This book is an interesting and important contribution to the dialogue between the Churches in Ireland. It brings together theologians and pastors from two Christian traditions in Ireland – Catholicism and Presbyterianism – to explore the legacy of two significant figures, John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola. Calvin and Loyola, contemporaries in their student days at the University of Paris, in the turmoil of the Reformation subsequently chose different paths. The papers in this collection from a conference held in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, put into relief the important values they held in common – a profound faith in Christ, a dedication to? his people in the community of the Church and to mission as they understood it.?
This is an interesting and very readable book on a surprising topic: the similarities between the emphases of John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola. Consisting of the lectures given at a ground-breaking conference hosted at Maynooth College in October 2010, some of Ireland’s leading Catholic and Reformed thinkers gathered to reflect on the biographies, theology and influence of these two great thinkers, who it turns out studied together at the same college in the Sorbonne at the same time. There are nine lectures compiled in the book and they touch on a whole range of issues in the Christian life; from the role of the Holy Spirit, to how to interpret the Scriptures and from the potential of liturgy to be a source for transformation to the shape mission would take if we followed the paths laid out by Ignatius and Calvin.
The overall impression one gathers is that these two men, who both had a huge impact in very distinct ways, shared a commitment to be contemplatives in action and a focus on the need for individual Christians to truly experience spiritual union with God. All of the essays are of a very high quality but the brief biographical sketch of Ignatius provided by Prof Salvador Ryan of Maynooth College and the clarifying introduction to the littlediscussed Eucharistic theology of John Calvin by Prof Stephen Williams of Union Theological College are especially worthy of attention. Both represent excellent, clear and concise introductions to complicated matters. One feels at the end of Ryan’s piece that you are beginning to really know Ignatius. One feels at the end of Williams’ essay that you need to read more of Calvin! The conference was designed to appeal to a lay audience and this is reflected in the lectures that were presented.
They are accessible, interesting and applied to the reality of Christian life in the churches of Ireland today. It was a remarkable project in Christian dialogue and in this book it is admirably recorded. The reader will be disabused of myths about both men, invigorated by the vitality and devotion that drove them and spurred them on in their own Christian life. It is an added bonus not to be under-estimated that all this takes place in the context of learning to ‘read one another’s classics’ as Brendan McConvery describes it in his essay on Calvin as an interpreter of Scripture. This volume is highly recommended.
- Kevin HargadenMaynooth Community Church