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Calvin and Loyola

inigo_jean_01Two Irish Jesuits, Tom Layden and Laurence Murphy, took leading roles in a historic conference in Maynooth last weekend. It was historic because it brought together, in the national Catholic seminary, roughly equal numbers of Catholic and Presbyterian scholars and listeners to think about: “Living in union with Christ in today’s world: the contribution of John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola”. Calvin and Loyola were contemporaries in the College de Montaigu of the University of Paris, though it is not known if they ever met or rubbed shoulders. Their religious positions became so polarised in subsequent years that it is surprising to find how much they had in common. Read more below. Ignatius had twice been imprisoned by the Inquisition in Spain for teaching a piety in which the Inquisitors smelled a Protestant whiff. He spoke of himself as a pilgrim, on the way, searching. He was a mystic. His spirituality, developed in the Spiritual Exercises, and still more in the Jesuit Constitutions, was centred on Christ in a way that makes sense to other Christian seekers. In the two-day conference, Tom Layden and Presbyterian Tom Wilson led an experiential exercise, a welcome interlude of quiet reflection. Laurence Murphy looked at the contrasting missionary perspectives of Calvin and Loyola. The whole Conference enabled a meeting of minds and hearts across the denominational divide, and in that meeting the informal encounters over meals and walks contributed as much as the formal talks. Warm friendships were formed and seeds were sown.