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October 2003 Vol 42 no 4


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Motherhood as a Spiritual Path

Conventional offerings in 'spirituality' are normally beyond the reach of women who are mothers. Yet, Sue Delaney argues, motherhood is itself an important spiritual path that needs to be honoured in its own right.

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The Spirit in Contemporary Culture:
The Internet and the Church of the Future: The Coming of the Fourth Church

The former Archbishop of San Francisco wonders about the implications of the internet for the Church. What are the opportunities it offers us for growth and renewal? How is it going to affect the exercise of authority? Ignatian Identity in Transition Christian Grondin Some provocative reflections on what we mean by Ignatian collaboration, by the layman who is Director of Programmes at the Ignatian retreat centre in Quebec City.

Truth and Silence: Learning from Abuse

Rightly or wrongly--and quite inevitably--people working in church ministry sometimes feel abused by authority. Gill Goulding interviewed a range of people in such situations, and here presents what she found.

Theological Trends:
Lay Ecclesial Ministers: A Theological Look into the Future

One of France's leading theologians explores the issues at stake when those whom we call 'lay people' are entrusted with the leadership of parishes. Awkward though some of the questions are, we may be on the threshold of a breakthrough.

The 'Times' of Ignatian Election: The Wisdom of the Directories

Ignatius speaks of three 'times' during which a good and sound choice can be made. There have always been different views on whether one of these is more important and valid than the others, and about just what each consists in. Alfredo Sampaio Costa guides us through the arguments that took place in the important years after Ignatius’ death.

From the Ignatian Tradition:
Spirit, Contemplation and Ministry: Three Early Jesuit Texts

Three documents showing how the first generations of the Ignatian movement struggled with perennial issues in the spiritual life: inspiration and authority; heart and head; prayer and ministry.

The Silence

The late Joe Veale asks some sharp questions about why there seems to be so little energy, enthusiasm--or consolation--in the mainstream Churches of western Europe.

Recent Books

looks at Tina Beattie's new book on women, pilgrimage and Rome on the Spiritual Exercises reclaimed for women
considers different attitudes to the State and religious freedom
on how attitudes to death and burial changed during the English Reformation
presents the provocative, posthumous collection of essays by the Dominican theologian, Herbert McCabe
draws on a new book to help us pray with the Psalms
shares her thoughts on a retreat programme for Latino immigrants to the USA
on the spirituality of Generation X
discusses a range of new books on mysticism--notably Edward Howells' fine study of John and Teresa

From the Foreword

THIS ISSUE IS HAUNTED by a sense of the Spirit gradually breaking down various kinds of barrier. In her article, ‘Motherhood as a Spiritual Path’, Sue Delaney, writing from Australia, reflects on how the major religious traditions of the world marginalise a key experience in the adult lives of most women: that of motherhood. Yet the experience is of immense spiritual importance, not just because of how good mothering nurtures the child, but also because of what it brings to the mother herself.

We are delighted to follow that piece with the first of a new series of articles: The Spirit in Contemporary Culture. As an Ignatian journal of spirituality, The Way is concerned not just with the documents of the tradition, but also with discerning how the Spirit is stirring anew in the present. This new series thus complements From the Ignatian Tradition, the series of original texts that began with the re-launch in January. We inaugurate the series with a piece by John R. Quinn, retired Archbishop of San Francisco, who points out how the internet, with its vast potential for bridging the barriers between societies and cultures, will inevitably bring about changes in how religious authority is exercised. More importantly, it will demand of Christian disciples a new quality of integrity.

After this, we turn to new possibilities in Church ministry, and the attempts to break down some barriers between the clerical and the lay. In this context, it is all to easy to swing from euphoria to embitterment. In different ways, the three articles by Christian Grondin, Gill K. Goulding and Bernard Sesboüé move us beyond both cliché and complaint. They encourage us to think freshly about the human, institutional and theological issues raised by ‘lay ministry’—to use the familiar but problematic term.

The articles which follow deal with some rich themes in the early Ignatian tradition: the different ways in which we can make Ignatian decisions, and a developing vision of prayer and ministry. But in the background is a more problematic development: the tradition’s gradual loss of a sense that the Spirit can work in everyday life; its increasing tendency to imagine the spiritual life as something for an elite, something that we can forget about as we cope with ordinary realities. Perhaps one of the reasons why it has become so difficult to speak of God—the fact on which the late Joseph Veale reflects in ‘The Silence’—is that we are still, unconsciously, stuck in habits of thinking and praying that the Spirit is now trying to call us beyond. We may still be repressing the pain of which John of the Cross speaks, the ‘spiritual anguish and suffering … seeping through and flooding everything’—a pain which is nevertheless positive, because it marks the dawn of a new quality of divine light and peace ‘so delightful that … it surpasses all understanding’. The problem is only the soul’s ‘inadequate preparation, and the qualities it possesses which are contrary to this light’.

There are barriers within our own psyches, therefore, to the touch of God. Perhaps one of them is the expectation that writing on spirituality should be undemanding. Or at least we may need to discern such expectations carefully. Communication of any kind—not just about spirituality—should be clear; jargon needs to be kept to a minimum, and carefully explained. The Way is absolutely committed to clear writing. But the spiritual life should always challenge us to be growing, to be questioning ‘how we have always thought’, to be exploring the possibility that God is leading us into something different. If ‘devotional writing’ remains within well-established categories, it stands at risk of merely fostering pious resistance. A previous article by Joe Veale included some memorable sentences about the inclusiveness of the spiritual:
We need a new word, one we have not yet discovered. … It would encompass not only the prayer that opens the spirit to God and leads towards union … but, besides, all those other things which open the spirit to the action of God just as much as prayer (and sometimes better). … Whatever brings faith to life, whatever brings faith to bear on everything else we experience, whatever draws our focus away from ourselves, whatever beauty or goodness so absorbs us that we entirely forget ourselves, whatever strengthens hope and makes us more loving, all these can be purgative and illuminative and unitive just as much as prayer can.
We do not yet have the words for what needs to be said; it is ‘so delightful that … it surpasses all understanding’. We cannot cope with the inclusiveness of God; we insist on confining the Spirit behind barriers of the most varied kinds. ‘Spirituality’ indicates how the realities of our experience are leading conventional theology, and standard devotional practice, towards an ever new, ever more inclusive, relation to God. By definition, it involves a closeness to everyday life. But it also involves learning to think and feel differently, breaking the barriers of habit and convention, both in thought and in feeling. Those lessons can never be straightforward.

Philip Endean SJ

Please click here to subscribe to The Way,
here to order this issue alone,
and here to order a free sample copy.