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April 2006 Vol 45 no 2


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Ignatian Experimenting

Ignatius presents the Spiritual Exercises as part of a programme of spiritual formation that also involves spending time in marginal situations, attempting to teach the faith, and living anew within an everyday routine. This present issue of The Way illustrates how we might realise such a vision today.

Retreats on the Streets

‘Retreats on the Streets’ is a movement that started in an inner-city Jesuit community in Berlin in 2000. Here we learn of its beginnings, its methods, and of the rich and challenging experiences that it has stimulated.

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Drug Street Culture

Life for the young and poor in a large city such as Dublin can often be a permanent struggle with various social evils: poverty, unemployment, delinquency, addiction, crime and violence. Tony O’Riordan looks at the message this reality ought to have for the Churches, and comes to challenging conclusions.

Godtalk in Latin America: The View from the Margins

The doyen of liberation theologians here reminds us of how poverty is a massive and global reality, urgently demanding our attention, and suggests what a theologian should and should not mean by a preferential option for the poor.

Turning to God in Troubled Times

When faced with the challenges of major disaster, we can find resources in our spiritual traditions that teach us to trust in a hidden God, to root our compassion in the heart of God, and to reach out with deeds not only of charity but also of justice.

Virtual Church for Young Adults: is a website for Catholic young adults that has been extremely successful in the United States. Its founders and creators tell us about how it came to be, what it is trying to do, and what has been learnt from the venture so far.

Ignatian Spirituality and Management

What difference can the spiritual life make to the way businesses are run? Virginie Lecourt interviewed a range of committed French Christians trained in Ignatian spirituality and holding down important professional positions. Her findings are striking and impressive.

How Organizations Listen: Communal Discernment in Organizational Settings

A look at two organizations in the United States that seek to make their strategic corporate options on the basis of a genuine spiritual discernment.

Now I Am Retired ...

After all the articles on finding God at the margins and in various sorts of busyness, Marion Morgan reminds us that retirement, and the simple tasks of caring for others, bring their own spiritual challenges. There too God is to be found.

Book Reviews

on Christianity, culture and Nicholas Boyle
on the suppression of the Jesuits
on on film, theology, postmodernity, some modern Jesuits, and John Paul II
on St Patrick
on on New Labour and the Archbishop of Canterbury
on ethology and the Trinity (or wholeness and holiness)
on spirituality and motherhood
on Robert Southwell
on the chronicle kept by Ignatius’ secretary


From the Foreword

When suggesting that new Jesuits should make the Exercises, Ignatius sees this not as a self-contained exercise, but rather as part of a wider scheme involving six experiencias principales: the others being time spent in a home for the marginalized (what in the sixteenth century was called a hospital), a pilgrimage with very little money, household chores, teaching the unlettered, and normal ministry as a preacher. Of course, Ignatius’ dominant concern in this context is flexibility, but clearly these six experiences are somehow normative. and a case needs to be made for any departure from them.

What, then, are experiencias principales? The only real option for a translator is to resort to convention and jargon: ‘principal experiments’. One of their purposes is to test the candidate; they are experiments to see if the candidate is really suitable for the way of life Ignatius envisages. But another nuance that is surely present is that of a ‘formative experience’. Like the time of retreat in which the Exercises are made, these other human situations foster in a particular way human openness to God’s touch as it deepens and specifies our discipleship.

The articles which follow look at different aspects of contemporary experience which might today realise the concerns underlying Ignatius’ experiencias principales. We begin with ‘retreats on the streets’, an initiative from Berlin which seeks to incorporate the experience of life in a modern city, especially of the conditions under which its poor live, into the processes of prayer and reflection characteristic of a retreat. In different ways Tony O’Riordan, a priest working in Dublin, and Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founding father of liberation theology, model the stretching of the ethical and theological imagination that such experiences can provoke; and Kathleen Fischer explores the forms of prayer that arise in situations of massive need. Ignatius’ keenness that his followers should instruct children is well documented. This symbolic commitment has several significances. At one level, teaching children and the poor is an exercise in humility. But, just as the contemplations on the Lord’s infancy at the beginning of the Second Week can often bring to consciousness hidden material from our own childhood, so the experience of teaching younger people can become, paradoxically, a moment of deep personal learning, as they provoke us to face our own unfinished business. And young people have needs and experiences which simply do not fit within a culture determined by their elders. It is not surprising that Ignatius’ attraction for uncharted worlds beyond conventional boundaries led him into a particular care for youth. That concern is represented in this collection by a piece on, a project sponsored by the Paulists in the United States that uses the resources of the internet innovatively to reach out to today’s young adults.

The fruits of a good retreat manifest themselves in everyday life. Virginie Lecourt and Margaret Benefiel both write on how spirituality might influence daily tasks in the workplace, while Marion Morgan writes movingly on how there are also Ignatian moments in the experiences of retirement and domestic caring. Ignatius sketched his ideal in his account of the Jesuit superior general: a man ‘very united and familiar with God our Lord in prayer and all his activities [operaciones]’. There is an echo here of the preparatory prayer that he has us make before every time of prayer in the Exercises: ‘that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed purely in the service and praise of His Divine Majesty’ (Exx 46). This reality goes beyond what is conventionally called prayer. We need to discover it in the regularity of our routines, and in the inarticulate calls that come to us from the margins and from the future.

Philip Endean SJ



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