“Spiritual Theology is that part of theology that, proceeding from the truths of divine revelation and the religious experience of individual persons, defines the nature of the supernatural life, formulates directives for its growth and development, and explains the process by which souls advance from the beginning of the spiritual life to its full perfection.” ~ Fr. Jordan Aumann
The Spiritual Theology Program is a forty credit hour graduate level program. The program is designed to be taken over eight quarters in two years, but can also be taken over an alternate schedule of three or four years. The program involves twelve courses, an apostolic experience and a retreat experience. In addition to course work, students will build a portfolio that will be used to assess their progress at the end of each year. Successful completion of the program prepares graduates to 1) deepen their relationship with Christ through mystagogical engagement with the ascetical and mystical riches of the Church and 2) engage in parish ministry, catechesis, and other apostolates or professions that require the animating life of Christ to achieve their mission. A graduate should be well prepared to enter training programs for spiritual direction and counseling with advanced standing.
During this program students will engage the following spiritual schools and saints:
Patristic Spirituality: Emphasis on St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius Areopagite
Monastic Spirituality: Emphasis on Saint Benedict, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Hildegaard of Bingen, Cecil Bruyere
Mendicant Spirituality: Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas,Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Angela di Foligno
Spanish Mysticism: Saint John of Avila, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross
The French School of Spirituality: Cardinal Berulle, Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity
Contemporary Spiritualities from Middle and Eastern Europe: Saint Faustina Kowalska, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Saint Maximillian Kolbe, Catherine de Hueck, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed John Paul II
Here’s a different angle on the same list but with an emphasis on the traditions explored:
- The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers
- Benedictine Spirituality
- Franciscan Spirituality
- Dominican Spirituality
- Carmelite Spirituality
- Ignatian Spirituality
- Salesian Spirituality
- Carthusian Spirituality
Application ProcessThe successful student admissions application normally includes the completion of baccalaureate studies or equivalent (i.e., life credit), an entrance essay that provides the reason the potential student wants to enter the program of studies, and a writing sample. After students have completed their first year of the program, faculty review and vote on each candidate for entry into the second year of the program based on completion of program requirements and quality of student work. A minimum grade of B- must be maintained in each class to continue in the program. The application for admittance into the program is located here.
Note: The following outline reflects a tentative two year program but the program can be spread across three or four years. These courses can also be taken individually through our personal enrichment or continuing education programs. Course names, descriptions and order are subject to change.
Introduction to Spiritual Theology 1000 (3 credit hours)
This systematic presentation of Spiritual Theology and the principles of spiritual direction is geared toward personal appropriation for those involved in the apostolate. Lecture topics include the universal call to holiness, the indwelling of the Trinity, the nature and stages of Christian perfection, the supernatural organism and the Christian life, identification with Jesus and Mary, kinds and stages of prayer, the means to spiritual maturity appropriate for the various states of life, discernment of spirits, and ordinary and extraordinary mystical phenomena.
The Bible and the Revelation of Prayer 1100 (3 credit hours)
Starting with an overview of the revelation of prayer from Genesis to Revelation as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this course studies the use of the Bible in the Public Worship of the Church. The Liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian life while the Bible is the soul of theology. Exploring the relationship between the Bible and the Liturgy opens up a vision of prayer filled with Patristic insight and the wisdom of the early Church.
The Wisdom of the Saints from St. Athanasius to St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1210 (3 credit hours)
This course provides an overview of the spiritual doctrine of Saint Athanasius, Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard. During this first thousand years of the life of the Church, the saints developed an awareness of quaerere Deum, lectio divina, conversatio morum, and habitare secum that informs the whole canon of spiritual literature in the wisdom that follows. Selection of texts has been made on the basis of these themes and their influence on the Schools of Spirituality that follow.
The Wisdom of the Saints from St. Hildegaard of Bingen to St. Therese of Lisieux 1220 (3 credit hours)
Building on the foundations laid in the first millennium, the saints and mystics of the second millennium deepened the Church’s contemplation on the Word of God while at the same time offering the world new witnesses to the Gospel of Christ. This course provides an overview of the spiritual doctrine of Saint Hildegard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint John of Avila, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross. During the first five hundred years into the second millennium of Christianity, a host of saints rediscovered the power of mental prayer, devotion to Christ and the need for ongoing conversion summarized by Saint Benedict in terms of quaerere Deum, lectio divina, conversatio morum and habitare secum. Thus this second course on the wisdom of the saints flows from the first but is specified by the number of Doctors of the Church – most of whom have been declared only in the last fifty years.
Gift of the Holy Spirit and the Divine Indwelling 1300 (3 credit hours)
This course explores the theology of the Divine Indwelling and the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of faith. Besides the visible missions in which the Son and the Holy Spirit are historically manifest, there are invisible, spiritual missions in which the Word of the Father and the Fire of God’s Love are present to the soul in always new and more profound ways. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Paul II, and Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity help the Church understand this mystery through their theological explanations, pastoral applications, and doctrinal descriptions. By discerning the complementarity of their approaches, this course demonstrates how the ultimate end of the divine economy is anticipated in this life.
Theology of Divine Mercy, Conversion and Suffering 1400 (3 credit hours)
In this exploration of the theology of mercy, the spiritual doctrine of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Maria Faustina, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II are thematically surveyed in relation to the realities of conversion and suffering in the Christian life. In light of these modern day witnesses and the teachings of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, Divine Mercy remains the dominant spiritual theme of our era and a key to approaching the new evangelization.
Spiritual Direction Foundations 1500 (3 credit hours)
Course description TBA.
Apostolate 1900 (2 credit hours)
Involves a spiritual reflection paper on an approved apostolic experience. The experience should be for a period of at least four weeks. The paper or video presentation should demonstrate personal appropriation of course material in reflection on the apostolate. It would be necessary to complete this exercise before gaining admittance to the second year of the program.
The Evangelical Counsels and the Beatitudes 2100 (3 credit hours)
The evangelical counsels are proposed by the Church as means by which we may avail ourselves to a conversation with the Risen Lord that takes up our whole manner of life. In today’s world, they are radically counter-cultural, a sign of contradiction. If lived by faith and prudently applied to each one’s manner of life, poverty, chastity and obedience open up the mystery of the beatitudes to all the baptized whether one is single, married or consecrated to the Lord. In his Theology of Body as well as other writings, John Paul II sheds light on the relationship of beatitudes and the evangelical counsels through his own reflections on “the Great Mystery”, the love of Christ for the Church. Chastity, purity of heart and contemplation converge on this Mystery of the Bridegroom and the Bride to reveal the salvific mission of sacramental marriage and the vital importance for those in consecrated life bear themselves as living icons of the life of heaven and the end of time.
Discernment, the Degrees of Prayer and the Stages of Spiritual Growth 2200 (3 credit hours)
This course is based on St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Three Carmelite Doctors of the Church, Navigating the Interior Life, and Father Timothy Gallagher’s work.
The Mystery of Mary and Her Role in the Spiritual Life 2300 (3 credit hours)
This course opens with a biblical survey of Mary’s role beginning in Genesis and as further revealed in each scriptural revelation of her role. Upon this biblical foundation we will explore extra-biblical tradition in the thought of Sts. Louis De Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, and John Paul II with particular emphasis on Mary’s relationship to the Blessed Trinity, her perfect example as the preeminent disciple of Christ, and her role as spiritual mother to all believers.
Christian and Non-Christians Spiritualities 2400 (3 credit hours)
This course explores the distinguishing characteristics of Christian spirituality in relationship to the major forms of spirituality known today. First it looks at what the nature of spirituality is, what questions in must answer, and then identifies distinguishing characteristics of Christian spirituality to major forms of spirituality today. Participants will be able to better understand authentic spirituality versus those that might impose themselves and thereby mislead a Catholic in modern culture. This course is based on discussions by Hans Urs von Balthasar and the instruction provided by the CDF.
The Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity 2500 (3 credit hours)
This course offers an introduction to the spiritual treasures of the Byzantine tradition of Christianity. The first part looks at the distinctive features of its rich liturgical piety. The second part extends this liturgical perspective to include the ways in which icons communicate the mysteries of the faith. And the third part examines the Hesychast tradition, focusing on the Prayer of the Heart.
The Nature of Mystical Wisdom in the Life of the Church 2600 (3 credit hours)
The International Theological Commission distinguishes scientific theological wisdom from mystical wisdom in the life of the Church and proposes that they constitute different ways of participating in the life of God. At the same time, the nature of mystical wisdom in the life of the Church remains an area of great misunderstanding among theologians and contemplatives. A disciplined understanding of difficult connections between mystical wisdom and the life of the Church opens up meaningful conversations regarding the primacy of contemplative prayer and the mystical life in ministry and apostolic efforts, especially the work of evangelization. In this course we will distinguish mystical wisdom from scientific theological wisdom and examine how it develops in the life of prayer as proposed in the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and Saint John Paul II.
Long Retreat 2900 (2 credit hours)
Participants will go on an approved retreat experience – the Long Retreat, the Eight Day Retreat, the 19th Annotation, Poustinia, or a long stay in a monastery are examples of the appropriate kind of retreat for this exercise. Upon completion of the retreat, participants will write a reflection paper or provide a video presentation demonstrating the fruits of their contemplation on one of the themes covered in the course.