Monthly Archives: March 2014

Paper: Theorizing Christian Spirituality: The Sacred, Identity & Everyday Practices

In January, Philip Sheldrake gave the keynote address “Theorizing Christian Spirituality: The Sacred, Identity & Everyday Practices” at a spirituality conference titled “Sacrality & Materiality: Locating Intersections” organized by the Faculty of Theology, University of Zurich. A copy is available by contacting the moderator. Here is the first paragraph:

My fundamental contention is that Christian spirituality cannot transcend the realm of materiality or escape the limitations of historical context. However, the way “spirituality” has sometimes been presented in the past masked certain anti-material theological positions represented by a number of polarities. These expressed a hierarchy of values.  Examples are interiority versus social existence, the experiential versus action (which encourages a separation of spirituality and ethics), and an elevated spiritual realm versus the mundane and the material. I want to begin by mentioning briefly two core problematic issues – the nature of the sacred and the question of inwardness.  I then want to suggest  that an important corrective in relation to spirituality is the theological notion of “sacramentality”. Finally, the main part of this lecture will concentrate on the multidisciplinary thought of the French Jesuit scholar, Michel de Certeau. De Certeau was a major figure in the development of the modern study of Christian spirituality and of mysticism. However, what interests me here is how his later social scientific work on The Practice of Everyday Life, including essays on the city, was influenced by spiritual values alongside social theory.

Article: Catherine of Siena’s Wisdom on Discernment and Her Reception of Scripture, by Diana L. Villegas

This article by Diana Villegas appeared in Acta Theologica (2013, Suppl. 17: 209-227), a journal published by the Faculty of Theology of the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Information about getting a copy from the publisher is available. Here is the article’s abstract:

Catherine of Siena’s wisdom on discernment represents a significant development in the history of this essential Christian theme. Her teaching is the fruit of personal wisdom rather than formal study as she was an uneducated lay woman in fourteenth century Italy. In this article I show how Scripture was central to Catherine’s wisdom. First I show that she was exposed to Scripture primarily orally and that she assimilated what she heard through her life of prayer and relationship with God. I describe the central biblical themes at the heart of her teaching on discernment, namely growth in charity and capacity for truth, and I show how these are related to her wisdom on discernment. I then examine how Catherine applied her teaching through an analysis of a letter to Pope Gregory XI.

Article: The New Self of John of the Cross, by David B. Perrin

David’s article appeared in Vinayasadhana: Dharmaram Journal of Psycho-Spiritual Formation, v. 5, n. 1, January 2014. Here is its abstract:

This essay outlines the journey of transformation and conversion in God as reflected in the writings of Saint John of the Cross. (1542-1591). Recognized as a mystic and Doctor of the Church John speakes to us of an “old self” (largely characterized by a pre-occupation with self-interest) who is slowly transformed into the “new self” (largely characterized by a life focused on generous self-giving, even to the point of extreme suffering and death). John of the Cross, well known for his description of the “Dark Night of the Soul” and the “Spiritual Marriage,” is often overlooked as a model of personal-spiritual transformation because “The Dark Night” and the “Spiritual Marriage” seem so unattainable by the ordinary pilgrim. However, this article suggests John’s journey is a journey possible in every individual and is characteristic of the call to holiness reflected in the Christian journey for all. Although few may receive the fullness of the graces of the “Dark Night” and the “Spiritual Marriage,” transformation into the “new self” is the journey to which we are called and is more common than we might first assume.