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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UN56601 The Discerning Life on Pilgrimage

capstone program

Fr. Casey Beaumier, S.J.

Director, Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies


Course Description/Online Syllabus

This course proposes the consideration of life as a pilgrimage. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus invites his followers to proceed through life as pilgrims. He says, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet. Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus describes himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.” And in an earlier translation of the Catholic Mass, the Eucharistic prayer asked that God would “strengthen in faith and love, your Pilgrim Church on earth.” It seems then that for pilgrims who are believers, life is constant movement of faithful trusting.

This Capstone course will provide seminar members with the opportunity to pause in order to consider how the image of pilgrimage might assist in the interpretation of life as an act of faithful trust. The intention is that this might be accomplished through particular focus upon life experiences occurring before, during, and after matriculation at Boston College—especially regarding one’s engagement with relationships, society, work, and spirituality. We will attempt this through the careful pondering of the pilgrim way of life in order to elicit greater desires for the future journey. What does the pilgrim take for the journey? Especially with regard to committed relationships, how does one discern the type of fellow sojourners desired for companionship? What might it mean for the pilgrim to experience satisfaction and growth through the efforts of labor? How does the pilgrim examine the journey in order to mine it for the great wisdom it contains? These are some of the questions the seminar intends to explore. The seminar will consult texts of fiction, autobiography, business practice, and prayer, along with excerpts from film and music.


Proposed Texts

Herbert Alphonso, S.J., Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning through the Spiritual Exercises

Casey Beaumier, S.J., I Know Why the Kingfisher Catches Fire (unpublished manuscript, publication forthcoming)

Otto Kroeger, Type Talk: The Sixteen Personality Types that Determine How We Live, Love, and Work

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

William A. Barry, S.J., Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer


Course Requirements

Attendance at all seminar gatherings. Each meeting will consist of some brief lecture by the professor, followed by guided discussions that will be facilitated by seminar members.

There will be no exams but there will be writing assignments and accountability for completing weekly readings. The course grade will consist of both these elements and active participation in the seminar. Participation will be determined both by preparation for guiding seminar discussions and contributing to them at each meeting. Writings will center upon five proposed topic themes that the course seeks to address:

Self-knowledge and the emergence of vocational identity.

This topic seeks to facilitate personal reflection upon the experiences of discovery regarding one’s sense of purpose in order to promote deeper understanding of how pilgrimage contributes to the gradual revelation of personal identity. We will study the image of pilgrimage and its attributes in order to better understand the pilgrim experience of preparation, participation, and evaluation.

  • Discovering Your Personal Vocation
  • I Know Why the Kingfisher Catches Fire
  • Into the Wild
  • The Way
Writing Assignment
  • When in the journey of my life have I experienced personal flourishing because of my talents? What have been the significant experiences my college life has provided in terms of self-discovery and self-knowledge? When have I been energized or given purpose by a vision?

Reverence for the fellow sojourners encountered through personal relationships along the way.

Through this topic the course hopes to explore the world of personal relationships. We will consider not only the self-knowledge that comes from understanding the key attributes of one’s own personality but more importantly, the abilities needed to engage more effectively with others. We will study the differences in human personality while considering how these understandings influence the way people foster and maintain the essential long-term and committed relationships of the future.

  • Type Talk
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo
Writing Assignment
  • How would I describe the positive and difficult experiences of my interactions with others, especially those who are significantly different from me? What unsuspected capacities have been released in me by friendship and what qualities do I see in others that have inspired me or aroused my admiration? How have my past relationships helped me to understand the kind of long-term relationship I desire for the future?

Anticipation of future employment and the accompanying experiences of personal growth through one’s work.

Here the course turns to a best seller with regard to corporate America, the intention being to glean insight for upcoming experiences of walking the path of labor and colleagueship. We will consider Collins’ distinctive understanding of the leap one might consider in the move from the good and the great and his insight about the importance of good leadership.

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t
  • The Station Agent
  • Being There
Writing Assignment

In my past, what have I experienced as completely worthwhile that in pursuit of it labor and suffering have been easy to accept and even welcome? As I anticipate my future employment, how might the attributes of professional will and personal humility be of importance for continued motivation in the workplace?

Cultivation of one’s personal mission to contribute to and serve the common good.

In this section of the course we will consider a works of fiction that explores the aspects of discovery, interaction, risk-taking, success, and failure—and the roles that one would expect these would play in the pilgrim’s pursuit of contributing to the common good of humanity. We will study Ignatius Loyola’s insights for discernment and how they enter into personal decision making.

  • The Sparrow
  • Man on Wire
Writing Assignment

What contribution to humanity do I imagine I might make through the gift of my life? What have I learned from my experiences of dealing with moments of failure and success? How has a Jesuit education contributed to my preparation for participating in the pursuit of the greater good for society?

Facilitation of the human spirit of interiority through a life of contemplation in action.

In this theme the seminar will consider the role of contemplation and the value of its presence in everyday life. We will study some practical elements of Ignatian prayer and how the fostering of a spiritual life assists a pilgrim in the pursuit of a fruitful and joyful future.

  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • Praying the Truth
  • Central Station
Writing Assignment
  • How has creation helped me in my desire to experience a deeper interiority? What role does sacred silence play in the way I live my life? In my circle of relationships where do I experience vulnerability and honesty and what has that been like for me?