Through our core courses on Scripture and theology, we seek to arrive at a deeper understanding of the full splendor and deposit of the faith, a deposit that has enlivened Christian hearts and minds for over two millennia. This is undertaken primarily by examining patristic and scholastic writings, Sacred Scripture, magisterial documents, and writings by contemporary thinkers and authors.
The teachers of theology at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts receive the mandatum, an acknowledgment by our bishop “that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is a teacher within the full communion of the Catholic Church.”
For non-Catholic students, this six-semester sequence allows them to gain a thorough understanding of the Catholic teachings in both their historical and contemporary dimensions. Non-Catholic students are encouraged to participate fully in the conversations throughout the sequence, sharing their perspectives freely.
Six courses constitute this sequence and students who complete it (meeting certain criteria) may earn our “Apostolic Catechetical Diploma”:
Freshman Year, fall semester, 3 credits
“God became man that man might become God.” These astounding words of St. Athanasius, repeated so often by the Church Fathers, summarize the great mystery of salvation in Christ. In the Incarnation, the God-man, Jesus Christ, “deified human nature” and by sending the Holy Spirit, he has made the Church the means of deification of every human person.
This course focuses on this Mystery of Salvation as it is believed, celebrated, and experienced in the Church’s mystical life of prayer and the sacraments. Together we seek both a practical and theological understanding of the nature of prayer and the sacraments as the means by which the Holy Spirit bestows the grace of divine life, deepens our personal communion with God, and transforms us into “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pete 1:4). Texts for this course include: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy; Raniero Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans; R. M. French, The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way; and Rev. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship.
Sophomore Year, fall semester, 3 credits
Having explored, last year, the mystery of salvation in Christ as it is experienced in the mystical and sacramental life of the Church, we move now to a study of the mystery as it is professed and believed by the Church. Through this course we will come to know, understand, and appreciate the fundamental truths of the Christian faith as enshrined in the Nicene Creed. This will be accomplished through our broad examination of the context, development, and theology of the basic dogmas of the faith, as well as of the major heresies in response to which the dogmas were defined and proclaimed. Key texts include: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity; and Documents in Early Christian Thought, ed. Wiles and Santer.
Sophomore Year, spring semester, Junior Year, fall semester, 3 credits each
While acknowledging with St. Jerome that “ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ,” we also recognize that knowledge of scripture is critical to understanding most of our Western cultural patrimony. Thus, through this course students enter deeply into God’s self-revelation through Sacred Scripture and chart its development through time by sacred tradition. Particular emphasis will be given to the covenantal and nuptial character revealed by God throughout salvation history and developed to the present day by magisterial teaching. The course will allow for a closer study of key teachings of the Catholic faith, i.e. creation, Fall, redemption, the theology of the body, discipleship, etc., through discussions, lectures, presentations, research, critical assessments, and written analysis. In addition to the direct reading and study of Scripture, key texts include: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the story of Creation and the Fall; The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum; Ignacio de Potterie, The Hour of Jesus; and others.
Junior Year, spring semester, 3 credits
What is our image of complete human flourishing in communion with God and our fellow persons? How can this be achieved? How do we address the claims of moral relativism and is there an alternative that speaks to both reason and faith? In this course students develop answers to these questions rooted in the classical understanding of the human person and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. We will also take up themes intrinsic to a proper understanding of a Catholic moral theology in light of our respective disciplines (through research, critical assessment, and written and oral discussion of topics related to our major fields.) Texts include: Pope Saint John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor; Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On Conscience; Servais Pinckaers, O.P., The Sources of Christian Ethics, and others.
Senior Year, fall semester, 3 credits
Drawing from theological and literary sources, students will develop a richer understanding of what it means to be a human person made in the image and likeness of God (Imago Dei) and to love as Christian persons. Students will also reflect upon the call to holiness and to a communion that both brings us into the life of the Trinity itself and transforms our human relationships. Texts include: C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves; Karol Wojtyla, The Jeweler’s Shop: A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony Passing on Occasion Into a Drama; Pope Saint John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them; Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, and others.
On October 17th, 1983, the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, granted the College permission to award the “Diploma for Religious Instruction.” Today, the College awards its “Apostolic Catechetical Diploma,” independently of the Vatican, to Catholic students who complete the six-semester sequence of theological studies with at least a 2.0 in each course and who pledge to teach Catholic doctrine in communion with the Holy See.