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January 2023 Vol 62 No 1
Discerning Thoughts

The Mystery of Christian Intellectual Discernment: Learning from Ephrem the Syrian and Anastasios of Sinai

Intellectual discernment was an essential aspect of arriving at the core beliefs of Christianity in the early Church. Calum Samuelson uses the Second Letter to Timothy to reflect on the search for the truth in Anastasios of Sinai and Ephrem the Syrian. He writes in memory of Joe Munitiz, making use of his edition of Anastasios.

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The Spiritual Masters of Pope Francis: Hugo Rahner, Miguel A. Fiorito and Gaston Fessard

Joe Munitiz’s last translation for The Way explores the theological framework of Pope Francis’ Ignatian Spirituality. His Christological approach to discernment can be traced to the work of Hugo Rahner, Miguel Ángel Fiorito, and Gaston Fessard.

The Spiritual Journal of St Ignatius

Joe Munitiz’s first ever article for The Way was a penetrating exploration of the inner fabric of Ignatius’ spirit. His exploration of the Spiritual Journal reads as freshly today as it did then, concluding with a surprising insight that will console anyone involved in busy ministry.

Some Thoughts on the Parable of the ’Prodigal Son’ (Luke 15:11-34) with a Little Help from a Byzantine Commentary

By paying attention to the original language of Luke's story of the Prodigal Son, Barbara Crostini—another friend writing in memory of Joe Munitiz—reveals unexpected insights into how it would have been understood by its first readers. In doing so she reveals the ever-changing complexity of salvation in human life which is unique for each one of us.

A Dissertation, a Spiritual Diary, and Devotion: Some Reflections on Spirituality and Academic Research

This reflection on the spiritual transformation that accompanied the process of writing a doctoral thesis on the Spiritual Diary of St Ignatius reveals how scholarly research can lead to interior freedom.

The Eucharist and Care of Creation: An Ancient Perspective

St Ireneus’s Against the Heretics contains an integral understanding of the Eucharist which binds more deeply to creation. It helps us to avoid damaging narratives of creation and redemption so that we can can prepare ourselves to tackle the current ecological crisis.

Contemplativus in Scribendo: Writing a Thesis as Doing the Spiritual Exercise

The act of studying for a thesis can be likened to the experience of undergoing the Spiritual Exercises. Sumarwan demonstrates the similarities and differences before drawing up a programme that might help reinvigorate the writing process.

Friends, colleagues and fellow Jesuits pay tribute to the late Joe Munitiz SJ, who contributed so much to The Way over many years.

From the Foreword

A DISCERNING INTELLECT was one of the principal gifts of Joe Munitiz SJ (1931–2022), whose fifty-year association with The Way has left an indelible mark. This issue pays tribute to him with a selection of articles exploring the processes of intellectual discernment that underpin the lives of individuals and communities. From the doctrinal debates of the early Church to the Spiritual Diary of St Ignatius, saints and scholars have always made careful decisions about which thoughts to follow and which to set aside. Such decisions are accompanied by processes of discernment that take days, months or even years to come to fruition. By paying attention to the character of these processes, we can better dispose ourselves to let our thoughts be shaped according to God’s design. In doing so, even our intellectual lives can become an expression of our discipleship of Jesus.

In the lead article, Calum Samuelson, one of the many young scholars whose talent was cultivated by Joe Munitiz, draws out guidance on intellectual discernment from the Paul’s First Letter to Timothy and the Letter to the Ephesians. He uses it to explore the work of two early Christian thinkers, Anastasios of Sinai and Ephrem the Syrian, proposing that ‘the task of Christian intellectual discernment is less like constructing an elaborate edifice of knowledge and more like building a beautiful, spacious sanctuary in which God’s mysteries can be manifested and adored’. Meanwhile, in an article first published in our sister journal Thinking Faith, John Moffat uses the work of St Irenaeus to discern between those narratives of creation and redemption that damage our relationship with nature and those which sustain it. In doing so he discovers an integral vision of the eucharist that prepares us to tackle the ecological crisis.

The oft-noted reluctance of St Ignatius to admit his intellectual abilities was articulated in Joe Munitiz’s first ever article for The Way, published fifty years ago. He writes that in the Spiritual Diary of St Ignatius, ‘the amount of intellectual cogitation involved in the saint’s meditation is minimal: it is rare, and worthy of note, to be struck by a new idea’. The evident originality and inventiveness which marked the early Society of Jesus emerged from a process of discernment that cultivated a deeper dependence upon God. In Joe Munitiz’s final translation for us, Santiago Madrigal Terrazas explores the theological framework that formed Pope Francis’s spirituality. He concludes that Hugo Rahner, Miguel Á. Fiorito and Gaston Fessard all contributed to a basically christological understanding of discernment, drawn from the Spiritual Exercises, that explains Pope Francis’s own discernment for the Church today.

A careful discernment is also implicit in the intellectual task of reading the scriptures. Inspired by a love of the precision of the Greek language that Joe Munitiz shared, Barbara Crostini teases out the nuances of the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke. She discerns a subtle dialectic in the original text that disrupts the conventional understanding of salvation leading to the unanticipated freshness of the father’s response.

Philip Harrison SJ

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