- Christian Spirituality for Seekers: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola by Roger Haight
This book offers various angles of approach. A prominent Jesuit theologian, Roger Haight, here joins a distinguished list of Jesuit theologians commenting on the Spiritual Exercises, among them Hugo Rahner, Karl Rahner, Gilles Cusson, Michal Buckley, Juan Luis Segundo, and Dean Brackley, the most recent of a long procession dating all the way back to Jeronimo Nadal (1507-1580). At another level, Haight's volume responds to the situation in which we find ourselves in the beginning decades of the twenty-first century, where spirituality, for an increasing number of people, has been severed from its traditional home in established religion. How might spirituality be taught in this day and time? Christian Spirituality for Seekers, as a title, reflects this tension. The subtitle demonstrates the invitation will come through an analysis of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
Haight sets the direction of this work by noting the context out of which it grew. In 2007, as a part of a resource team on spiritual formation at Union Theological Seminary, Haight offered the Spiritual Exercises to a group of thirty-five students. Union, he notes, is a distinctive place with an eclectic mix of students: Unitarians, Roman Catholics, persons claiming membership in various liberal Protestant denominations, Christians affiliated with no particular denomination, and people who belong to religions other than Christianity or to no religion at all. His students created an unparalleled laboratory for testing the ability of the Spiritual Exercises to speak to a wide variety of persons at this moment in history.
Haight attempts to meet the demands of three different groups: "people who are interested in the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, people who are not Christian but are looking for sources that will address, at a fundamental level and with a critical edge, a source of enlightenment on the meaning of human life; and people whose Christian faith has been eroded by post-modern culture" (xxii). The substance of this book comes about as the Spiritual Exercises speak to such a broad audience.
For the Exercises to be meaningful, it is sufficient for the person approaching them to be a seeker, Haight concludes. He defines this term as any person looking for spiritual depth, anyone who is looking for transcendent meaning beyond what he or she has presently experienced and is who is willing to give him or herself to the Spiritual Exercises. Unconcerned to draw such seekers into any Christian church, Haight intends simply to make Jesus available to persons of a wide variety of spiritualties, for whatever they can make of him. But the text of the Spiritual Exercises cannot simply be handed to contemporary seekers—or, for that matter, [End Page 279] to Christian believers who already dwell within the symbol system of the Exercises. So, Haight, following the long line of his predecessors, sets out to open up the meaning of the various exercises to his audiences.
Because there is no longer a Christian consensus on the meaning of the universe and of human destiny, the project entails a variety of analyses and principles of interpretation. Haight offers an analysis of contemporary cultural and religious forces, a philosophical analysis of what it means to be human, the hermeneutical principles involved in interpreting a "classic" spiritual text, and principles of inter-religious engagement. Readers also receive what one might expect in a commentary: an account of how the Spiritual Exercises grew out of Ignatius' experiences, an exposition of the internal logic of the Exercises, and a theoretical account of the process of adapting them. Both can now speak to this twenty-first century amalgam of Christians, participants in other religious traditions and the "spiritual but not religious" seeker.
Part II contains a set of reflections on subjects either drawn from the Exercises or based on them. Haight writes out of his imaginative immersion with his audiences and the text and experience of the Exercises, intending to guide contemporary...