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October 2012 Vol 51 No 4


Reading and Living


Just What Does Hippo Have To Do With Philadelphia?

The relationship between wisdom and knowledge has long been debated by philosophers and others. Thomas Jodziewicz takes up this theme by contrasting the lives and autobiographical writings of Benjamin Franklin and Saint Augustine of Hippo. who are alike in starting from the question of what it is to live a truly good life.

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Spiritual Midwifery

Many terms are used to describe someone who attempts to help others explore their spiritual experience: director, accompanier, soul-friend and more. Here Sylvie Robert suggests that the image of a midwife assisting at a birth can throw useful light upon aspects of the relationship between the director and the one receiving direction.

‘A Profitable Penance’: Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and David Jones’s Engravings

The Jesuit house of studies in Oxford, Campion Hall, possesses a set of engravings illustrating Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by the Welsh artist David Jones. Oonagh Walker shows how these might promote reflection upon the themes of sin and reconciliation, and how these themes can challenge the contemporary Church.

Grace Is Often Unexpected

In his letter to the Romans, St Paul makes the surprising assertion that ‘all things work together for good for those who love God’. Drawing on the writings of two winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Dillard and Mary Oliver, Chad Thralls asks how it is possible to make sense of Paul’s claim in a world where ‘bad things happen to good people’.

Creative Celibacy

Frans Kurris is a retired Dutch Jesuit with a long experience in pastoral ministry. Reflecting on a lifetime of living vowed celibacy, he offers a positive account here of a gift from God which needs to be continually nurtured. A culturally creative engagement with the world is, for Kurris, central to this nurturing.

One Foot in Eden: Edwin Muir and Religion Outside Paradise

The writings of the Orcadian poet Edwin Muir were powerfully influenced by both the landscape and the Calvinist Christianity in which he was raised. Later on, marriage and a move away from the Orkneys broadened his outlook. Stephen Platten, the bishop of Wakefield, considers how Muir’s life-story shapes his presentation of ‘religion outside Paradise’.

Pedro Arrupe Remembered

Pedro Arrupe (1907–1991) was undoubtedly one of the most influential, and controversial, Jesuit superiors general ever. Michael Campbell-Johnston worked closely alongside him for almost a quarter of a century, helping to implement their shared vision of ‘a faith that does justice’. Here C-J (as he is always known) offers a personal reminiscence of the man whom he regards as ‘the founder of the modern Society of Jesus’.

Praying without Images: Some Medieval Advice

Imaginative contemplation, often associated with Ignatian spirituality, builds up mental pictures to help the one praying approach God. But some other spiritual traditions take an opposite path, eschewing images altogether. Anne Mouron here presents a medieval text, The Manere of Good Lyvyng, written to guide women religious in this prayer without images. She will shortly be publishing a scholarly edition of the text.

From the Foreword

THE ENGLISH LITERARY CRITIC Cyril Connolly once wrote that ‘Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice’. Accepting that as a definition, most writers presumably aim to produce literature. Yet comparatively few achieve this goal. Much of this issue of The Way deals with that minority, writers whose work can be returned to repeatedly and is capable of yielding new thought and insight in each such rereading. Some of the articles deal with explicitly spiritual topics. Others, through autobiography, poetry or the crafting of prose, explore the times in which a writer lived. Each shows how its subject still has something of relevance to say to our own times.

Oonagh Walker shows how Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s long and much-anthologized Rime of the Ancient Mariner can lead the contemporary reader into a deeper appreciation of sin and reconciliation. She also reflects upon a set of engravings illustrating the poem by the Welsh artist David Jones. In Chad Thralls’s essay, two writers who have both been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Dillard and Mary Oliver, illustrate the workings of grace in unexpected places.

Much literature consists of the telling of life stories: our own, those of others, or those we imagine. These can often tell us a great deal about what it means to live a good and fully human life. Thomas Jodziewicz presents the example of two men living more than a millennium apart, St Augustine of Hippo and Benjamin Franklin, who offer competing visions of such a life. The Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, sees in the biography of the Orcadian poet Edwin Muir a key to his writing about a Christian faith necessarily lived ‘outside Paradise’. For almost a quarter of a century, Michael Campbell-Johnston worked closely with the Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, steering the Society of Jesus through the upheavals following the Second Vatican Council. ‘C-J’ sees in Arrupe’s story a living demonstration that the need for a commitment to justice is an essential element of a good life in our time.

Anne Mouron is currently working on a medieval text, The Manere of Good Lyvyng. Written originally for women in religious life, it deals with a modern-seeming concern: is prayer dependent upon images, or can it move beyond them and, if so, how? Much spiritual literature is nonetheless rich in imagery, and Sylvie Robert considers how the image of the midwife can illuminate what is involved in accompanying others in their approach to God. Frans Kurris takes a topic—celibacy—which, like Mouron’s, might be seen as primarily of interest to religious. But in linking it with creative living, he recognises that many people, and not just those professing religious vows, pass through periods of celibate living, sought or unsought, in the course of their lives, and can find themselves enriched by this.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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