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January 2020 Vol 59 No 1
Becoming Human

The creature and the sovereign self: The anthropology of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius within the context of contemporary spiritual narcissism.

The importance of spirituality is an idea that is widely (although not universally) accepted in the Western world today. ‘Mind-Body-Spirit’ sections are common in bookshops. Helen Orchard suggests that people of religious faith need to treat these facts with caution, as some spiritualities can mask a self-indulgent individualism. The approach in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola is very different.

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Through Wonder To Fruitfulness

The Irish Jesuit Brian O’Leary is a familiar writer in the pages of The Way. In this essay he describes a spiritual path that leads from wonder, which comes naturally to a child but can be deeper in an adult; through gratitude, a conscious thankfulness for God’s many gifts; to fruitfulness, an availability to others that has the power to transform an individual’s relationship with God.

The Meaning of the Metaphor of the Garden in Spiritual Life

The poet Dorothy Gurney claimed that ‘One is nearer to God in a garden / than anywhere else on earth’. In this article Jakub Walczak explores the image of the garden in the different ways it can be applied to the spiritual life. He contrasts an exterior garden, that makes life possible, with an interior one, in which the emphasis is on the work necessary to cultivate and allow plants to flourish.

Talking with Other Religions

The last half-century has seen rapid developments in the relationship between Christianity (here, specifically, Roman Catholicism) and other religions. Kathleen Taylor traces a journey from a belief that there is ‘no salvation outside the Church’ to a recognition that different faiths represent a variety of unique ways of being human, which are nevertheless capable of being in fruitful dialogue with one another.

God of Seeing

Even regularly worshipping Christians may have little expectation that God will intervene directly in their everyday lives. Here Anneke Viljoen describes how she became aware that this was her own unreflective position, and how an imaginative encounter with a challenging story from the Hebrew Bible, explored in spiritual direction, led her to adopt a very different perspective.

Beyond Reason? The Problem of Solving the Meaning of Life

Simplistic accounts of the relationship between science and religion are widespread today. They suggest that it is necessary to choose between reason and faith. Here John Moffatt, in an article originally published online in Thinking Faith, demonstrates that the two perspectives are in fact complementary, and that both are needed to arrive at an adequate explanation of what it is to be fully human in the world.


Traditional moral theology, John Zupez argues here, has often focused primarily on what he calls ‘sins of weakness’—a familiar list of forbidden acts, many of them related to sexual practice. He finds in the Bible an alternative tradition, touched on in the Second Vatican Council and currently being revived by Pope Francis, which takes as its subject ‘sins of strength’, including the failure to take personal responsibility for the state of the wider world.

Feminine Psychological and Spiritual Clues to the Spiritual Exercises

Historically, most writing on spirituality has been done from a male perspective. More recently, women’s voices and experience have increasingly been heard. Is it possible, though, to trace the contours of a spiritual outlook that is specifically feminine (rather than female)? This is the question that María Prieto Ursúa, a professor of psychology from Spain, addresses here.

The Church as a Missionary Servant in the Godless World: Erich Przywara on the “Holy Saturday” Form of the Church

From the Foreword

W HEN I WAS STUDYING zoology and psychology at university in the 1970s the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate was at its height. Were an adult’s character and outlook on life attributable primarily to the genetic disposition he or she had inherited, or to the upbringing he or she had received? It was hoped that by studying, for example, identical twins separated at birth, the question might receive a definitive answer. Instead, what happened was that the debate largely died out of its own accord. Few today would deny that both nature and nurture have a crucial role to play, and that it is the interplay between them that is perhaps the most significant factor.

For people of faith, spiritual growth and development are important aspects of what it is to move closer towards reaching one’s full human potential. The articles in this issue of The Way consider, from different perspectives, what such growth and development look like, and how best to achieve them. Brian O’Leary describes a journey with three stages. Beginning with a childlike wonder, a person is led through gratitude to a radical availability to others that, perhaps counter-intuitively, is the high point of individual fulfilment. This contrasts with many of the more self-indulgent attitudes described by Helen Orchard, which are evident in many popular contemporary descriptions of spirituality, and which she contrasts with the path marked out in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

From a Christian perspective, sin is the great barrier to becoming fully human. John Zupez shows how an adequate understanding of sin involves recognising the failure to reach out to others, by contrast with an older approach that focused primarily on individual, often sexual, transgressions. One reason for the long prevalence of this more limited outlook may be that spirituality has frequently been viewed, for the most part, from a masculine perspective. María Prieto Ursúa sketches a feminine understanding that might balance the traditional approach. Another invitation to breadth of understanding is offered by Anneke Viljoen, who points to the transformative effects of actively believing in a God who intervenes directly in ordinary individual human lives.

The Christian Church has been intended from the outset as a principal forum in which the task of becoming human can be realised. In the twentieth century the image of Holy Saturday, a time of waiting between the seeming catastrophe of the crucifixion and the dawning glory of the resurrection, proved highly fruitful theologically in coming to a deeper understanding of the Church. The article by Riyako Cecilia Hikota introduces this topic through the work of the Jesuit theologian Erich Przywara. A fuller understanding of the relationship between the Christian Church and other religions was also developing in the twentieth century, and ways in which this continuing process is currently bearing fruit are explored by Kathleen Taylor. Jakub Walczak’s exposition of the image of a garden as illustrative of spiritual growth, it is worth noting, draws as much on Islamic and other sources as on Christian ones.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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