Graduate Diploma in Contemplative Theology and Spiritual Mentorship at Saint Paul University
The Faculty of Theology at Saint Paul University is offering a new graduate diploma in Contemplative Theology and Spiritual Mentorship. Launched in French in September 2015, it will be offered in English in September 2016. The program is a response to our society’s growing need for a life of interiority and the experience of silence, in search of a happiness that goes beyond fleeting pleasure. Nowadays, many people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, and are attracted by Eastern traditions and the various movements to which they give rise. Few, however, are aware of the rich Christian experience of mysticism. Over the centuries this tradition has gathered a wisdom that is as much about human psychology as it is about the holistic transformation of the person through an intimate relationship with the divine.
By opening up this Christian contemplative tradition, the diploma addresses the issues related to a life in the Spirit, and provides mentorship that is in step with contemporary spiritual renewal. The program is based on two broad principles. First, it is a graduate-level university program that also seeks to reflect individual religious experience. It combines academic science and an examination of the inner life in order to achieve the best integration of the material studied. Second, the program is based on the conviction that it is not possible to appreciate the riches of Christian mysticism and contemplative mentorship without considering other spiritualities (Zen, yoga, etc.) as well as the sciences (psychology, neurology, etc.), especially those that study altered states of consciousness attained through meditative practices.
This unique program begins in August with a week-long silent retreat. By way of comparison, students in psychotherapy do not rely solely on book learning: they must also become comfortable with the silence between therapist and client. Similarly, we believe it is important for theology students to experience inner silence before studying great spiritual writers such as John Climacus, John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila or Madame Guyon.
The program consists of five courses: 1. Self-Understanding; 2. Issues and Conditions for a Contemplative Renewal; 3. Steps on the Path towards Union with God; 4. The Master-Disciple Relationship from the Time of Jesus until Now; 5. Contemplative Theology in Dialogue with the Sciences and Other Spiritualities. The program runs from August until May. The first four courses are offered over three weekends, while the fifth is offered over a two-week period. Enrolment is limited to 18 students in order to promote dialogue and group learning.
This is not a professional program; it does not lead to a practice of mentorship through field placements. What it does offer is a deep, rigorous knowledge of the spiritual path and the need for mentorship. It aims to prepare students to commit to training in this area. It also provides additional training for professionals in health or pastoral services, or in other helping professions. The program is open to believers and non-believers, to Christians and non-Christians.
The main criteria for admission are an undergraduate degree and a minimum of 12 credits in theology or religious studies, or equivalent pastoral experience. Willingness to undertake a silent retreat of at least a week is also strongly recommended.
For more information see ustpaul.ca/contemplativetheology.
Fabrice Blée is an Associate Professor at Saint-Paul University.