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April 2022 Vol 61 No 2
Spirituality with a New Look

Discernment for All

Discernment is a tool that is being increasingly used by religious organizations to guide their planning. At the same time religious organizations often include in their number people of various faiths and none. Does this suggest that the discernment should be left solely to the religious core members, or might it be used by all? Michael Smith argues for the latter position.

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Outgroup Prejudice and the Ministry of the Spiritual Exercises

The first paragraph of the Spiritual Exercises speaks of their purpose as that of helping to rid the soul of disordered affections. Drawing on contemporary psychological insights, Matthew B. Pinson identifies a human tendency to divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ as a key element of this disorder.

'When His Eyes Were Opened A Little': The Role of Noticing in the Spiritual Exercises

Contemporary Western cultures tend to undervalue interiority. By contrast, the prayer of the Spiritual Exercises aims to foster that noticing of what is going on, interiorly as well as exteriorly, so that the actions of God may be more clearly perceived. Gail Paxman looks carefully at that process here.

Three Ways, Four Degrees and Four Weeks?

In the Middle Ages a number of typical patterns of spiritual progress were described. Readers of The Way will be familiar with the later ‘Four Weeks’ of the Ignatian Exercises. Here Jean-Marc Laporte compares these with the outline to be found in an earlier work, Richard of St Victor’s ‘The Four Degrees of Violent Love’.

‘Every Increase in Hope, Faith, and Charity’: Understanding Ignatian Consolation

Those beginning to train as spiritual directors are told firmly that consolation is not to be simply equated with ‘feeling good’. A painful awareness of one’s own sinfulness can be, for instance, a deeply consoling experience. Should the director look out for, then, a distinct form of ‘spiritual’ consolation? Kevin Leidich argues that it is not helpful to think in this way.

A Higher Power: Revisiting the Parallels between the Spiritual Exercises and the Twelve Steps

For some time it been recognised that the Twelve-Step programme followed by members of Alcoholics Anonymous has points in common with the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. In this essay the anonymous author draws on his own experience of both patterns of reflection to draw out the parallels and contrasts more fully.

System Dynamics and the Election: The Social Discernment Cycle

Over recent decades many attempts have been made to forge a strong link between spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition and work for social justice. Here Elizabeth Liebert describes a programme originating in the Bronx in New York that applies the election of the Spiritual Exercises to complex contemporary social situations.

Dear Greta

Over the last few years Greta Thunberg has emerged as a key ecological activist, speaking out powerfully against environmental degradation. In this piece, originally printed in the Jesuit online journal Thinking Faith, Niall Leahy suggests how she might profitably enter into a dialogue with the story of Ignatius Loyola.

Seasons of the Soul: A Personal Reflection on the Structure and Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises

The Spiritual Exercises are not to be offered a rigid programme, carefully and tightly adhered to, but rather need to be adapted and applied to the needs of any individual exercitant. Here Gem Yecla describes what that application looks like in the case of a particular lay single woman from the Philippines.

Ignatian Spirituality and Action Research: Exploring Lay Ecclesial Ministerial Formation

Here Deborah Ross describes ‘action research’, a process enabling individuals and organizations to reflect on and improve their professional practice, links it with Ignatian spirituality, and shows how it can be used to support the formation of lay ministers within a Roman Catholic church setting.

From the Foreword

T HE VERY FIRST ARTICLE in the first issue of The Way, published in January 1961, was entitled ‘Modern Spirituality’. This was before any of the changes associated with the Second Vatican Council, and before the burgeoning of Ignatian spirituality that got under way in the following decade. Yet the author of that article, Martin D’Arcy, was sure even then that a ‘spirituality with a new look’ was in the air. And the Jesuits of what was then the English Province founded a new journal to make this modern spirituality more available and accessible.

For more than six decades now the journal has focused especially on those areas where spirituality and the concerns of contemporary culture intersect. It has taken a broad approach. Teresa of Ávila, saints Francis and Dominic, Bernard of Clairvaux, Simone Weil and, in more recent years, other faith traditions, have all found a place in these pages. In this issue alone you will encounter the twelfth-century Richard of St Victor, the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step Programme and Greta Thunberg’s ecological activism. But Ignatius of Loyola and the spirituality derived from his Spiritual Exercises have always been closest to the journal’s heart. As we commemorate the five hundredth year since Ignatius’ conversion and the fourth centenary of his canonization, it is Ignatian spirituality that takes centre stage here.

The scene is set immediately by Michael Smith, who asks whether discernment (a practice currently in widespread use in a variety of contexts) can be undertaken in groups made up of those with different faith practices and none. Kevin Leidich considers one of the key elements of discernment—consolation—and whether it is best understood as having distinct spiritual and more everyday forms. Meanwhile Matthew B. Pinson analyzes how prejudice against outsiders can easily distort the discernment process if it is insufficiently acknowledged.

Several writers examine the connections between Ignatian spirituality and what Martin D’Arcy would undoubtedly have regarded as ‘modern’ concerns. Elizabeth Liebert relates the election process in the Exercises to the work of those seeking social justice through social discernment. Gail Paxman attempts to move beyond the limits of modern cultures ‘which often do not foster interiority’. She shows how attention to the inner movements that are frequently ignored or undervalued today is central to the dynamic of the kind of prayer developed by the Exercises. In a letter addressed to Greta Thunberg, Niall Leahy explores the relevance of Ignatius’ thinking to those who would commit themselves to the protection of the global environment. Action research, a tool ultimately derived from the social sciences, is shown by Deborah Ross to benefit training programmes for lay ministry in the Ignatian tradition.

Even so, the Spiritual Exercises do not simply function as a discrete tool waiting to be wielded in a variety of conditions. They are embedded in the culture of Ignatius’ own time, as Jean-Marc Laporte shows in his comparison of the four Weeks of the Exercises with Richard of St Victor’s Four Degrees of Violent Love. Among contemporary dialogue partners, conversation between the Exercises and Twelve-Step programmes can, as an anonymous author suggests here, be particularly fruitful. In any case the Exercises, properly given, are always in dialogue with an individual’s own experience, so take on a particular character when made, for example, by a lay Filipina single woman, as the personal account by Gem Yecla here demonstrates.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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