Tag Archives: practice

Article: Spirituality in Contemporary Ireland: Manifesting Indigeneity, by Bernadette Flanagan and Michael O’Sullivan

The article‘s two authors, Bernadette Flanagan and Michael O’Sullivan, write that scholars of Christian spirituality need to look beyond classical Christian texts to understand developments in contemporary spirituality.  In the case of contemporary spirituality in Ireland, we need to explore practices that predate the advent of Christianity in that country. They introduce their approach in the following excerpt:

… this article will focus in particular on an ethnographic/historical account of how the inter-spiritual blend of indigenous tradition and Christianity is a characteristic feature of an emerging spirituality in Ireland.

In other words, many have responded to the crisis of credibility of religious institutions by wedding a Christian upbringing with pre/early Christian spiritual practices, which are orally available from living older generations in Ireland. The significant emerging spiritual practices that will be reviewed in this article will be the revitalization of Pilgrim paths; the visitation of Holy Wells; the restoration of Pattern Days, celebration of the four key festivals of the Celtic calendar; the engagement between Old and New Monasticism and the turn to public celebrations of ancient Celtic festivals. For some people these new expressions are a retrieval of a neglected stream within Catholicism; whereas for others the new expressions are a mark of separation from the past.

Here’s the article’s citation data:

Flanagan, B. & O’Sullivan, M. “Spirituality in Contemporary Ireland: Manifesting Indigeneity.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 16 no. 3, 2016, pp. 55-73.

A subscription to Spiritus is one of the benefits of membership in the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

Essay: Embodied Knowing and the Unspeakable Sacred: Practice in Christian Spirituality, by Claire E. Wolfteich

In an essay appearing in Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), Claire Wolfteich proposes to expand scholarship in spirituality beyond the more common approach of studying texts to exploring spiritual practices. She writes

I will address the theme of materiality and sacrality from the perspective of practical theology and spirituality studies. Spirituality scholarship has yet to address fully the important to turn to practice, lived religion, and material religion – as noted, for example, by Arthur Holder’s critique of the dominance of spiritual “classics” texts as focus of study within the field.* . . . Practical theology, on the other hand, clearly makes “practice” a central category of theological inquiry and embraces empirical research to unfold local, everyday, embodied religion. . . . I argue for the study of everyday, embodied practices such as work and mothering as important foci for the study of Christian spirituality while also advancing a conception of mystical practical theology that leaves space for the unspeakable sacred.

*Holder, Arthur, “The Problem with ‘Spiritual Classics’,” Spiritus 10, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 22-37.

Book: Fruit of the Spirit: Pauline Mysticism for the Church Today, by Michael Crosby

Michael Crosby’s new book, published by Orbis Books in 2015, employs an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting Paul. His reading of the Pauline letters leads Crosby to describe Paul’s theology as mystical. From the publisher’s description:

When Saint Paul writes about the “Fruit of the Spirit” in his Letter to the Galatians, what does he really mean? What are we to make of the list Paul provides (and that others have elaborated on over the centuries)? Spiritual writer Michael H. Crosby argues that by exploring Paul’s understanding of the Spirit’s fruit, we can envision a “mystical theology” that would transcend the divide between “episcopal nomists” who think the church can simply be equated with the bishops, and the many disaffected Catholics of the past 30 years who found little in institutional Catholicism that gave them joy or hope. Using insights from biology, neuroscience, scripture, spirituality, and literature, Crosby also includes suggestions for spiritual practices to help the reader achieve the graces of the Fruit of the Spirit.

Article: Enacting the Spiritual Self: Buddhist-Christian Identity As Participatory Action, by Duane R. Bidwell

Duane Bidwell’s essay was his contribution to a symposium on multiple religious belonging. It appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Spiritus (v. 15, n. 1, pp. 105-112). Here is an excerpt:

. . . this essay is not a history of my spiritual identity; rather, my modest intention for this Spiritus symposium is to contribute to generative conversation about religious multiplicity, highlighting some themes, concerns, and critical issues of interest to scholars of spirituality. In the process I try to model a rigorous, critical-descriptive, interpretive, and self-aware engagement of spiritual experience. More specifically, I analyze experience to suggest that Buddhist-Christian identity can result from participatory action, brought forth and sustained through an interplay of human attributes and ultimate realities. A primary goal for my work as a pastoral theologian engaged in the scholarship of spirituality is to clarify how people come to practice, experience, articulate, affirm, and sustain spiritual identities that are neither this nor that, but both-and (and maybe-more). Accounting for these processes seems vital to caring effectively and faithfully for those who experience religious multiplicity, as pastoral and spiritual caregivers are increasingly challenged to do.

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: The Joy of Feeling Close to God: The Practice of Prayer and the Work of Accompaniment, by Douglas E. Christie

Doug Christie, editor of the SSCS journal Spiritus, has an article appearing in the Fall 2013 of the Anglican Theological Review (v. 95, no. 4, p. 585-606) titled “The Joy of Feeling Close to God: The Practice of Prayer and the Work of Accompaniment.”  Here’s an excerpt:

What does it mean to pray in response to the most acute challenges of everyday historical existence? When prayer is conceived of primarily as a personal, deeply interiorized expression of the soul’s longing to communicate with a transcendent God, it can be difficult to imagine what it might mean to incorporate the embodied, communal, historically mediated dimensions of human experience into the broader understanding about what it means to pray. The challenge is to find a way of understanding and articulating how the powerful and supple language of prayer comes to expression in and through the concrete, historically mediated forms in which human beings actually live. Thinking about prayer in this way, as an embodied, socially and historically situated spiritual practice, can help us overcome a long-standing habit of thinking of prayer primarily in terms of dispositions or mental habits and help us retrieve a sense of the wholeness of prayer within the Christian tradition.

Review: Nature as Spiritual Practice, and A Field Guide to Nature as Spiritual Practice by Stephen Chase

A review by Tony Watling of the two books by Stephen Chase appeared the Journal of Contemporary Religion 28, 1 (2013): 174-176.  Here is an excerpt:

The titles reflect the fact that, for Chase, nature is spiritual practice, it speaks, being sacramental, God’s language, sharing a common parentage (theological and ecological) with humanity. The books seek to act, in a sense, as eco-spiritual selfhelp portals and in this they align themselves not only with religious environmentalism but also with other literature that seeks to re-ground humanity, engaging nature intimately and spiritually, meditating, praying or worshipping within (and with) natural settings. . . .

The books are well written and express interesting ideas/practices (and ideally of course they—especially the Field Guide—should be ‘useful’ books, creating a practical engagement—moral/spiritual—between the people using them and nature). I like the idea of developing and encouraging specific creation practices, encouraging people to see nature as spiritual and to get out into it and engage with it in a spiritual way, to see it as a spiritual practice in and of itself as well as one linked to humanity.