12 January 2014

RLS306 Spiritual Quest Spring 2014



Spiritual Quest                                                                 RLS306
Spring 2014                                                                                                     Prof. Mead

January
13        M         Introduction
15        W         The Cloud of Unknowing, ix-27
17        F          Practicing Silence
20        M         NO CLASSES
22        W         NO CLASS
24        F          The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 6-24
27        M         The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 25-58
29        W         The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 59-75
31        F          Meeting Your Sacred Word
February
 3         M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, xxxvii-19
 5         W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters IV-X
 7         F          Prayer
10        M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XI-XV
12        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XVI-XXI
14        F          Prayer
17        M         NO CLASSES
19        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXII-XXV
21        F          Prayer
24        M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXVI-XXIX
26        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, XXX-XXXIV
28        F          Prayer
March
 3         M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXXV-XXXVII
 5         W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXXVIII-XL
 7         F          Prayer
10        M         SPRING BREAK
12        W         SPRING BREAK
14        F          SPRING BREAK
17        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, pp.1-12
19        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 2
21        F          NO CLASSES
24        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, pp. 71-
26        W         NO CLASS
28        F          NO CLASS
31        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 3
April
 2         W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 4
 4         F          Prayer
 7         M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 5
 9         W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 6
11        F          Prayer
14        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 7
16        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 8
18        F          NO CLASSES
21        M         NO CLASSES
23        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 9
25        F          Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 10
28        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 11
30        F          Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 12.  Evaluations.

What we’re doing in the course
The (somewhat outdated) description of RLS306 reads, “Introduction to the basic history, theories, and practices of Christian spiritual life.  Concentration on Lawrence of the Resurrection, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux.  Focus on contemporary application of spiritual practice in daily life.” From this description, I have taken the following elements:  an introductory manner; inclusion of historical and theoretical texts, ideas, and practices; Teresa of Avila; and a contemporary application of a spiritual practice in daily life.
This class is an introduction to Centering Prayer, an ancient Christian practice that effectively went into hiding during the Reformation and which in the past thirty years or so has found its way back into daily prayer of a growing number of people, clerical and lay.  Centering Prayer has its roots in the ideas of “Negative Theology,” which basically states that it is impossible for human beings to make true affirmative statements about God in our language, because God is a) unknowable and b) unable to be defined in words.  Although there are many kinds of prayer, Centering Prayer is completely (I could even say actively) passive:  the person “makes a space,” in time, in purpose, in consciousness, to invite God into the soul.
How we’re doing this course
Because this is an academic class as well as a practicum, we will read two monumental works, one from the late middle ages (English) and one from the Counter-Reformation (Spanish, where else?).  Both works outline a kind of prayer practice that we will be working toward on our Friday meetings.  These works are probably going to seem foreign to you—because they ARE foreign!  They are from other countries, other languages, other sensibilities.  My best advice is to read through them diligently.  Do not worry about understanding everything; take what you can from them and do not sweat the small stuff.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will ask each of you to come to class with three questions or comments on the reading for that day; our class time will be used to get us all to the same place in regard to the readings, that’s all. The last book, by Thomas Keating, you will find much more useful and comprehensible,
Assignments
The whole point of assignments (presentations, tests, papers, etc.) is two-fold:  to augment or supplement student learning and to give the instructor something to evaluate.  There is also quite often a third reason: to bond the class into a tighter community.  I want us to reach towards all of these goals, and to that end, we have a number of different assignments.
First, each student will keep a prayer journal; this should contain not WHAT happens during your prayer periods, but rather what you think about when you reflect on the growth of your knowledge and practice of this prayer method.  I will collect the journals a few times during the semester.
Second, each student will write an academic paper.  This paper can be almost anything relevant.  Perhaps a study of the medieval images of prayer, perhaps a scholarly work on one of the historical books we’re reading.  Perhaps a comparative study of Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
Third, each student—either alone or in a group—will complete a Prayer Project.  This is meant to be a creative expression that moves out from the individual to the Saint Martin’s community.  Images, icons, prayer rugs, labyrinths, stations, prayer spaces—all of these ideas and more are possibilities. 
Grades
Participation:  Comes to each class on time and prepared, takes notes, initiates and maintains discussion, demonstrates familiarity with texts and reflection of reading, listens to and responds to other students, good cheer, considerate, asking questions, risking answers. 25%
Paper:  College-level research, prose, and argumentation; 6-10 pages, MLA format; topic sentences, evidence of multiple revisions, originality, depth, risk, deep research texts. 25%
Journal: Evidence of clearly taking the assignment seriously; evidence of thinking and re-thinking ideas; development of a sense of self and the process, verbiage. 25%
Project:  Amazes the instructor, changes the campus, challenges the lukewarm, raises the bar of originality and complexity, shows evidence of 20-40 hours of work. 25%.
Texts
The Cloud of Unknowing, Penguin
Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, trans. Peers, Dover
Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating
Office Hours
OM312b          tel.438-4336
MWF 9-10, 11-12                    TR 8:30-9:30 AND BY APPOINTMENT
Students with special needs must contact the instructor in the first week of classes and he will make all reasonable accommodations.