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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/7/16

John T. McGreevy's Account of Jesuit Globalization (REVIEW ESSAY)

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After Vatican II, American Catholics turned their attention toward cultivating spirituality and spiritual practices, including Ignatian spirituality. See, for example, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, edited by Michael Downey (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier Book/ Liturgical Press, 1993). For an accessible presentation of Ignatian spirituality, see the American Jesuit spirituality writer James Martin's book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (HarperOne, 2010).

Even though McGreevy also does not mention it, Vatican II effectively down-sized the ascendancy of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy and theology that the church had promoted as a result of Pope Leo XII's 1879 encyclical that inspired the subsequent Thomistic Revival, which McGreevy does mention (page 16). He also notes that Pope Leo XIII was educated by Jesuits and had a Jesuit brother (page 141).

The Jesuits at SLU and their lay collaborators contributed significantly to the Thomistic Revival in the United States. Certain SLU Jesuits and certain laymen in philosophy at SLU authored influential textbooks in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy that were widely used in American Catholic colleges and universities in the required core courses in philosophy. But Jesuits and laymen in philosophy at SLU also published their fair share of scholarly books in philosophy.

As part of the Thomistic Revival, the Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) undertook two book-length studies of certain aspects of St. Thomas Aquinas' thought. Then Lonergan published his philosophical masterpiece Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957; 5th ed., University of Toronto Press, 1992, as volume three of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan).

The Canadian Jesuit theologian and Lonergan scholar Frederick E. Crowe published his important article "Neither Jew nor Greek, but One Human Nature and Operation in All" in Philippine Studies, volume 13 (1965): pages 546-571. Crowe's essay is reprinted, slightly revised, in the anthology Communication and Lonergan: Common Ground for Forging the New Age (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1993, pages 89-1107; now distributed by Rowman & Littlefield).

As part of the post-Vatican II interest in spirituality, the American spirituality writer Matthew Fox creatively constructed conversations with St. Thomas Aquinas about creation spirituality in his 550-page book Sheer Joy (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992).

Other creative post-Vatican II studies of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding spirituality include A. N. Williams' book Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford University Press, 1999), Bernard Blankenhorn's book The Mystery of Union with God: Dionysian Mysticism in Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas (Catholic University of America Press, 2015), and Daria Spezzano's book The Glory of God's Grace: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas (Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2015; distributed by Catholic University of America Press).

The Swiss psychiatrist and psychological theorist C. G. Jung, M.D., who had a strong anti-Jesuit bias that he had picked up from his father (who was a Protestant pastor), discusses his understanding of the psycho-spiritual process of deification in his wide-ranging comments in the two-volume, 1,600-page work titled Nietzsche's Zarathustra : Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939 by C. G. Jung, edited by James L. Jarrett (Princeton University Press, 1989, pages 448, 657, 816, 1526, 1527, 1533, and 1538).

McGreevy discusses how the Jesuit order was suppressed in Fribourg, Switzerland in 1773, but was allowed to return there soon after the Jesuit order's restoration in 1814. However, after the the Swiss civil war culminated in a Catholic defeat in November 1847, the Swiss Jesuits were forced into exile and then came to the United States (pages 28-30).

In any event, M. David Litwa has more recently explored psycho-spiritual deification in the following four books (in chronological order by date of publication):

(1) We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology (De Gruyter, 2012);

(2) Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture (Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013);

(3) Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God (Fortress Press, 2014);

(4) Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Early Jewish and Christian Mythmaking (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Incidentally, I first heard the term deification from Ong years ago, which is what alerted me to note the appearance of the books I've mentioned here.

Now, McGreevy claims, in passing, that the German Jesuit Thomist Joseph Kleutgen was "the most influential Jesuit philosopher [and theologian] of the nineteenth century" (page 125).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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