To Discern and Reform The ‘Francis Option’ for
Evangelizing a World in Flux
In the years since Pope Francis was elected in 2013, Austen Ivereigh has become one of the foremost expositors of his thought writing in English. Here he presents his conviction that the Pope’s outlook ‘offers a captivating recovery of the radically pastoral direction set by the Second Vatican Council’
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What the Future Holds - Current Issues for the Next Generation
Helen Berry has worked for two decades with young people in higher education. Her contribution to the St Beuno’s conference singled out a number of specific issues of particular concern to those with whom she works, analyzing them in the context of the kind of fear that she believes characterizes the present era.
Process Morality and Catholic Morality
Robert Doud is a regular contributor to The Way. He responds to our ‘world in flux’ by suggesting that traditional Roman Catholic moral teaching is compatible with a ‘process’ perspective which emphasizes the importance of relationship and of fidelity to commitments.
Five Challenges to Discerning the Good in a Complex World
Our complex world presents challenges when we have to make decisions, particularly collective decisions. John Moffatt here presents five ideas for thinking about why this should be so, in the hope that by understanding the potential obstacles more fully, we can refine the discernment process needed.
Movements of the Spirits in a World in Flux
Philip Shano’s article starts by considering what it means to live in a state of flux, by contrast with a peaceful stability that may well be wholly beyond our grasp. Ignatius of Loyola, he argues, lived in just such a state, and the Spiritual Exercises, drawn up on the basis of his experience, offer tools for addressing the challenges that a world in flux presents.
Prayer and Outreach in North Wales
Damian Jackson is a Jesuit who has been part of the team at St Beuno’s Jesuit spirituality centre for many years. His particular concern is with a programme aiming to support the mainly rural parishes of North Wales. Here he describes how this work has evolved, especially through helping lay-people to develop strong lives of prayer.
Swearing, Blaspheming, Wounding, Killing, Going to Hell ….
The World, as Seen and Heard by Ignatius
The conference at St Beuno’s started by taking a close look at the contemporary world. At the start of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invited the retreatant to see the Trinity doing the same thing. Michael Kirwan explores some of the consequences of adopting this starting-point for prayer and reflection.
Our Growth and Our Freedom: New Approaches to Mental Well-Being
Drawing on his experience of working as a clinical psychologist, Stephen Noone here considers how a range of newer psychological therapies involving meditation techniques can lead to a better understanding of human vulnerability and the promotion of well-being and flourishing.
Generosity, Relationship and Imagination for a World in Flux
Large-scale immigration is a characteristic of our ‘world in flux’, and is often viewed primarily as a problem in need of solution. Using the example of Mexicans seeking work in the United States, James Menkhaus considers how three insights derived from the Spiritual Exercises might promote a more just response to this situation.
Papal Wisdom for the Long Term
It can be argued that two issues above all threaten the long-term security of the human race: nuclear weapons and environmental destruction. For more than fifty years successive popes have addresses these concerns, building up a substantial body of social teaching. Kenneth Overberg summarises the key insights to be found here.
The Two Standards and Ignatian Leadership
In his mediation on the Two Standards in the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius explores two dynamics operating in the world, one promoting evil and the other good. Nikolaas Sintobin traces their effects on possible approaches to leadership through interior monologue.
From the Foreword
One of the driving forces behind the rediscovery in the English-speaking world of Ignatian spirituality in the 1970s and 1980s was the annual conference held in St Beuno’s, the Jesuit-run spirituality centre in North Wales. The papers presented there were frequently published in The Way and its supplements. Currently St Beuno’s is reviving this tradition, and the 2018 special issue of The Way presents material from their most recent conference. Entitled ‘Ignatian Spirituality for a World in Flux’, it was held in December last year, and drew a mixture of participants interested in both the practice and the theory of the contemporary application of the Spiritual Exercises. Most of the main papers given at the conference are offered here, together with presentations from a number of the accompanying workshops. There are also essays written in response to the theme of the conference from some of The Way’s regular contributors. The current Director of St Beuno’s, Fr Roger Dawson SJ, introduces the conference programme in more detail.
OR CENTURIES there has been a tragic and notorious division between theology and spirituality, to the detriment of both. When I took over as director of St Beuno’s Ignatian Spirituality Centre in 2014, one of the strands of the work that I was keen to develop was the intellectual side of spirituality, including theological reflection and also drawing on any other academic discipline that could inform or nourish that work. To this end we have welcomed a number of visiting scholars to St Beuno’s, who have been able to use its quiet atmosphere of recollection and tranquil location to pursue their own studies, as well as giving a weekly seminar to the team on an area of their knowledge and expertise.
The St Beuno’s Conference was one part of this intellectual strand. When I was a novice I remember people talking in reverential tones about this conference, which took place each January over the New Year. From what I gleaned it was a select gathering of spiritual directors together with psychiatrists and psychologists who would discuss and discern around matters to do with the sacred art of spiritual direction. It was an ‘invitation only’ event, and the implication was that you would be very lucky to get an invitation. Over the years the conference slipped from view, and I was never invited (‘No hard feelings, Mr Bond’); as far as I can ascertain the last one took place in 2006.
Given that there had been no conference for over a decade, there was little institutional memory of what it had been or what it should be, and this allowed us something of a blank sheet. To be honest, there was a certain amount of ‘just do it’ in order to get it restarted, as I was aware of the tendency for some Jesuit initiatives never to get off the ground because we think we have not given enough time to reflection or discernment.
‘Ignatian Spirituality for a World in Flux’ was the title and theme that we chose, one that emerged from the changing state of international and national affairs: the 2016 Brexit vote; the surprise election of Donald Trump later that year and its consequences; a 2017 general election in Britain that led to weak minority government struggling to deal with the withdrawal from the European Union, in a country that is more divided than at any time most of us can remember; a rising China; a resurgent Russia, a belligerent North Korea bent on acquiring nuclear weapons; and a Middle East that continues to be in flames. That the ‘old order’ is passing—not just in flux but in crisis—is obvious: the neoliberal consensus that has dominated politics for the last thirty years is collapsing and what will replace it is not at all obvious.
And then there is Pope Francis. The Church, too, is in flux, as Francis tries to implement far-reaching reforms to address problems within it: clericalism, careerism, Vatican finances, an obsession with matters that have little to do with the major challenges that many people face, ‘spiritual worldliness’—all these and more have come in for criticism from this surprising Jesuit Pope. Both the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and his encyclical Laudato Si’ have outlined his thought, provided an analysis of our situation, set an agenda and been a source of inspiration and hope to many. His spiritual stature and sheer humanity have given him a moral authority that few other world figures can match. In the Church, Ignatian spirituality and discernment have more prominent profile perhaps than ever before.
A crisis is a situation in which things cannot remain the same; the status quo ante is not an option. Theologically, krisis is a moment of decision or choice. Is it possible that Ignatian spirituality might have something to say to this contemporary situation of crisis or have something to offer? That was the bold and presumptuous idea behind our title, and my own conviction remains that a spirituality which cannot say something useful or be of use in facing such a situation is worthless. Any spirituality has to deal with the best of life and the worst of human nature, otherwise it becomes a mere palliative or anaesthetic.
The conference was planned and organized with Beuno’s team members Sr Naomi Hamilton CJ and Tim McEvoy, along with the rest of the team and staff. We invited a range of speakers, some with expertise and knowledge about Ignatian spirituality and theology, others who were able to give context to the situation and offer ways of understanding or responding to it. Additionally, there was a series of workshops and talks for smaller groups.
In the keeping with tradition, the participants and delegates were all invited, but this invitation was extended widely: to the St Beuno’s guest directors, to all Jesuits in the Province and our co-workers, to other Ignatian congregations, to the St Beuno’s outreach team in the Wrexham diocese, to those working in spirituality in the Irish Province and the Low Countries Region. In addition to the St Beuno’s team, we had over forty attending the conference.
These are very different times from even those of a few years ago, and it is not at all clear how the current crisis will be resolved or what will emerge. Living in the Anthropocene, with climate change and nuclear weapons, the stakes are high, and there is no guarantee in the short term of a happy ending. Few of us are impressed by the stature or even stability of most of our present leaders, but the Church, the Society of Jesus and Ignatian spirituality can at least be part of shaping the future for which we hope, and avoiding the one we fear. The St Beuno’s Conference certainly did not provide the solutions, but it did leave us a little more hopeful.
Paul Nicholson SJ
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