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January 2015 Vol 54 No 1
God Always Greater

Coziness and Challenge in St Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Volumes have been written on the letter St Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, but few have found reading it, as Robert Doud does here, a cosy experience. Nevertheless, he makes a good case for ways in which he was also challenged by the letter as he pondered it during his novitiate, and in which we can still find ourselves challenged today.

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Models for Healing Prayer in Spiritual Direction: The Healing Ministry of Jesus; The Passion of Christ; The Consecration

The question of whether God can, or even wants to, heal those suffering from illness and disease is a recurring one in Christian history. As a result of reflecting on this question, Penelope Olive became involved in her Church’s healing ministry, and here she situates her experience in the context of the healings Jesus performed, as recorded in the gospels.

Towards a Spiritual Theology without a Psychology Gap

How is the relationship between spirituality and psychology best understood? The two are clearly related, yet are as clearly distinct. Spirituality centres draw on the insights of psychology in their training programmes, and psychologists are increasingly acknowledging the need to take account of their subjects’ religious beliefs. Bernhard Grom considers some of the issues these considerations highlight.

Incarnating Our Consolation through Transformative Academic Learning

The last issue of The Way dealt with the topic of how spirituality might best be taught. Continuing with this theme, Bernadette Miles describes an Australian formation programme that unites academic learning with a strong emphasis on the experience of those who are being trained. She suggests that such a programme regularly has transformative effects on its participants.

Caryll Houselander: Divine Eccentric and Prophet of Vatican II

Caryll Houselander was one of the most widely-read Catholic authors of the mid twentieth century and, having fallen out of favour, is currently enjoying something of a revival. Kelley Spoerl here develops one aspect of her thought, that of the Mystical Body of Christ, and shows how she anticipates some of the thinking of the Second Vatican Council which took place a decade after her death.

Flannery O'Connor and the Problem of Baptism: Sectarian Controversies in 'The River'

As a Roman Catholic novelist in the southern states of the USA before the Second World War, Flannery O’Connor was a rarity. In this article Gregory Scweers analyzes one of her short stories, ‘The River’, and shows how it draws on the contrast between two typical views of baptism in her own time.

Christian Hermits and Solitaries: Tracing the Antonian Hermit Traditions

Throughout Christian history a small minority have responded to a call to live solitary lives of prayer and penance. Carol McDonough traces this eremitical way of life back to St Antony, living in the Egyptian desert in the third and fourth centuries after Christ, and shows some of the diverse ways in which it has developed up until the present day.

God as Overwhelmingly Other: From Gethsemane Weakness to Faith

It can be tempting to worship a tame God, one who protects us but is essentially under our control. At the opposite end of the spectrum of religious experience is the encounter with a God who seems overwhelmingly other, provoking awe and perhaps even fear. Paul Moser recognises this kind of experience in the life of Christ, and asks what it might mean for believers today.

The Exoneree and the Madonna: How Does Mary Standing beneath the Cross Speak to Us?

Starting from the experience of a man imprisoned for a decade for a crime of which he was subsequently cleared, Ruth Evans considers what the image of Christ’s mother, sharing his suffering by standing alongside him at the foot of the cross, might have to say to those condemned by the legal system. Are Mary’s grief and pain still able to offer solace to those who suffer in similar ways today?

From the Foreword

‘T HERE IS NOTHING in this world which does not belong to Christ, no human activity which is irrelevant to the Kingdom of Christ.’ These words are taken from an article by Gerry W. Hughes, written for The Way in the second year of the journal’s publication, more than half a century ago. Hughes, who has recently died at the age of ninety, was undoubtedly the best-known Jesuit spiritual writer of his generation. One of his books, God of Surprises, has to date sold nearly a quarter of a million copies, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. His last work, Cry of Wonder, appeared only a few months ago. Throughout his long life, his was an expansive spirituality, as the quotation above indicates, open to finding God—in a phrase to which he often returned—among ‘Catholics, Protestants and pagans’.

It is this kind of broad spirituality that The Way also reflects, even while it remains deeply rooted in the thought and prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola. Articles in this issue range from Carol McDonough’s exploration of the hermits of the Egyptian desert in the first few centuries of the Church’s life, to Penelope Olive’s presentation of her involvement in the contemporary Christian ministry of healing. Robert Doud shares how he has for decades been both comforted and challenged by returning to Paul’s letter to the Romans; while the image of Christ’s mother, Mary, sharing his suffering as she stands at the foot of the cross leads Ruth Evans into a stringent critique of the death penalty.

Although Gerry Hughes undertook a range of ministries during his life—schoolteacher, university chaplain, retreat-giver and peace activist among others—it is as a writer that he became best known. Two of the articles in this issue consider other widely read Catholic authors. Kelley Spoerl presents the thought of Caryll Houselander on the theme of the Mystical Body of Christ. Houselander, popular in the mid twentieth century, is currently undergoing something of a revival after some decades of neglect. Spoerl argues that her thought develops ideas that would later become important in the work of the Second Vatican Council. Meanwhile Gregory Schweers analyses one of the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, finding in it a contrast between two very different views of baptism.

It was while he was on the team at St Beuno’s, the Jesuit spirituality centre in north Wales, that Gerry Hughes helped to develop a series of practical courses to train people to offer spiritual accompaniment and direction to others. Such courses have now spread worldwide, and Bernadette Miles continues the theme of the last number of The Way by describing one such programme currently offered in Australia. This kind of work has in recent years been much influenced by the standards of the psychological and psychotherapeutic disciplines, and Bernhard Grom reflects here upon the relationship between psychology and spirituality, in an article which first appeared (in German) in the Jesuit journal Geist und Leben.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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