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October 2017 Vol 56 No 4
The Reformation: A Gift from God?

All Unawares: Evangelical Spirituality as a preparation for the Ignatian encounter

Coming from an evangelical background, it was the idea of consolation that first struck Beth Dickson when she encountered Ignatian spirituality. Later on she discovered that her own evangelical spirituality had prepared her well to appreciate other Ignatian concepts and insights. She offers here an account of the path of these discoveries.

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Martin Luther’s Conversion Experience and the Mid-life Transition

Many psychologists have found themselves fascinated by the figure of Martin Luther, and have been led to identify elements in his character and personality that may have prompted his role in initiating the Protestant Reformation. Robert Opala suggests that contemporary investigation of the transitions that occur in mid-life may cast fresh light on such questions.

A Pilgrimage through Methodism and Ignatian Spirituality

Contemporary Methodism recognises a ‘Wesleyan quadrilateral’ in the teachings of its founder, by which spiritual experience, scripture, tradition and reason together form the basis of authority. Hugh Jenkins, a South African Methodist, found this a useful framework leading him to a deeper understanding of discernment, as it is presented in Ignatian spirituality.

Anglicans and Ignatius

On first encountering Jesuits, Nicolas Stebbing, an Anglican religious priest, wondered whether they would be ‘steely-eyed fanatics, full of counter-reformation zeal’. What he found instead drew him more deeply into ecumenism, and to becoming a giver of the Spiritual Exercises in his own right. He speaks of a journey confirmed by the election of Francis, the first Jesuit Pope.

An Anglican Journey with Ignatius

Steffan Mathias is, like Nicolas Stebbing, a member of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection. He is in his final year of preparation for ordination and was recently directed through the Spiritual Exercises by Nicholas. Here he describes some of the results of this process on his experience of feeling called to Anglican ministry.

'Consideration' In English Reformation Spirituality: Robert Persons's Book of Resolution and Christian Directorie (1582–1585)

Robert Persons SJ is best known as the man who planned and implemented the first Jesuit mission to England, at the end of the sixteenth century. In his own day he was also famed as the author of a devotional manual, the Book of Resolution. This work had an influence on Catholics and Protestants alike, as Victor Houliston shows here.

God’s 'Plan B': The Spiritual Exercises through the Eyes of a Lutheran

The Lutheran Archbishop of Riga, Janis Vanags, first discovered the Spiritual Exercises in a samizdat photocopy purchased illegally in a forest near Riga during Soviet times. Even now, the name of Ignatius Loyola is suspect among some in his Church. His only answer is to recount his own experience, which leads him to reflect: ‘I was amazed at how Lutheran the Spiritual Exercises are’.

St Nikodemos the Hagiorite and the Spirituality of the Catholic Reformation

Roman Catholics can tend to think of the Eastern Orthodox Church as having been relatively untouched by the upheaval of the Reformation. Yet, Norman Russell argues here, its effects were actually profound. He traces them in the life and work of an eighteenth-century Orthodox monk and theologian, St Nikodemus the Haghiorite.

The Impact of Ignatian Spirituality on British Methodism

The widespread rediscovery of the Spiritual Exercises in their individually-guided form coincided, in the early 1970s, with the birth of a retreat movement within the Methodist Church. This in turn led to Methodists recognising aspects of Ignatian spiritual direction in the ministry of John Wesley. Adam Wells here outlines some of this history in the Methodist movement over the last forty years.

Reformation as Spiritual Innovation

The story of Martin Luther kick-starting the Reformation by nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg is too iconic to be easily rejected. Yet the reality was surely more complex. Now, five centuries later, it is becoming more possible to come to a sense of what the Spirt of God might have been doing through the upheaval of those years, a path Alan Kolp traces here.

Ignatian Inspired Spirituality in a Scandinavian Ecumenical Setting

Most Christians identify with a particular denomination. Yet Ignatian spirituality seems to have the capacity to work across these divisions, and even influence those who think of themselves as entirely denominational. Johannes Pedersen describes how he and his wife have established and run an ecumenical retreat house in Denmark.

From the Foreword

I N RECENT MONTHS I have been in correspondence with a few members of the Protestant Alliance, which publishes a journal entitled The Reformer. The correspondence began when I questioned some details of an article on the Jesuits in their pages. One courteous response explained that I was probably not among the intended audience for the piece, since the journal existed in part to ‘play an important role in reminding Protestants that the “Reformation” was an act of the Holy Spirit’. It is not surprising that the events of which we mark the five-hundredth anniversary this year are viewed in this way by Protestants. But how might Catholics now understand them? Can I recognise the Spirit of God acting in and through what happened in the Reformation years, and has continued subsequently?

The spread of the Spiritual Exercises over the last five decades, and of the Ignatian spirituality of which the Exercises are the foundation, has clearly not been confined to the Roman Catholic Church. Even without having to adopt the oft-repeated assertion of Gerry W. Hughes that the Exercises are a gift ‘for Catholics, for Protestants and for pagans’, it is undeniably true that denominations across the Christian spectrum have been touched by the work of Ignatius of Loyola. Nor has the influence all been one-way. By coming into contact with different understandings of Christian life and worship, as with any good experience of inculturation, the practice of giving the Exercises has itself had to adapt and develop.

This special issue of The Way does not set out, then, to contrast Loyola and Luther, or to praise the one and critique the other. It has, rather, invited a number of writers from across the Christian Churches to reflect upon their own experience of the Exercises, as those who have made the exercises themselves and those who direct others. Many of the articles reflect upon the contemporary situation in different parts of the world; some offer aspects of the historical context. Backgrounds range from Eastern Orthodoxy and high Anglicanism to the Plymouth Brethren, from Latvia to South Africa and Australia, and the time frame stretches from that of Luther himself through the eighteenth century to the present day.

Our two Methodist contributors, Adam Wells and Hugh Jenkins, both find in Ignatius one who shares many aspects of a common outlook with John Wesley, such that a knowledge of the latter can shed light upon the work of the former. Beth Dickson, too, believes that the Evangelical spirituality in which she was brought up offered an excellent preparation for her own later discovery of the Exercises.

An interesting pair of articles comes from two members of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection, popularly known as the Mirfield Fathers. Nicolas Stebbing describes his own encounters with Ignatian spirituality, which began with a healthy suspicion of Jesuits! Now responsible for parts of the ordination training of younger members of the Community, he has recently led one such member, Steffan Mathias, through the experience of the Exercises. Steffan here reflects upon the specifically Anglican expectations that he brought with him to that experience, and how these were taken up and transformed in the course of his retreat.

The Lutheran archbishop of Riga, Janis Vanags, first encountered the Spiritual Exercises in a pirated copy bought illegally in Soviet times, and he was not greatly impressed. More recently, though, he has been introducing them to key members of his clergy team. A husband and wife from Denmark, Johannes and Heidi Pedersen, were sufficiently moved by their own forays into Ignatian spirituality that they established, and now run, a retreat house operating on wholly ecumenical lines.

Eastern Orthodoxy here is represented by Norman Russell’s article outlining the history of an eighteenth-century monk, St Nikodemos the Hagiorite, who adapted the Spiritual Exercises to strengthen the faith of his lay compatriots, as well as a number of other devotional works by Jesuit authors. That Jesuit writers could still have an impact upon those from other Churches who would reject many of their theological presuppositions is also shown by Victor Houliston’s analysis of the influence of the Book of Resolution by the Elizabethan Jesuit Robert Persons among Protestants of his time.

Finally two of our contributions deal more directly with Martin Luther himself. Robert Opala seeks for psychological factors to help explain Luther’s experiences and actions, and turns to current thought on the importance of the ‘mid-life transition’ as a useful tool. The Quaker Alan Kolp’s piece returns us to the question posed at the beginning of this foreword: how might all Christians, and not least Roman Catholics, be able to recognise the Spirit of God at work in the processes that Luther set in motion?

Paul Nicholson SJ

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