AS the Church in Australia celebrates with heightened interest the life and spirituality of Blessed Mary Mackillop there is an accompanying concern to make known to a wider audience the spirituality, theology and philosophical beliefs of pioneer priest Fr Julian Tenison Woods who, with Blessed Mary co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph, and individually founded the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
The desire to unwrap to a wider audience elements pertaining to Fr Julian’s spirituality, theology, and perspectives on ecology, within the legacy of his writings, is the primary purpose behind a recently published book by Josephite Sister Mary Cresp who received appointment in 2005, as canonical congregational leader of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Fr Julian’s theological reflections on God and the inter-connectedness of all in Creation and in Nature, and the spirituality markers within in his own development are critiqued by Mary Cresp, substantially using his writings and the counsels he exchanged with Mary Mackillop.
Additionally, articles in scientific journals to which he subscribed and material from his biography are scrutinised.
Using a schema of contrived dialogue between Fr Julian and herself, Cresp interrogates written or spoken material from the corpus of archival evidence. She clusters successive information into the constructs of spirituality, theology and ecology thus building successive chapters.
The contrived dialogue conversations that she creates are identified as “Prayer Chats with Julian”.
Mary Cresp questions, comments, challenges and draws out of the archival material the responses that will incrementally build the portrait of an integrated life.
A most energetic Spirit-driven, inspiring, dedicated priest, strongly committed to pastoral activity among the people, comes to life.
Fr Julian’s integrative spirituality, with its openness to God and its profoundly mystical dimension is not an accident but is a combination of formation experiences in a variety of settings.
There are eight substantial chapters disclosing elements that define Fr Julian’s spirituality and 10 chapters inquiring into his Christocentric theology containing elements on the Self in Relation to God, the mystery of Eucharist and the valuing of Scripture as a model for Christian living.
Regrettably, only two chapters of the book focus on Fr Julian’s highly respected and diverse scientific contributions in respect to aspects of ecology. The inter-connectedness of Creation and spirituality vigorously espoused by Fr Julian in relation to ecology enabled him to write “God’s beauty, His goodness, His Fatherly watchful care of me and all Nature pursues me everywhere”.
At the conclusion of each chapter of this highly commendable book, there is an experiential prayer exercise where the reader, more often than not, is required also to dialogue with Fr Julian.
These prayer engagements are also “Prayer Chats with Julian,” and can be facilitated with small groups who have shared the conversations that precede each exercise.
Mary Cresp’s cleverly shaped prayer exercises engage the reader actively in entering the world of Fr Julian.
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