UN537 Decisions for Life
John G. Boylan
NMR Laboratory Manager in Chemistry
This seminar will explore critical spiritual dimensions to the exciting and challenging decisions that accompany transition from college life to independent adult life. The semester will be organized around a series of topics chosen to explore spiritual, relational, vocational, and communal aspects of our being. Looking to the Ignatian traditions of discernment, election, and affirmation, we will ask how significant and difficult choices regarding career, family, and social living can be evaluated and whether faithful and authentic decisions for life can be made with confidence and tranquility. We will ask also whether our faith and faith traditions might be grace-filled tools in our search for appropriate identity. We will reflect back on the decisions that have brought us to where we are, and ask if our lives have deeper meaning because of our experiences at Boston College. We will also look ahead to future decisions about family, work, and play and ask whether there are options for living which represent the “greater good.” Readings will be selected to provoke both intellectual and affective reflection and to provide lasting resources for faithful living, loving, and learning.
Assignments will include regular readings, one narrative detailing the students “spiritual milestones” (not to be graded), two term papers, and a final paper. The term papers (approximately 6 pages, double-spaced) are expected to integrate assigned readings, outside reference material, and the critical thoughts of the student and class. The final paper (8-10 pages, double-spaced) will be on a topic to be arranged in advance with the instructor and should incorporate formative concepts from at least 6 of the assigned readings. Regular “spiritual exercises” will be suggested and students will be expected to engage themselves with the exercises throughout the week. Students will be asked regularly to reflect upon and share their experiences with the reading material and other assignments and offer their unique perspectives in relationship to their Creator, their world, and their neighbors.
The seminar will meet twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m., beginning each time with a facilitated discussion of the topic. Attendance is mandatory.
Grades will be assigned on the basis of the two term papers 25% each, the final paper 25%, and seminar participation 25%.
Assigned reading resources
- Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie, New York: Random House, 2000
- Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufman, New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1974
- James Carroll, An American Requiem, Thorndike: G. K. Hall & Co., 1996
- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993
- Jose Combin, Called for Freedom, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998
- Zee Edgell, Beka Lamb, Oxford: Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series, 1982
- Richard Feynman, The Meaning of it All, Reading: Perseus Books,1998
- Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces, New York: Vintage Books, 1996
- Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, New York: Doubleday, 1999
- Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, The Divine Milieu, London: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960
- Pierre Wolff, Discernment—The Art of Choosing Well, Liqouri: Triumph Books, 1993
Weeks 1 and 2 – Mystery
You will be asked to prepare a brief narrative (2-3 pages) outlining the “spiritual milestones” of your life with particular emphasis on your career at Boston College. You will be asked to reflect on these formative experiences in the context of your sense of identity and purpose-past, present, and future. As a class, we will ask whether common themes are to be found in our spiritual journeys, and how these are manifest in our developing sense of Mystery. Your milestones will be turned in to the instructor (not to be graded) and will be asked to share your “spiritual milestones” with the class sometime over the course of the next 5 weeks.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
The Meaning of it All, Richard Feynman
Weeks 3 and 4 – Relationship
Next we will consider our "consciousness" in the context of relationship. We will ask how interactions with our world, our neighbors, and our God contribute to our process of self-discovery, and we will ask whether possession of our consciousness is dependent on engagement with others. Your first writing assignment will be a term paper relating mystery and relationship, and sharing of your “spiritual milestones” will continue.
Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
Selections from I and Thou, Martin Buber
Weeks 5 and 6 – Freedom
We will begin to consider how our decisions in life contribute to our sense of spiritual well being and faithfulness. We will ask what it means to live freely as authentic beings and whether our sense of being depends critically on the choices we make. We will also consider the tension that exists between freedom and responsibility. Sharing of your “spiritual milestones” will continue.
Beka Lamb, Zee Edgell
Selections from Called for Freedom, Jose Comblin
Weeks 7 and 8 – Spirituality
We will inquire into the nature of “spirituality” and explore connections between our spirituality and our daily lives. We will ask about the meaning of faith and consider ways in which our faith and faith traditions might inform our spirituality. We will attempt to develop a strategy for accessing those connections, and ask whether faith traditions other than our own appear to converge on similar non-negotiable essentials for living a spiritual life. Finally, we will explore the anthropological assumptions that lead us to our conclusions. A second term paper reconciling the concepts of freedom and responsibility will be assigned.
The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser
Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels
Weeks 9 and 10 – Discernment, Election and Affirmation
We will look to the traditions of Ignatius Loyola and others for understanding and instruction in our effort to discover ways to make authentic choices in our lives. We will consider what processes can help in the search for life-giving alternatives, what criteria we might use for selection, and whether it is possible to feel confident and peaceful in choosing one course of action over another.
Selections from Discernment - The Art of Choosing Well, Pierre Wolff
Weeks 11 and 12 – Family and Vocation
We will begin to consider ways in which we can engage more fully and more authentically in the activities of everyday life—such as our careers and our families. We will explore the possibilities of extraordinary living in the midst of ordinary life and events, and reflect on the role of family in our search for faithful engagement with life.
An American Requiem, James Carroll
Selections from The Divine Milieu, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
Weeks 13 and 14 – Community and Service
We will explore options for integrating spirituality into daily life. Service options, volunteerism, and other potential ways of living out faith commitments beyond our routine responsibilities will be considered in the context of “doing the greater good.”
Your final papers will be due.