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Personal Discernment and Dialogue. Learning from ‘the Other’

Michael Barnes SJ


This article considers the theme of discernment in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality emanating from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). After a brief introduction which addresses the central problematic of bad influences that manifest themselves as good, the article turns to the life and work of two Jesuits, the 16th C English missionary to India, Thomas Stephens and the 20th C French historian and cultural critic, Michel de Certeau. Both kept up a constant dialogue with local culture in which they sought authenticity in their response to ‘events’, whether a hideous massacre which shaped the pastoral commitment and writing of Stephens in the south of the Portuguese enclave of Goa or the 1968 student-led protests in Paris that so much affected the thinking of de Certeau. Very different in terms of personal background and contemporary experience, they both share in a tradition of discernment as a virtuous response to what both would understand as the ‘wisdom of the Spirit’ revealed in their personal interactions with ‘the other’.


discernment, dialogue, pedagogy, culture, other, virtue

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