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SECOND EXAM– ORIGINAL THOUGHT QUESTIONS
WRITE TWO ESSAYS (2.5-3 PAGES DOUBLE-SPACED) IN ANSWER TO THE QUESTIONS PROVIDED. BE SURE TO QUOTE FROM THOMPSON, ROHLHEISER AND LADINSKY IN FRAMING YOUR ANSWERS.
SECTION ONE—PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH
1. Thompson argues for a traditional view of spirituality. She says that true spirituality is a relationship with God focused on the agency and interaction of the Holy Spirit. How do you understand the third person of the Trinity? How do you understand the work of the Holy Spirit– in an individual’s life and in the life of the community of faith? How is the quest to experience the Spirit at the heart of all worship and prayer?
2. “God is not found through addition, but by subtraction. These words by Meister Eckhart frame Thompson’s chapter on “Self-Emptying.” What are some practices you would like to take on to create more inner space for God the Spirit? How could the practice of self-emptying make a positive spiritual difference in your life? Are there any spiritual or psychological dangers involved?
3. Under Spiritual Resources–John of the Cross, there is an exercise to explore a “dark night of the soul” that you have experienced. Thoughtfully complete this exercise in two or three pages.
4. Under Spiritual Resources–Buddhism, there is an exercise to explore a Buddhist approach to a problem you are currently undergoing. Using the Buddhist concepts, analyze and explore what is wrong, work through the Buddhist method of dealing with the problem, and choose a pathway of right speech, right action, right vision, etc. All answers are strictly confidential.
5. Carl Jung, in reference to the shadow, once said “What we don’t deal with, we inevitably afflict on others.” How is this true in your own life? What issues don’t you deal with? What issues do you avoid? How does this impact your life? How does this impact the lives of others around you? Write a personal essay detailing the truth, or untruth, of this statement about the shadow..
6. Write about a mystical experience you have had that satisfies William James’ four criteria of mystical experience. How do you interpret this experience, in hindsight, and what have you done with this experience to carry it forward?.
- Write five haikus or short poems about spiritual friendship
SECTION II– CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY AND THEOLOGY
8. Some theologians say that the church has “dumbed down” its approach to the gospel, teaching simple obedience to the church and a moral theology. They allege that the church has abandoned the creative and imaginative teachings of Jesus, especially his 40 parables about life in the kingdom of God. Write a parable or creative story that follows the guidelines of parabolic imagination that Professor Neff spoke of in class (see powerpoint lecture). “The kingdom of heaven is like . . . . or “the reign of God’s gracious love is like” . . . Make sure your story is not a moral lesson, but cuts deeper, making the reader think paradoxically, deeply and seriously!
9. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross suggested that in order to reach direct union with God, one must distrust all sense knowledge and deny one’s senses. The aim was so the soul can be stripped to its essence and one can enter into the fullness of the Divine-Human relationship. Three hundred years earlier, Hildegard of Bingen taught that the senses and the fully-engaged experience of the body was the holiest pathway to knowing God intimately and experiencing union with the Divine. Which approach do you agree with? How are spiritual people to understand our bodies and our senses? Positively or negatively?
10. Is the Unconscious real? Or just a metaphor, an analogy, a symbol? How is the unconscious an important resource for the development of the whole person? Using Professor Neff’s lecture and powerpoint on the psychology of Carl Jung, write your philosophical and psychological reasons why you agree or disagree with this important concept.
11. “Nada, nada, nada, even on the mountaintop, nada.” These words by John of the Cross indicate a counter-intuitive and direct way to God. How do you view this “negative theology” as an approach to finding God (and being found by God)? How do you understand the value of his theological and spiritual method of embracing“the dark night of the soul”? What spiritual truths can be found when we walk in the dark?
12. How is spiritual friendship the defining issue of our times?
13, Buddhist philosophy stresses detachment, withdrawal, non-action. Jewish, Christian and Islamic theology teaches holy engagement, striving and action to change the world and cooperate with God who is active in history. Both approaches seem contradictory in their aim and intention. Can a person be a faithful Jew and also a practicing Buddhist? A faithful Muslim who also uses Buddhist techniques? A faithful Christian who follows the teachings of the Buddha?
14. Bonhoeffer warned about the dangers of “religion-less Christianity” taking over contemporary culture– he said that people will worship God, Jesus and the Spirit without any meaningful grounding in life-with-others; without any accountability, challenge or support derived from participation in a church; without any tradition or historical belief as a guide. For him, “Christ exists as community; Christ only exists in community.” What do you believe about the necessity and importance of a community to live out a full, vital spiritual existence?
15. Avery Dulles gave six models of the church. The prevailing model, the Institutional Model, is the most antithetical to the biblical understanding. Yet it is the model or metaphor that most Catholics are familiar. How can the Church become more church-like, in the spiritual sense of the word? Detail an educational program to help church members or youth group members rethink their ideas about the church in fresh, creative ways, using other metaphors and models which are more meaningful.
16. What should the Church (or Synagogue or Mosque) teach teen age and college age adults about human sexuality? What should the Church teach about sexual relations? Knowing what Rohlheiser wrote about and Sr. Margaret Farley talked about in the Seven Ethics of Just Love, is there is a vital link between sexuality and spirituality, what should be communicated to teenagers and young adults?
17. What is the heart of Muslim spirituality? What is the beauty of Islamic spirituality?
18. Do you agree or disagree with this quote? “The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or nothing at all.”(Karl Rahner). Why? Why not?
19. Being Catholic is a juggling act. How is this statement true or false? How does a committed Catholic honor the authority of the church within its living tradition, yet at the same time, remain true to one’s own contemporary beliefs, values and experiences? Detail your answer.
20. Marjorie Thompson has written about soul friends and spiritual friends. She believes that soul friends or spiritual friends should be of the same heritage and background of faith; that the living tradition which one commits is full of language and symbolism and experiential learning that another person from a different faith might not be able to appreciate or understand fully. What are the difficulties of interfaith marriage? How might two people from two different faiths navigate love combined with a deep religious commitment? How would they celebrate both faiths? Celebrate the holy days and seasons? Raise their children?
21. You are a seeker and lover of God. You go to different churches but cannot hear your beliefs or feel connected to the people or the mission of the church. You know that a sense of community and belonging is important for you to develop and grow in your spirituality. So you take a leap of faith and decide start your own church. Write about the community of faith you would like to start. What will its beliefs be? How will people connect to each other? What will the primary mission of the community be? Create your own church!
SECTION III– SPIRITUALITY OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
22. Do you agree or disagree with this quote? “My being hungry is a physical issue. My neighbor being hungry is a spiritual issue.” (Nicholas Berdyaev)
23. Write a letter to the pastor or priest or Imam of the church or mosque that you attend. Explain to her or him how the church needs to be better or do better– in worship and prayer, in community building and fellowship, in education and learning, in service and social justice. Be sure to quote from scripture or from one of our textbooks in your letter
24. What’s wrong with men these days? Many religious groups are calling for men to deepen their self-understanding and make commitments to their own self-transformation. Different religious groups have sought, in recent years, to liberate men, forming groups like Promise Keepers and starting the Million Man March. They seek to call men to more accountability to divine standards, as well as to inspire men to be better sons, fathers, husbands, workers, businessmen and community leaders. Assuming women cannot liberate men, what do men need to do to liberate themselves?
25. How is the ecological crisis a spiritual crisis for our times? How is environmental justice an opening and an opportunity for growing closer to God, and, at the same time, building a sense of community among all the world’s peoples.
26. What Catholic Social teaching is most important to you? Why? How would you like to see this teaching implemented and put into practice at city, state, national and global levels? By the church as well as by the government?
27. Three years ago, Pope Francis urged Catholics journeying through the season of Lent to give up “social distancing.” He said that due to the distractions and diversions of our dependency on the cellphone, we are growing more isolated and disconnected with each other. With the Covid-19 virus, we have enforced physical distancing. Assuming we overcome this pandemic, in the USA and globally (a big assumption!), how should we reconnect to each other in the future? Build a greater sense of social solidarity? Reinvigorate our relationships and strengthen our communities? Write out a plan or a vision of a stronger, more connected society.
28. Write a three-page theological or spiritual meditation based on a particular scripture text from Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Or write a spiritual meditation based on the crucifixion and resurrection. How does this text speak to us today? Be sure to cite your sources as well as letting the your particular voice speak.