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Imagination – the new battleground of faith

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“Imagination may well be the new battleground of faith,” according to Michael Paul Gallagher SJ, who recently lectured on this topic in Gardiner St Church Dublin, in Moyross parish Limerick, and to the Le Chéile Schools Trust at their AGM in Athlone. He suggested that the hidden struggle of our culture was to recover the power of imagination and receptive wonder. He spoke to Pat Coyle about his talks in an interview for local radio stations around Ireland. You can listen to that interview here.

The former UCD lecturer in English and author of many books noted that whilst serious attention has been given to the relationship between faith and reason, the importance of the role of imagination in stirring and nourishing a life of faith, had too often been ignored.  “But it was Einstein who declared that imagination was more important than intelligence and Cardinal John Henry Newman who said ‘the heart is commonly reached not through the reason but through the imagination’ “

He noted also that in today’s culture there are many voices competing for hearts and minds, prolific and powerful in their imaging and often hostile to religion or the spiritual life. “Those who choose not to put their trust in God hear the din of countless idols crying out ‘put your trust in me’ “. And he singled out Pope Francis and someone who understood the power of the symbols and who knew how to open up people to surprise and wonder by his use of them in word and gesture.

Imagination is the filter through which we can perceive and transform reality, he said, because it opens us up to the possible. Reciting ‘The Rain Stick’ by  Seamus Heaney, he said it was a great poem about entering into the power of the imagination and crossing a threshold through the ordinary into the new and the possible.

Dr David Tuohy SJ also attended the Le Chéile Trust’s AGM. He was a key figure in the facilitation process that saw the birth of the trust after many years of hard work and collaboration with representatives of the religious orders involved. That story was the subject of a Ph.D thesis by Sr Una Collins and David launched the book based on her dissertation, on the first evening of the AGM.  ‘A Tale of Nine Centuries- the Story and Spirituality of the Le Chéile Schools Trust’ by  Una Collins is published by Columba Press.