Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Media Watch: Holy Names Sisters’ effort to ‘reclaim’ St. Ignatius’s spiritual
exercises is a ‘tremendous gift’
by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register
(From the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Long ago, at the now-closed St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, near Seattle, students each
year gathered in the Prayer Hall to recite by memory the “Sulpician Method of Mental Prayer.”
Similar to a chapter of a Dickens’ novel, over a period of several weeks, each student
could be called upon to recite from memory the definitions of this particular process of mental
prayer. Some students would forget and be left standing in silence as the rest of the students
prayed for them in their public embarrassment.
Three Holy Names Sisters — Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert — have
taken the much longer text of the classic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and
opened it up for contemporary women.
By so doing, they have performed a major task for the whole Church. By the way, many of
their critiques and suggestions also would resonate with men.
The title of their book is The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating
Possibilities for Women (Paulist Press, New York, 2001; softcover; $22.95).
As the authors explain in the beginning, their intention is to take the original text
of St. Ignatius written in the turbulent 15th Century and look at it from the view of feminist
Biblical studies, theology and psychology. This they do throughout the book in a way that
constantly comes back to the original writings of Ignatius. They then show how his Spiritual
Exercises can be questioned and reinterpreted, particularly for women of the 21st century.
Early in the book they give a history of Ignatius’ conversion and the influence of the
women of the time on his life and writings. Then they go through the Spiritual Exercises as
given in a 30-day retreat or modified in the eight-month SEEL Program (Spiritual Exercise of
St. Ignatius in Everyday Life).
In each chapter, after explaining the words of Ignatius, they raise questions from
contemporary women and give suggestions how the traditional method can open new doors and yet be
modified in its style and historical placement for women.
Who is this book for? Well, it is certainly for anyone who has taken part in any form
of the Spiritual Exercises. It also may be helpful for anyone interested in participating in
the Exercises in the near future. It is written in a very logical, academic style, so it does
not read like the fascinating stories of Kathleen Norris in her books Dakota or The
Cloister Walk. Nor does it lead directly to prayer, as Sister Joyce Rupp’s books often do,
unless you are very familiar with the Spiritual Exercises.
The footnotes after each chapter are very interesting and informative. At the end of
the book there is a play that can be put on by a group of people who have participated in the
Exercises. The play, called “Any Woman,” in a more contemporary manner uses aspects of the
Exercises in a creative, almost medieval mystery play motif.
At several ends of chapters there are actual recent models that modify aspects of the
Exercises. For example, there is the outline for “Focusing: A Short Form” that does provide a
way of leading directly into prayer and discernment. Such aids are helpful for anyone, whether
that person has made the Exercises or not.
Finally, The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed is a tremendous source of help for the
spiritual guide, walking with the seeker through whatever form of the Exercises.
Sisters Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin and Elizabeth Liebert are to be congratulated on
their tremendous gift to the many men and women today seeking to walk the journey to the Risen
Christ with new depth and fervor.
(Anyone interested in the SEEL program is invited to call Holy Names Sister Sheila McEvoy at (509) 323-5898.)
Each year many an independent or foreign film doesn’t make it to our area. But many of
the films that never find their way to the big screen in our part of the world eventually do
come out on DVD or video.
Australian director Fred Schepisi’s film Last Orders came out in larger cities
last Christmas. But now it is out on video. It is an elegiac visual poem of life and death that
cuts to the very core of what it means to be human.
But Last Orders is a complicated film with as many flashbacks as possibly could
be included in a film less than two hours long. So one needs to turn the phone off and give
full attention to the film.
The second half of the film is much better than the first. So hang in there and treat
yourself to a film that has the ability to hit you emotionally in areas you didn’t even know
Last Orders is based on the Booker Prize-winning novel by Graham Swift. It is a
story that sweeps over more than 50 years. It tells the story of four pub-drinking buddies in
London who fought with the British forces during World War II.
Jack (Michael Caine) is a butcher who has recently died. His final wish is that his
buddies, who are made up of Vic (Tom Courtenay), Ray (Bob Hoskins), and Lenny (David Hemmings),
take his ashes to a seaside resort and throw the ashes off the famous pier. Jack’s son Vince
(Ray Winstone) is a car dealer who gets a new Mercedes from his showroom to drive the buddies
and the ashes to the seacoast.
Jack’s wife Amy (Helen Mirrren) decides to make her weekly visit to their
institutionalized handicapped daughter, June, who is 50. So Jack’s wife is not part of the
pilgrimage to the coast, a trip that includes a visit to a war memorial, the hop farm where
Jack and Amy met, and Canterbury Cathedral.
In the midst of their pilgrimage, each of the buddies and the son see something that
brings an evocative moment triggering memories of Jack’s life and his relationships with his
friends and family. In the process we see the value of each human life in its dreams, its
failures and its joys.
The complicated part of the film comes in trying to understand the timeline of the
flashbacks. Don’t get discouraged at first. Stay with the film. Everything becomes clearer and
clearer as the story progresses. Also, hang in there with the English accents. It is okay if
you don’t get every sentence.
The joy of the film is the layers of connections between the principals as we travel
through the days prior to World War II, the war itself, and the post-war period, up until the
1990s. The twists and turns of the plot, tied to the comedic themes, hold your attention.
But it is the last 15 minutes or so of the film that tugs at you heart as everything
becomes clear and Jack’s friends and son carefully throw his ashes into the sea.
Michael Caine is wonderful as the friend who has died. We come close to him in
flashback after flashback. What can anyone say about the incomparable Helen Mirren? She has
done it again. Bob Hoskins is particularly good as the best friend.
There are lots of very competent young British actors and actresses in the roles of the
principals as young people.
Last Orders is an evocative film that does take some work to watch, but is well
worth the energy.
The film is rated R because of sexuality and some language. The U.S. bishops’ Office
for Film and Broadcasting rates Last Orders A-III — adults.
(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations
Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)
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