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October 2021 Vol 60 No 4
Telling Our Stories

The End of Religion

In 1971 Dom Aelred Graham OSB published a book with the title ‘The End of Religion’. This title suggested both the purpose of religion, and the fact that in 1971 regular church-going, at least, was in decline. Here Richard Boileau takes Graham’s book as the starting-point for an exploration of how to sustain Christian spiritual practice and its relationship with those of other religions

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Spiritual Exercises and Abuse of Conscience: A Process of Liberation from Submission and Affective Manipulation

One effect of the widespread disclosure in recent years of sexual abuse within the Church has been an opening up for victims to speak of other forms of abuse that they have suffered. Here a Jesuit psychologist, Gabriel Roblero Cum, considers how abuse of conscience can occur, and how it can be addressed in the context of the Spiritual Exercises.

Mary Ward's Later Years

In the first half of the seventeenth century Mary Ward tried to found a congregation of active apostolic women, using the recently written Jesuit Constitutions as a basis. After twenty years of intensive action and lobbying, the church authorities fiercely rejected the idea, and for a time imprisoned her. Christine Burke looks at what happened next, a part of Ward’s story that is less well known.

The Four Gospels and Kurosawa

In 1950 the Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa released Rashomon, which tells the same story from four different perspectives. In watching it Barbara Crostini was reminded of the ways in which the Gospels offer four contrasting yet complementary accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, a comparison she develops in this article.

The Ignatian Year and the Pandemic: Reflections from a Field Hospital

The second half of the COVID pandemic has coincided with the celebration of an Ignatian anniversary year, marking the fifth centenary of Ignatius Loyola’s conversion. In this article Oscar Momanyi, a Kenyan Jesuit, reflects on how his own community’s marking of the anniversary has been given a particular shape by the experience of the pandemic.


How do you work to bring about a change of understanding, in yourself or in another person? In an article originally published in Thinking Faith, the online journal of the Jesuits of the British Province, Sarah Young suggests that imaginative prayer can play a key role here, illustrating this with the gospel story of Peter walking on the water to meet Jesus.

Holy Theatre and Holy Worship

The theatre director Peter Brook has written extensively about his craft, and how theatre works as a medium of communication. Here John Stroyan, Anglican bishop of Warwick, applies the ideas of his Brook’s book The Empty Space to the experience of Christian worship, echoing the challenge to the theatre-goer: ‘Does he want anything different in himself, his life, his society?’

Journeying on the Way: What Do We Understand by the Ministry of Spiritual Direction?

Over the years The Way has published many articles on the nature of spiritual direction. For the most part these have been written from a Roman Catholic perspective. Here Kirsty Greenaway-Clarke, an Anglican priest, offers a view of direction from within her own tradition, focussing on the image of journeying, in which a director ‘walks alongside’ the directee.

Retrieving Lection Divina at Vatican II and After

A principal method employed by the Second Vatican Council in its aim to renew the life of the Roman Catholic Church was ‘ressourcement’, a rereading of traditional and biblical sources. Here Gerald O’Collins argues that a revival of the ancient practice of scriptural prayer known as lectio divina has been similarly influential in the years since the Council.

If Your Most Holy Majesty Desires to Choose and Receive Me: The Grace Of Poverty In Jesuit Life and in the Spiritual Exercises

Retreatants are encouraged at times by Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises to ask for the gift of poverty, spiritual and actual. This can be, as indeed Ignatius intends, a challenging request to make, and the director may have an important role in helping retreatants to know what exactly it is they might be seeking by making it, as Kevin Leidich explains here.

From the Foreword

P OPE FRANCIS HAS INVITED many bishops and others from around the globe to Rome in October 2023 for a synod, an important meeting to look at the future of the Roman Catholic Church. He has made it clear that the best path that local churches can take in preparing for this meeting is to find creative ways of listening to the experience of church members—clergy and laypeople, men and women, old and young, those fiercely attached to the Church and those alienated from it. At present dioceses worldwide are drawing up ambitious plans to enable this to happen. What will be the result? Only the Holy Spirit knows!

What the Pope has recognised in this way of proceeding is the importance of allowing people to tell their story, to explain what the world looks like from their own particular perspective, and to be heard to do so, by each other and by those in power. This, it is hoped, will have a result very different from the kind of meeting where a few explain to the many what has already been decided, even when the intention is to gauge the response to such explanations. The outcome may well be messier, less clear-cut, than might otherwise have been the case. But Christian belief is that God speaks through all people, and so it is important that all people be heard.

A thread running through the articles in this issue of The Way is how a diversity of stories can be heard, and what it is like to hear them. Gerald O’Collins speaks of the transformative effect of listening to the stories told in scripture, quietly, slowly, and without prejudgment. Sarah Young offers a personal account of just such a transformation, brought about by listening to the story of Peter walking out across the water to meet Jesus. For Barbara Crostini, complementary ways of viewing a single incident presented in a classic Japanese film from the mid-twentieth century echo with the overlapping portraits of Christ and his ministry offered by the four gospel accounts.

One way of understanding what goes on in spiritual direction is to think of it as a director enabling and helping others to elucidate their own story, so that, in the first instance, they can come to a better understanding of it for themselves. Kirsty Greenaway-Clarke, an Anglican priest, describes that process as practised within her own tradition. In confronting the petition for the grace of poverty in the Spiritual Exercises, Kevin Leidich shows that this is not a purely passive, receptive process. Rather, within the Exercises, an active pursuit of what I desire serves to shape my story as it moves forward, even when such a pursuit seems at its most challenging. Richard Boileau’s appreciation of the work of the Benedictine Dom Aelred Graham illustrates the way in which the story of Christianity itself may be enriched by contact with the practices of other faiths.

Two articles here focus on the need to face up to the darker side of the stories that we tell, not least within the context of the Church. The ability to acknowledge and speak about sexual abuse perpetrated by those with authority within the Church is opening up the possibility of telling stories of other kinds of abuse. Gabriel Roblero Cum offers an account of abuses of conscience and some of the resources which might aid recovery. Such abuse is, unfortunately, nothing new. In the seventeenth century Mary Ward tried to found a congregation of apostolic women, and in the process suffered serious abuse. Christine Burke tells the story of how she responded to this, allowing herself to continue to be led forward by God.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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