Michael J. Christensen
Syllabus: Click HERE to download.
Reading Henri Nouwen with his Sources: Exploring Classical Christian Spirituality
Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996)—Roman Catholic priest, psychologist and professor—taught and wrote at the intersection of theology and psychology, which he called spirituality. Author of over 40 books on the spiritual life, this course covers his contributions to the field of pastoral psychology, including spiritual direction, Christian formation and discernment. The posthumous “Nouwen Trilogy”, developed from his documented life and works, forms the context for the course and guidance for the required reading. Online lectures focus on Nouwen’s unique approach to spiritual transformation, sustained by classical disciplines and Christian community. Weekly discussions on Moodle focus on classical sources in the history of Christian spirituality that informed Nouwen’s approach to spiritual formation, as well as selected spiritual practices to increase one’s capacity to live the questions, follow the movements and read the signs of daily life.
• Class Meets for presentation and discussion on Saturdays, 3:30-5:30pm, from January 12 – April 13, 2019 (except on 2/2 and 3/2) at the Episcopal Church Center.
• Content Lectures available online through Northwind Institute during semester.
Register at www.NorthwindInstitute.org to access lectures and online discussion Forum
• Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
• Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
• Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life
• Nouwen Through the Anglican/Episcopal Lens (Available from instructor)
• Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology, John Tyson, ed.
• Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate by Richard Rohr, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault [9 CD set produced by Center for Action and Contemplation, distributed by Sounds True]
• Micro-Lectures posted from professor’s Youtube channel available through www.NorthwindInstitute.org
• Study Guides provided by HarperOne Publishers http://www.smallgroupguides.com/tag/spirituality/
• Professor’s PPTx presentations on Nouwen Trilogy
• Documentary: “Journey to the Heart” (Windward Productions) [Link: https://vimeo.com/henrinouwen/journeyoftheheart] PW: JOTH_95pfh
• Nouwen’s Sermon on “We are the Beloved” at The Crystal Cathedral (google it)
• “Timeline of Shaping Influences” by Michael J. Christensen
Course Design, Goals, Outcomes, and Requirements
This course introduces seminal figures, texts and practices in classical and contemporary Christian Spirituality through the lens of priest/psychologist/professor Henri Nouwen. Twelve F2F class sessions are focused on: 1) Scriptural reflection; 2) spiritual practices; 3) and individual presentations and discussion on selected classical texts and figures. Twelve micro-lectures are offered by Professor on the life and teachings of Henri Nouwen—presented online in three parts following the sequence of the Nouwen Trilogy: 1) Spiritual Direction, 2) Spiritual Formation, and 3) Discernment. Weekly reading assignments, journal exercises, forum discussions, and Study Guide Questions are required for evaluation.
1. Become familiar with the life, works and spiritual theology of Henri Nouwen and with the classical spiritual writers who informed his teaching and direction.
2. Understand the ancient and contemporary art of spiritual direction, spiritual formation, and discernment of spirits as taught by Nouwen.
3. Gain greater personal wisdom on how to live life’s persistence questions, follow the movements of the heart, and interpret the “signs of the times.”
4. Assess the theology and spirituality of Nouwen through the Anglican/Episcopal Lens in conversation with contemporary spiritual guides
1. Master the Nouwen Trilogy (“vintage Henri”) as evidenced by completing Study Guides
2. Be able to articulate the distinctive contributions of leading figures who influenced Henri Nouwen, including: Augustine, Origen, John Climicus, Psydeo-Dyonisus, Gregory of Nyssa, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, Elizabeth O’Conner, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier, and Richard Rohr.
3. Come to know and understand both the text and historical context of selected writings in the classical Christian Tradition referred to in books by Henri Nouwen, including: Life of St Anthony, Ladder of Divine Assent, Life of Moses, Way of a Pilgrim, Cloud of Unknowing, Practice of the Presence of God, Sacrament of the Present Moment, Sayings of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers), Interior Castle, Dark Night of the Soul, Revelations of Divine Love, Contemplative Prayer (Merton), Life Together (Bonheoffer), Prayers of Dorothy Day.
4. Acquire a cursory knowledge of the depth and breadth of the 2000+ year sweep of Christian Spirituality by selective reading in an ecumenical anthology and by listening twice to CD presentations by Fr. Richard Rohr, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault: Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate by Richard Rohr et. al.
Requirements: Fulfill seven required tasks to receive a passing grade.
1. Listen carefully to micro-lectures offered by Professor on the life and teachings of Henri Nouwen and accompanying resources
2. Read assigned chapters and texts associated with each lecture.
3. Keep a Weekly Journal of reflections, insights and practices (use guidelines found at the end of assigned chapters)
4. Complete Study Guide Questions for assigned chapters and texts. Submit on Moodle to instructor.
5. Attend at least 10/12 classroom sessions.
6. Participate in all online forum discussions (post and respond to at least one other post)
7. Present on one figure and text from Tyson’s anthology to your discussion group
Evaluation: 1000 points
Reading: (250 points)
o Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
o Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
o Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life
o Nouwen Through the Anglican/Episcopal Lens
o Invitation to Christian Spirituality by John Tyson (anthology)
Listening: (250 points)
Listen twice to and experience some of the depth and breadth of the 2000+ year sweep of the mystical heritage of Christian spirituality through the teachings of Fr. Richard Rohr, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault: Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate by Richard Rohr et. al. [9 CD set produced by Center for Action and Contemplation] https://www.soundstrue.com/store/following-the-mystics-through-the-narrow-gate-3260.html
Writing: (250 points)
o Complete and submit Study Guide questions for each assigned chapter each week (easy does it; don’t over-write or obsess)
o Keep a Weekly Journal that reflects on: scriptural texts, spiritual practice, and application of insights, as guided by Journal Exercises at the end of each required chapter of the Trilogy
o Submit presentation notes after making text and figure presentation in class
Discussion: (250 points)
Follow weekly prompts. Post and respond to at least one other post.
Total Points: 1000