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January 2021 Vol 60 No 1
Pilgrims and Migrants

The Gift of a Stranger: Forcibly Displaced People and the Gift of Hope

Hope is, according to St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, one of the abiding virtues. Yet in the face of the challenges of human suffering, it may be difficult to sustain a hope-filled attitude. Here Sacha Bermudez-Goldman outlines a spirituality of hope drawn from the experience of those forcibly displaced from their homes and homelands.

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Saving Liberalism from Itself

Last October Pope Francis wrote a major letter, Fratelli tutti, as a further contribution to Catholic social teaching. In an article reprinted from the British Jesuits’ online journal, Thinking Faith, Damian Howard offers an initial response to the new social and political challenges addressed by the Pope, in the spirit of the saint, Francis, whose name he chose.

To Care for the Garden: From a Pandemic to an Ecological Election

One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to make many people more aware of the natural world and the place of humanity within it. Starting with the Genesis creation story, of man and woman placed by God in a garden, Eric Jensen considers how the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises can be adapted to encourage and sustain a deeper ecological concern.

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

In his ministry as recorded in the Gospels, Jesus does not hide from his closest followers the fact that they will face troubled times in their attempts to live out his message. In this article Kevin Leidich draws on the thought of the late Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco to present seven strategies that Christians might employ in facing such times.

The Trinity, the Virtues and More

It is often said that Trinity Sunday is the most difficult feast of the Church’s year for preachers. A regular contributor to The Way, Bob Doud, has spent a lifetime thinking about the implications of this area of Christian doctrine. In dialogue with Karl Rahner, whose thought inspires him, Doud considers something of what it means to profess a Trinitarian faith.

Vocations Animation as Witnessing

P. Y. Kiprop-Mbaaga is a diocesan priest who works as spiritual director in a seminary in Kenya, and has been part of a ‘vocations’ animation’ team, helping young people to discern where God is calling them in their lives. He explains here the thinking that underpins this work, emphasizing the need of those charged with it to offer witness from their own experience.

Pilgrim People: A Disturbing Image

When considering the nature of the Church, the Second Vatican Council favoured the image of a ‘pilgrim people’, very different from the previous model of a ‘perfect society’. While approving of this change of outlook, George Wilson argues that its implications have still to be fully appreciated. What does it mean to belong to a group that is forever ‘on the way’?

Locked Down Prayer

A Story of Our Time: A Ppsycho-Spiritual Interpretation of the Prodigal Son Parable.

One of the reasons that the parables of Jesus have proved so enduringly popular is that they can be endlessly reinterpreted in the light of the concerns and patterns of thought of every age. Here Brendan Cook offers a reading of the parable of the Prodigal Son shaped by the findings of contemporary psycho-spiritual storytelling.

Walking the Spiritual Exercises: Praying with Scripture on the Pilgrim Trail

Two spiritual disciplines which have become very widely practised over the last half-century are the Ignatian Exercises and pilgrimage, in particular along the Camino trails in northern Spain that lead to Santiago de Compostela. Susan S. Philips describes a recent group experience that proved fruitful in uniting these two practices.

From the Foreword

We go seeking a city that we shall never find.

T

HIS LINE FROM JOHN MASEFIELD’S POEM ‘The Seekers’ might suggest a despairing cry on an impossible quest. Yet the poem as a whole speaks rather of an inspiring ideal, the dream of the City of God, that draws the eponymous seekers onwards despite all the hardships they encounter. Many of the contributors to this issue of The Way consider the journeys of those similarly drawn onwards, by choice or by necessity, whether on pilgrimage or in seeking a better and fuller life.

If the pursuit of a distant goal is not to curdle into despair, the theological virtue of hope is needed. In our opening article Sacha Bermudez-Goldman describes what that virtue looks like when encountered in the perhaps unlikely context of refugees forcibly displaced from their homes and homelands. The gospel story suggests that, in being forced to flee to Egypt as an infant with his parents to escape King Herod’s persecution, Jesus himself shared this experience. Certainly he did not hide from his disciples the likelihood that they too would suffer as a result of their decision to follow him, and Kevin Leidich spells out a range of strategies by which such suffering may be confronted with hope.

During 2020 the whole world shared in a strange and unanticipated journey, into a global pandemic and the measures taken to combat it. The latest encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, draws lessons of human solidarity from this time, as Damian Howard relates. Eric Jensen, too, reflects on the wider implications of COVID-19, anticipating a deeper ecological concern as a possible, and desirable, outcome of the experience of recent months. He shows how the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola might help promote this concern. The Exercises are just one of the elements of the Christian spiritual tradition on which Ian Coleman draws in arriving at a pattern of personal prayer to sustain him during the periods of lockdown decreed as a response to the pandemic.

Journeys need not be forced upon the traveller; freely chosen expeditions may be equally life-enhancing, as the current renewed interest in pilgrimage demonstrates. Susan S. Philips joined a group walking the Camino de Compostela. Her experience of making the Exercises along the way profoundly influenced this particular pilgrimage. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the errant young man, having come to his senses, freely chooses to return to his father’s house. Brendan Cook considers the dynamics of such a journey from a psycho-spiritual perspective. When the Second Vatican Council wanted to move away from a static, overly hierarchical understanding of the nature of the Church, its preferred image was that of a pilgrim people. As George Wilson shows here, this allows for a radically open idea of the ways in which the Church relates to the world that it passes through on its journey to God, an idea with which John Masefield would certainly have empathized.

Recognising a God of three persons allows for an understanding that even within the Deity there is room for travel or movement, a concept contained in the theological term perichoresis, derived from dance. In his wide-ranging and autobiographical exploration of the implications of espousing a Trinitarian faith, Bob Doud quotes Thomas Merton’s definition of prayer as an invitation to join ‘the dance of the Lord in emptiness’. When such an invitation is taken as the basis of a whole way of life, it is recognised as a vocation. An African seminary professor, P. Y. Kiprop-Mbaaga, gives an account of what it is like to accompany those setting out on such a life journey.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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