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July 2016 Vol 55 No 3
The View from Below

Obstacles to Good Listening

Robin Daniels worked for four decades as a Jungian analyst. Since his recent death his widow, Katherine, has been preparing a manuscript he wrote, entitled Heart to Heart Listening, for publication. In this extract Daniels invites the reader to reflect on what constitutes ‘good’ listening, the obstacles that hinder this, and how it might best be put into practice.

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Mary: A New Perspective

For those who come to it first as adults, the devotion offered to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in some parts of the Christian Church can seem excessive, even bordering on the blasphemous. In this article Marion Morgan traces the development of her own relationship with Mary, which has grown from tentative beginnings to an appreciation of her as mother and as a female role model.

Praying the Rosary

A set of rosary beads can be seen as a quintessential feature of traditional Roman Catholicism, partially eclipsed by new prayers and devotions growing up after the Second Vatican Council, yet always available for rediscovery. In this article an anonymous author describes what the rosary has meant to her over many years, and how the practice might be further developed.

Anne Carr, Sparrows, and the Spirituality of Providence

Talking about the providence of the God whom he knew as Abba, Father, Jesus used the image of a single sparrow whose death does not escape the divine notice. For Anne Carr, a US theologian and teacher who suffered from a recurrent brain tumour, this was an image that spoke powerfully. Robert Doud traces the roots of her writing on this theme.

Michel de Certeau and the Spirituality of St Ignatius

Michel de Certeau was, Dominique Salin claims, ‘one of the five most outstanding Jesuits of the twentieth century’. Originally a historian of spirituality, he later combined this with studies in psychoanalysis, sociology and semiotics. For a number of years he edited Christus, the journal in which this article was first published. It traces the influence of Ignatian spirituality on his thought.

Breaking Down the Dividing Wall

In the Our Father Jesus encourages us to ask that our sins may be forgiven ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Even in situations of abundant good will, it may be decades before such forgiveness can firmly take root. Yaaro Lesjay uses an imagined dialogue between a priest and a theologian to describe what such a process of coming to reconciliation might look like.

Personal Resurrection into the Mystical Body of Christ

In recent decades Christians have frequently been criticized for focusing on personal salvation to the detriment of corporate engagement in combatting social evil. Joseph Bracken uses St Paul’s image of the Mystical Body of Christ to argue for a more communitarian understanding of life after death, with sharp implications for the way in which Christian discipleship is lived here and now.

On Foot with St. Ignatius of Loyola: My Experience of the Camino Ignaciano

In recent years a new pilgrimage route, the Camino Ignaciano, has been developed in northern Spain to complement the better-known Camino de Santiago. Such routes can be walked in different ways: as a holiday-maker, for the sake of fitness, or as a spiritual exercise. Oscar Momanyi reflects on what it means to make such a journey as a pilgrimage, and how its effects persist in everyday life subsequently.

The Question of Miracles: A Case for Evidence Based Medicine?

In much of the contemporary world, science offers the paradigm of reliable knowledge. The occurrence of miracles, which, by definition, fall beyond the realm of science, challenges this paradigm. Here Una Canning, a public health analyst, offers a personal exploration of how these two different ways of looking at the world might be brought into fruitful conversation.

From the Foreword

W HEN I STUDIED THEOLOGY in preparation for ordination, there were two basic approaches to the subject. One, ‘from above’, began with revelation—what God had chosen to reveal to us—above all in scripture. The other, ‘from below’, started with human experience, for instance in prayer or in the encounter with the natural world, to discover what could be learnt about God in that way. In fact, most developed theologies draw on elements of both approaches, even if the proportions of each vary. But typically individuals, groups and even whole Churches show a preference for one over the other.

As a journal, The Way more frequently starts from ‘below’ than ‘above’. Its mission statement, found inside the front cover of each issue, presents it as ‘a forum in which thoughtful Christians … can reflect on God’s continuing action in human experience’. Such an outlook is well represented in the present issue. Yaaro Lesjay looks at how it is possible to be reconciled with another person when a deep hurt has been inflicted, and sees God at work in the process. Robin Daniels considers the use of empathetic listening, a skill practised in both psychotherapeutic and spiritual accompaniment settings, and some of the elements that can interfere with its effectiveness. The theologian Anne Carr was affected by a brain tumour that recurred repeatedly, and Robert Doud shows what this experience taught her about a provident God.

Ignatian spirituality—central to the concerns of The Way—is often characterized as a spiritual attitude rooted in experience. Michel de Certeau was one of the greatest proponents of this spirituality in the twentieth century and, in an article translated from the French, Dominique Salin describes how this led him to a more optimistic view of the world than that espoused by many of his contemporaries. Oscar Momanyi reflects on literally following in Ignatius’ footsteps on the Camino Ignaciano, and describes the lasting effects that this pilgrimage has had on him.

In the New Testament, Mary is presented as a figure who pondered deeply on her own experience of God, from the joy of knowing herself called to be God’s mother to the pain of standing by her son as he died on the cross. Over the years Marion Morgan has come to find, rather, at first, to her own surprise, that this makes Mary a useful female role model. An author who wishes to remain anonymous shares her own experience of a traditional prayer-form, the rosary, and indicates how it might be further developed to support this kind of reflective exploration today.

Ultimately, though, our own experience can only take us so far on our journey to God, and an approach ‘from above’ is also needed to complete the picture. Una Canning moves from her own experience of terrible loss to consider the existence of miracles, which lie, by definition, beyond everyday human experience, asking whether and how they can be understood within a scientific framework. Joseph Bracken looks further, to think through continued human existence after death. Using an image borrowed from St Paul, he is led back to conclusions about how we should live together most fruitfully on this side of the grave.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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