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July 2019 Vol 58 No 3
Working Alongside God

Co-Creation Spirituality: Participating in God’s Ongoing Work of Creation through Spiritual Direction and the Spiritual Exercises

All human beings are called to work alongside God in the world. One way of understanding this call is to think of ourselves as co-creators with the supremely creative God. Here Gem Yecla explores the implications of this mode of understanding, with particular reference to the work of offering spiritual direction to others.

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A Single Word

In Europe, numbers visiting cathedrals continue to rise, some drawn by fine architecture, some by a palpable sense of history. In Teresa White’s case, a summer visit to the great Gothic cathedral of Amiens in France, and particularly a contemplation of its sixteenth-century choir stalls, led her to a deeper appreciation of the richness of the idea of faith.

Cultivating Silence in Lifelong Faith Formation

How would you react to an invitation to spend a day in silence, off-line and with nothing to read? You might relish the idea, or face it with trepidation. Karen Howard reflects on a number of ways in which she has led people into silence, not as a means of avoiding communication but rather as a way to deepen and focus it.

Five Concentric Circles in the Process of Discernment

Towards the end of his life Ignatius of Loyola dictated an autobiography. This was done not simply to inform his followers of the facts of his life story, but also to help them see more clearly what it meant to follow his particular pathway to God. Francis Pudicherry offers a reading of the Autobiography focusing on what it can teach about the process of discernment.

Encounter with Hinduism

An important innovation of the Second Vatican Council was a reshaping of ways in which the church viewed other religions. Its document Nostra Aetate states clearly that they ‘often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all’ mentioning specifically in this context Hinduism. Kathleen Taylor shows what this might mean through a reading of Hindu sacred texts.

Love What You Do: Discipleship and Work

One of the principal concerns of Catholic social teaching is employment, and what it is to treat workers justly and with dignity. In an article reprinted from Thinking Faith, Phil Callaghan looks at how this teaching addresses issues such as unemployment, the growth of ‘zero-hours’ contracts and the lack of respect afforded to what are commonly regarded as menial jobs.

Resistance to Accepting the Cross: Some Reflections based on Psychology and Ignatian Anthropology

Most today would agree that it is psychologically healthy to avoid suffering where possible, or at least not actively to seek it out. Yet the Christian gospel places the cross at the centre of its narrative. In an article that originally appeared in Manresa, a Spanish sister journal to The Way, Carlos Dominguez presents a ‘just account of the attitude of a Christian to … suffering’.

Balancing Work and Leisure

In our ‘Spirituality and Living’ strand, writers are asked specifically to draw on their own experience. Jane Khin Zaw, a Carmelite sister who was born in Burma, reflects on ways in which her experience of work, and her efforts to balance this with appropriate leisure, have led her to a deeper understanding of the nature of God.

Hope and the Courage to Become and Overcome

‘'Hope makes heroes’' Robert Doud argues here that the theological virtue of hope is inextricably linked to courage, and to the ability to encourage, to inspire hope in others. Yet ultimately our hope is not rooted in our own efforts, but in the incarnation of God become human, drawing all things to himself, in what the Jesuit philosopher Teilhard de Chardin called the ‘Omega point’.

Mission through the RCIA

In recent years the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) has largely replaced individual instruction as the Roman Catholic Church’s preferred method of bringing adult converts or enquirers towards baptism. The great variety of such people demands that a flexible approach be taken here, as Marion Morgan demonstrates.

From the Foreword

T HE CHRISTIAN TRADITION has often shown an ambivalent attitude towards human work. For centuries the necessity of working was viewed primarily as a punishment, one result of the fall from grace experienced by our first parents. ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life’, Adam is told by God (Genesis 3:17). It is only after death that we will truly be able to ‘rest in peace’. More recently, however, it is the positive aspects of work that have been highlighted. Even before the Fall, it is suggested, humans were invited to tend the garden in which they live, and care for the animals with which they share it and that they have named. And, more generally, some kinds of work, at least, may now be seen as partaking in God’s own creative enterprise.

A number of the articles in this issue of The Way explore this more positive view of work. Gem Yecla considers the giving of spiritual direction as one way in which men and women can participate in the work that God is carrying out in leading and shaping people’s lives. Jane Khin Zaw looks at how work and leisure can be balanced in a productive religious life, even when the work is physically hard and in itself somewhat unrewarding. Achieving such a balance, even outside the relatively structured life of a monastery or convent, was one of the aims of Ignatius of Loyola in drawing up Constitutions for his new Jesuit order, and Francis Pudhicherry’s article shows how he enshrined discernment as a key element in this process. Teresa White starts from a leisure-time visit to Amiens Cathedral to reflect on how its medieval carvings ‘blend ordinary human living’, including images of everyday work, ‘with faith in God’.

Even allowing for a more positive understanding of work, it is difficult to deny that there are at least some forms in which it may be unfulfilling and unwelcome. In his contribution, Phil Callaghan discusses those aspects of employment (or indeed the lack of it), as it is experienced today, that might still make it seem like a punishment. That this should be the case is perhaps unsurprising, as the piece from Carlos Domínguez reminds us, since Christian faith offers no guaranteed escape from suffering. Nevertheless, the Christian story is clearly one in which hope in time triumphs over that suffering, and Robert Doud’s writing here explores the rich variety contained within the idea of hope, which sustains our work in the world and can help us ‘to live our moments as best we can’.

Kathleen Taylor quotes a line from one of the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas: ‘This is the God whose work is all the worlds’. The passage goes on immediately, though, to see the same God as indwelling in the human heart. Taylor explores how this expression of the immanence of God in human lives may be read from a Christian perspective. For Christians, discovering and working alongside such a God is usually thought to demand at least periodic withdrawal from everyday concerns and tasks, periods of silence in which to concentrate on what is truly most important. Karen Howard describes some routes into this kind of spiritual practice. Finally Marion Morgan writes about the task of bringing people into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which includes teaching them about such approaches to spirituality, but also meeting them where they are in their own everyday working lives.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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