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Spiritual Masters


Sept. to Dec. 2012 

Instructor: Rev. Steve Wlusek, BA, MDiv, MA, PhD


Christian spirituality from the Catholic revival of the sixteenth century to the present.  Schools of spirituality considered include: Spanish (Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross); French (de Sales, Pascal, John Vianney, Therese of Lisieux); English (More, Newman, Lewis): Contemporary (Merton, Stein, Hillesum, spirituality of the poor).  (2 hours: antirequisites: the former Spiritual Theology 342B and 461A)


1. To investigate the main trends, issues and developments in Christian Spirituality from the 14th to the 21st century.
2. To explore the question: How have Christians throughout history understood what it is to seek and know God?
3. To seek a deeper understanding and appreciation of the heritage of Christian Spirituality in order to shed light on and give assistance to our present spiritual journey, both communal and personal.
4. To provide a framework within which to appreciate various spiritual schools, movements, and writings both in themselves and in their relationship with one another.
5. To make contact with the history and writings of the great saints and mystics of the Christian tradition as well as those of the principal schools of spirituality.
6. To do an in-depth study of one spiritual classic.
7. To provide knowledge and encouragement so that students can further develop their own personal spirituality.
7. To help students to further foster skills begun in Introduction to Spiritual Theology that will assist them to serve as spiritual guides of others in their future ministries.
i) Knowledge                         
1. To know the historical and cultural contexts within which the great spiritual guides studied in the course developed their spiritual writings.
2. To understand and acquaint oneself with the primary texts of great spiritual authors, communities and movements in the tradition of spiritual theology, and in particular one spiritual classic.
3. To grasp the connection between classical spiritual teachings and their contemporary expressions, understanding both the continuity and the differences.
4. To understand and appreciate the variety of spiritual paths witnessed to by the many schools and movements within the Catholic Tradition.
5. To understand and appreciate the teachings of other spiritual traditions within the Christian traditions.
6. To understand the nature of spiritual theology, its methodology and the various theological distinctions in order to develop tools for a critical analysis of texts, communities, structures and movements.
ii) Skills
1. To enable the student to interpret and analyze a primary text of a great spiritual writer in the social, cultural and ecclesial context of its time.
2. To enable the student to detect and understand those unchanging values of the Christian Spiritual Tradition that are still found in our time, while being able to know and set in context those dimensions of the Tradition which are historically and culturally conditioned.
3. To enable the student to articulate, in both oral and written forms, the principal elements of the Catholic Tradition of spiritual theology.
4. To enable students to express their own personal spirituality as related to the authentic spiritual tradition of the Church, and at the same time to be able to appreciate those authentic spiritualities to which they are not drawn, but to which they may be called to minister.
5. To enable students to detect those movements of the spirits that are divisive and destructive of the path toward union with God, so that he/she may be able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the healing and reconciliation needed to recover authenticity and life.
iii) Values and Attitudes
1. To acquire a love for the marvelous working of the Spirit of Jesus Christ throughout our whole Christian tradition.
2. To appreciate the variety of ways the Holy Spirit is present: in the human heart, in our communal life, in societal structures, in social movements throughout our human history, and in the beauty of creation.
3. To value one’s personal spiritual life as a response to the invitation to life in union with our Triune God, and to nourish this life by prayer and an ever more faithful living of the Gospel. 


  • Dupre, Louis and Wiseman, James, O.S.B. Eds. Light from Light. An Anthology of  Christian Mysticism. (Revised Edition). New York: Paulist Press, 2000.
  • Kavanaugh, Kieran (trans). Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle.  New York: Paulist Press, 1979 (Classics of Western Spirituality Series.) 


  • Healey, Charles, S.J. Christian Spirituality: An Introduction to the Heritage. New York: Alba House, 1999. 


The evaluation of course grades will be based on the following components:

1. Participation

Weekly posting on the course Web C.T. page of one critical question to stimulate the class' discussion on the assigned reading for the week, as well as involvement in weekly discussions in the course Chat Room.


2. Mid-Term Test

A one-hour timed exam will be held during the week of Oct. 29th


3. Paper: Teaching a Classic

A 7 to 8 page paper, due Nov. 19th, conveying the key spiritual emphases of one Spiritual Classic to a parish Evening of Reflection group.


4. Final Oral Examination:

A 15 minute Oral Conversation on the entire semester's work will be scheduled with each student during the Dec. examination period in the Week of Dec. 10th (ether in person at the Seminary or on the telephone.)



WEEK OF:              
Sept. 10th   Overview of Course outline and requirements.
Categories and Terms used in Spiritual Theology.
What is the Spiritual Journey?
Sept. 17th   a) Discussion of "The Spiritual Classics as Spiritual Guides" by W. Wright
b) The Cloud of Unknowing (by an anonymous 14th century)
c) Early Protestant Spirituality
Sept. 24th   a) Spain in the 16th Century: Ignatius of Loyola -- History / Community
b) Writings of Ignatius: Spiritual Exercises, Rules for Discernment, his Rule
Week of Oct. 1st   Early Spanish Mysticism
b) Teresa of Avila -- Era / Personal History
c) The Interior Castle: Prologue, 1st Dwelling Place
Oct. 8th   a) The Interior Castle: 2nd & 3rd Dwelling Places
b) The Interior Castle: 4th Dwelling Place
Oct. 15th   a) The Interior Castle: 5th to 7th Dwelling Place
b) Conclusions to The Interior Castle; Main Themes in Teresa's Writings
Oct. 22nd  

a) John of the Cross -- Era / Personal History
b) John of the Cross' Writings: Ascent of Mount Carmel
          The Dark Night, and Living Flame of Love

Oct. 29th   a) Mid-Term Test
b) Discussion of Article "Impasse and Dark Night" by Sr. C. Fitzgerald
Week of Nov. 5th                              a) Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal, Introduction to the Devout Life
b) The French School (Pierre de Berulle et al) Jansenism and Quietism (w. Blaise Pascal - Pensees)
Nov. 12th  

a) Post-Enlightenment Spirituality
b) France after the Revolution.  Therese of Lisieux:  History, Story of a Soul
c) Jean Baptise Marie Vianney  -- The Spirituality of a Pastor and Confessor

Nov. 19th   a) John Henry Cardinal Newman - Ongoing conversion
b) 18th and 19th Century American Spirituality
c) Evelyn Underhill -- Modern Mysticism uniting Anglican and Catholic Thought
Nov. 26th  

a) C.S. Lewis -- Apologetic, visionary, literary artist
b) Edith Stein -- Through the Cross to Union

Week of Dec. 3rd   a) Thomas Merton, Seven Story Mountain and New Seeds of Contemplation
b) Spirituality of the 20th Century
          Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
c) Discussion of Article: "The Spirituality of the Church of the Future" by Karl Rahner
    Course Summary and Conclusions


1. Policies regarding Submission of Assignments and Tests
a. It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments can be completed on time.
b. Assignments are to be handed in at the class on the due date. Assignments may not be dropped off at King’s or submitted electronically.
c. For a serious reason, a student may be granted an extension. On the form provided, the student is to write a brief explanation of the reason for the extension. This is to be signed by the teacher, with the extended date noted. A copy of the extension notice is given to the Dean.
d. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean’s Office.
e. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.
f. No electronic devices will be allowed during tests or the examination, unless approved in advance by Student Services at the University or King’s. (This refers to students with disabilities who have permission to use a word processor to write their exams/tests.)
g. Students who miss tests will negotiate a “make-up” date with the professor. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean’s Office.
2. Internet References
If references are given from internet sites the exact designation of the site must be given along with a hard copy of the page from which the quote is taken or to which the reference is made.
3. Academic Offenses
a. “Scholastic offenses are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offense, at the following web site:
b. “All required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of plagiarism. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and (”
4. MLA Style

The MLA Style (Modern Language Association) is to be used in writing your papers: in the Bibliography/Works Cited and in the quotations in the text.