Gerard W Hughes died last week aged 90. I remember seeing him at a Retreat Association conference where he effortlessly guided over 400 people through aspects of the Ignatian Spirituality. He was at the height of his notoriety and his stories were well known. But we forgave him. We forgave him because of what he had become to many people both within and beyond the Christian world. He was a man who exposed his own struggles whilst offering hope for fellow troubled believers.
In 1985 he wrote a ground-breaking book with the title God of Surprises. The title was compelling. It arrived just at the time that many people within the Church were ready to discover more about prayer.
But what he wrote about had been around for centuries. The spiritual exercises of Ignatius offered a way of prayer that took one’s own psychological disposition seriously. Hughes, a Jesuit, had lived with these for all his life and now had made them accessible to people well-beyond his own tradition.
But it was more than a book about prayer for its concluding chapter described his own views about the Arms Race and Nuclear Defence systems. For him prayer should always engage with the violence of the world and make the one who prays active for Peace.
In later years he became a modern-day Jeremiah. A man who told it as it is. As he became more disappointed by the times we live in and the way the Church responds, he retreat into a ghetto of private faith.
His latest book Cry of Wonder was published a week before his death. I will review it here shortly.
Photograph: the Jesuit Society