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January 2018 Vol 57 No 1
Glimpses of God

The Prayer of Faith Seeks Understanding: Simple Prayer and the Ignatian Exercises

Growth in prayer can seem to involve increasingly complicated techniques to be learnt, remembered and mastered; lectio divina, imaginative contemplation, and a host of others. Here Tom Shufflebotham draws on tradition to show a simpler method, the prayer of faith, which he believes is nevertheless not foreign to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.

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Dag Hammarskjöld and the Mystics

Dag Hammarskjöld, while secretary general of the United Nations, kept a diary which was published posthumously under the title Markings. Louis Roy sees in it the influence of mystics, Christian and other, and in particular suggests that there are close links between the thought of Hammarskjöld and that of Meister Eckhart.

The Paraclete and the Nightingale: The Vital legacy of Friedrich Spee

Early in the seventeenth century a German Jesuit, Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld, was assigned to minister to women accused of witchcraft, before and after they were condemned to death. He left writings condemning the trial process, which was often accompanied by torture. Michael Kirwan sees in this a foreshadowing of Rene Girard’s work on the tendency of human beings to scapegoat each other.

Anthony de Mello: On Fire

Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit who perhaps did more than anyone to enable the spiritual techniques of Eastern religions to promote a deeper encounter with the Christian gospel. Much sought after as a giver of preached retreats, he was also, claims Karen Eliasen, an exemplary ‘contemplative in action’. In this first article reprinted from Thinking Faith, she traces his quest ‘to set the world on fire’.

Is Religion Good for Your Mental Health?

It is not easy to say whether the practice of religion is good for mental health, since both can be understood in so many different ways. Here, in our second article from Thinking Faith, Roger Dawson suggests one positive effect that religious belief can have through its employment as a coping mechanism, enabling people to manage better the various difficulties that they face.

What Is in a Name, Then?

Whether you love it or hate it, for most of us our name is an essential element of who we are. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures give much evidence of the importance of the naming process, and of the particular names that are bestowed through it. Teresa White explores these ideas, drawing on her experience of learning her pupils’ names while working as a teacher.

The Office of Rector as a Ministry of Consolation

Pope Francis speaks regularly of ‘the joy of the gospel’, and hopes that Christian ministers will be able to help those they serve be aware of, and stay attuned to, the signs of that joy in their lives. Norlan Julia is the rector of a diocesan seminary in the Philippines. Here he describes how he lives out this aspect of his calling.

The Transcendence and Immanence of God and the Practice of Spiritual Conversation

Orthodox theology speaks of God as both ‘transcendent’, beyond all that has been created; and ‘immanent’, intimately connected to and active in all that is. It has sometimes been suggested that the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, privileges the first of these, and the New, particularly in the gospels, highlights the second. Here Rolphy Pinto argues for a more nuanced understanding of the biblical testimony.

Open Wide Your Hearts, Beginning with the Mass

Across much of the Western world, recent decades have seen a decline in participation in organized religion among younger people. Yet many of them would claim to retain a strong sense of spirituality which is important in their lives. From a Roman Catholic perspective, John Zupez asks how the Mass might best be celebrated in a way that would speak to the experience of people such as these.

Spiritual Direction and the Examen of St Ignatius

A psychotherapeutic method known as ‘experiential focusing’ invites those seeking help to become aware of the physical sensations in their bodies as they explore the ideas and feelings that they are wanting to work with. Iain Radvan sees parallels with the movements experienced in the prayer of the Examen, and the role of the spiritual director in helping the directee to notice and stay with these.

From the Foreword

I T IS NOT GIVEN to human beings, this side of the grave at least, to enjoy an uninterrupted view of God. The Christian life is more like climbing a mountain in mist, getting occasional glimpses of the summit and using those to orientate yourself, than gazing across broad sunny uplands on a clear day. Or, as St Paul says eloquently in the King James version of the first letter to the Corinthians, ‘now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face’. For now we must make do with glimpses of God.

One way of thinking about spirituality is to see it as helping to direct our attention towards those glimpses, so that they are not overlooked, considering what they can tell us about God. The authors of this issue of The Way contribute to this project in different ways. Rolphy Pinto lays out a basic distinction between looking for a God beyond creation, and for one who is intimately involved in all that God has made. He finds evidence of both throughout the biblical record. Norlan Julia, drawing on his work in a seminary in the Philippines, considers the experience of joy to be central to the ability to recognise God’s presence. By contrast Michael Kirwan writes of a seventeenth-century Jesuit who struggled to understand what God might be doing in the suffering of those condemned for witchcraft.

The fact that many younger people seem to retain a sense of spirituality even while they reject the practices of organized religion perhaps points to an innate human capacity to experience what believers call God. John Zupez, from a Catholic perspective, believes that the Eucharist can (and should) be celebrated in such a way as to foster this experience. Iain Radvan sees in a psychotherapeutic technique known as ‘experiential focusing’, which promotes a heightened awareness of bodily sensations, a tool which has much in common with the invitation issued by the prayer of the Examen to discover God in the midst of everyday life. Teresa White explores what the process of naming has to tell us about the glimpses of God that are granted to us.

Mysticism is the branch of spirituality which acknowledges most clearly the limits of what glimpses of God can reveal, or at least the impossibility of conceptualising adequately what can be learnt from them. Louis Roy situates the diaries of Dag Hammarskjöld, former secretary general of the United Nations, in that mystical tradition. Even when glimpses seem entirely absent, when the summit of the mountain is least visible, prayer can continue; and Tom Shufflebotham outlines a ‘prayer of faith’ for those in that situation.

Finally in this issue we introduce a strand of articles that are new to The Way. The British Jesuits also publish an online journal, Thinking Faith. Described as offering ‘a Catholic and Ignatian perspective on scripture, culture, the Church, politics, spirituality and social justice’, it is often able to be a little more topical and responsive to current affairs than a quarterly journal, presenting shorter articles dealing with political, theological and social issues. Some of this work also concerns spirituality, and two of these pieces—in which Karen Eliasen glimpses God in the spiritual writings of Anthony de Mello and Roger Dawson explores how relationship with God through religious belief benefits mental health—are reprinted here as a taster, and to supplement our own complementary work.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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