‘development of doctrine’. Christian tradition holds that there is no new revelation after the death of the last witnesses to the earthly life of Christ. Yet it is clear that there are many elements of church teaching now generally accepted that had not been fully formulated by the end of the first century. Newman held that, as Christ’s followers through the ages have thought about, prayed with, and tried to live according to, his words and example, they have gained new and valid insights into the implications of these. It can thus be held both that all the Church teaches is implicit in Christ’s original revelation, and that new ideas can emerge which have a profound effect on the way in which the faith is lived at any given time in history. Much of what is written in this issue bears witness to such development. John Moffatt is convinced that Catholic faith can and should be expressed in language consistent with that of modern science. We present here the first of a series of pieces in which he looks at how this might be achieved. Ignatius Jesudasan believes that contemporary literary theory can deepen our understanding of the scriptural narrative. In his essay here he shows how this can apply to the familiar Christmas stories. Robert Doud holds that poetry, too, has the capacity to give a richer context for our approach to scripture, a thesis which he outlines with reference to Hölderlin, Eliot and others. Readers of The Way will not be surprised to be told that the practice of spirituality is one way through which the truths of the faith are able to reveal hitherto unexplored aspects of themselves. Sue Delaney’s survey of women’s spiritual autobiographical writings describes a number who have been led far beyond the narrow confines of the faith in which they were raised. Patrick Baker describes a remarkable (and continuing) journey which has led him to leave behind many of the fixed assumptions that at one time characterized his approach to God. Robert Boileau shows how two ways of conceptualising the human quest, one more psychological and the other more obviously spiritual, can be mutually illuminative. An implication of Newman’s idea is that it can never be possible to draw a fixed line under the expression of faith, but that its development proceeds as reflection and circumstance continue to influence each other. The story with which Robert Govaerts concludes his piece, of the way in which two Amazonian medicine men were seemingly able to change the weather through their prayer rituals, may perhaps point to an area in which Christians are called to explore their own understanding of God at work beyond the boundaries of the Church. Others may see it as a reason rather to affirm traditional doctrine in the face of insufficiently rigorous New Age thought. Ian Ker’s magisterial biography of Newman quotes a letter that he wrote in 1865 to the editor of the Catholic journal The Month, which had at that time been recently taken over by the Jesuits. Newman suggested that ‘theology, even when introduced, should always be in undress, and should address itself to common sense, reason … not to authority or technical data’. Such a sentiment could still stand as a watchword for this Jesuit journal, The Way; and it is to be hoped that Newman would approve of those developments from the faith of his time represented in its pages.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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