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Spirituality studies conference in Rome

For the first time ever a conference took place in Rome between members of the International Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality and of the Association of Professors of Spiritual Theology in Italy. The conference took place from Sept 25-28.

Over 100 delegates from the USA, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Latin America, the Philippines, South Africa, Africa, Europe, the UK, and Ireland heard papers and discussed the theme of ‘Evolving methodologies in the study of spirituality and spiritual theology’.

All three Irish delegates, Dr Michael O’Sullivan SJ, Dr Bernadette Flanagan PBVM, and Dr Noelia Molina, who are the leadership team of the MA in Applied Spirituality that takes place at Milltown Park, gave papers. Bernadette and Michael, who serve in leadership roles in the International Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, were members of the planning/organising committee.

Michael, in his paper, drew attention to the work of Sandra Schneiders who, he remarked, is “perhaps, the most influential scholar in developing the academic study of Christian spirituality.”

“She speaks of spirituality being about a project of life-integration through self-transcendence towards the horizon of ultimate value we perceive, which for the Christian is the loving God of Christian revelation”.

But Michael pointed out that in his view “this formulation is at the level of description” and that his paper would “move to an explanatory level by getting into the methodology of interior praxis through which self-transcendence travels the path of life-integration towards a horizon of perceived ultimate value”.

He went on to say that he conceived “spirituality studies not in terms of the content of the field, but in terms of how the field is studied. In this view what makes a field of study spirituality study is the foundational depth from which it is studied and the horizon of meaning and value in which it is studied. Authentic subjectivity in common human knowing and choosing meets these criteria”. Michael then developed this position for those present.