SP4520 Desire and the Spiritual Life


SP 4520 Spring 2009
Fridays, 9:40 AM-12:30 PM
MUDD 104
Instructors:
Elizabeth Liebert Elizabeth Ford Friend

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Philip Sheldrake writes, "Desire is the heart of all spirituality. It is an energy that powers spirituality but, conversely, spirituality is concerned with how people focus desire." How do we
understand and attend to holy longings? In this course, we will explore various facets of desire through selected biblical, historical, and contemporary texts in order to develop and articulate a spirituality of desire. We will shape insights into models of prayer and practice that can serve the process of discerning and deepening one's relationship with God in parish contexts. This course is a seminar in which students will discuss selected primary and secondary texts, do practices related to the primary texts, and develop materials for ministry settings.

STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES
At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  • craft a working definition of desire as it functions in the spiritual life and support that definition with scholarly sources, demonstrated by written assignments at the beginning and end of the course.
  • evaluate a variety of spiritual practices designed to attend to desire in the spiritual life, demonstrated by class participation and written reflection.
  • work with one figure from the history of spirituality to articulate key elements of his/her experience and to be able to teach that figure in one’s own setting, demonstrated by written assignments, class presentation, and final project.
  • design a spiritual practice suitable for ministry that resonates with that figure’s spiritual experience, demonstrated by class presentation and final project.

TEXTS
(available in the UC Berkeley bookstore and through online sources)
Farley, Wendy. The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.

Sheldrake, Philip. Befriending our Desires, 2nd ed. Toronto: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 2001.
Supplemental texts posted on Moodle.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

  1. Attendance and participation. We expect you to attend class and participate in class discussions and exercises. If you must miss a class, please notify the instructors by email in advance and arrange for a colleague to share notes and collect handouts.
  2. Reading assignments. There will be a series of short reading assignments designed to engage the assigned readings and course concepts at a deeper level. Reading assignments follow a write-to-understand model. Use these informal assignments to dig into the material, raise questions, and record insights. Farley, in particular, is difficult reading, and these assignments are intended to help you negotiate ideas encountered in the material. Bring 1 copy to class.
  3. Spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are an integral part of the course. We will explore a variety of practices that attend to desire. As part of your final paper, you will design a practice for a ministry setting that arises out of your study of a particular figure in the history of Christian spirituality.
  4. Writing assignments leading to final project. Bring 2 copies of each.
    1. Preliminary sketch of your figure (1-2 pages), due Feb 27.
      (Choose a figure. Who is this person? What intrigues you? What role does desire play in this person’s life/writings? What pastoral situation(s) might he/she address? What sources will you use?)
    2. Report on background research (8-10 pages), due April 3.
      (A more in-depth exploration and analysis of the role of desire in the experience of your figure. Think of this as the background research you need to do to prepare an adult education class or weekend retreat. Note details such as historical context, salient experiences in this person’s life, metaphors, themes, quotations, etc.)

  5. Final project.
    1. Draft of final project, posted to Moodle on April 28.
      (Design a 4-session adult education series or 4-part weekend retreat on the role of desire in the life of your figure as it relates to your ministry context. Include

      1. a class outline/retreat schedule
      2. an overview of the program and how the 4 sessions work together, including a description of your ministry context and/or pastoral situations you hope to address
      3. materials for one full session, including your lecture/ presentation notes, handouts, reflection questions, and guidelines for a spiritual practice that relates to your figure (#3 above)
      4. (for the final revision) a brief rationale that explains your decisions.

    2. Presentation. Prepare a 15-minute presentation in which you teach the
      class about desire in the experience of a figure from the history of Christian spirituality. You can do this in any way that you wish. (How would you present the material on a retreat, or in your church or ministry setting?) We encourage imagination and creativity. Feel free to use powerpoint or other materials you would have available in a ministry setting. In class, May 8 or 15.
    3. Final revision of project including rationale, due in class May 15. Bring 2 copies.

  6. Optional journal. While it is not a requirement of the course, we strongly recommend that you keep a journal in which you jot down insights, wonderings, and responses to the material in the course, especially to the spiritual practices. Your responses to the spiritual practices will be helpful as you design a practice for your ministry setting.

All papers submitted in this course should:
  1. Be given a descriptive title that anticipates your particular perspective on the topic. Be imaginative! (Think, effective sermon titles.)
  2. Be double spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides, using Times New Roman 12 point font.
  3. Make reference to the course readings and clearly indicate source and page numbers for all quotations and citations.
  4. Be submitted on time. Late papers will not be accepted, except by prior written approval from the instructors.
  5. Be submitted in 2 copies (#4 above).

EVALUATION
20% class participation, including periodic “reading assignments”
5% preliminary sketch of figure  
20% report on background research
5% definition of desire
20% presentation
30% final project

ACCOMMODATIONS
If you need an accommodation for a disability, please speak with us privately, either after class or during office hours.

COURSE CALENDAR

Week 1 FIRST THINGS: What is Desire?
2/6 Introductions Come prepared to share with the class something you do that nurtures, sustains, or gives life to your spirit. It may be explicitly “spiritual” or not. Pay particular attention to feelings or changes you notice in yourself as you engage in this activity.

The Syllabus and Moodle
The Place of Practice in the Course

Quickwrite & Discussion: What is desire in your experience?

Practice Seeking Your Heart’s Desire

Week 2 THE COMPLEXITY OF DESIRE
2/13 Read Wendy Farley, The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth (Louisville: WKJ, 2005), Preface, Introduction, and ch. 1-2.

Elizabeth Liebert, The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making (Louisville: WJK, 2008), 23-29. (Moodle)

Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality (New York: Doubleday, 1999), ch. 1. (Moodle)

Reading Assignment (Write-to-Understand #1)

Discussion Farley’s context; complexity of desire; the story of bondage Brainstorming figures for individual study.

Practice The Complexity and Ambiguity of Desire

Week 3 THE WOUNDING OF DESIRE 2/20
Read: Farley, ch. 3-5
Selections from the desert fathers and mothers (Moodle)
Reading Assignment

Discussion The passions; the wounding of desire
René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire

Practice: Desert Wisdom and Desire

Week 4 THE HEALING OF DESIRE 2/27
Read: Farley, ch. 6-8
Reading Assignment

Write: Choose a figure for your final project and prepare a preliminary sketch, 1-2 pages (handout)

Discussion The healing of desire

Practice Centering Prayer: The Laying Down of Desires

Week 5 BIBLICAL/THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES I: Psalms of Lament 3/6
Read:
Read three psalms of lament a day for a total of 21 psalms over 7 days, your choice of lament psalms (see Endres and Liebert, p. 237)

John Endres and Elizabeth Liebert, A Retreat with the Psalms: Resources for Personal and Communal Prayer (New York/Mahwah: Paulist, 2001), ch. 1, 3, 4, p. 237 (Moodle)

Belden C. Lane, “Spirituality as the Performance of Desire: Calvin on the World as a Theatre of God’s Glory,” Spiritus 1:1 (2001): 1-30. (Moodle)

Practice: Praying Our Rage:  Longing, Loss, and Lament

Week 6 BIBLICAL/THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES II: Song of Songs 3/13
Read: Song of Songs

J. Cheryl Exum, “Introduction,” Song of Songs, Old Testament Library (Louisville: WJK, 2005), 1-86. (Moodle)

Martin Laird, “The Fountain of His Lips: Desire and Divine Union in Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Song of Songs,” Spiritus 7 (2007): 40-57. (Moodle)

Practice: Lectio Divina

Week 7 DESIRE AND GOD, DESIRE AND PRAYER 3/20
Read: Philip Sheldrake, Befriending our Desires (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2001), ch. 1-3.

Ann and Barry Ulanov, “Prayer and Desire,” in Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer (Louisville: WJK, 1982), ch. 2 (Moodle)

Julian of Norwich, Showings (Long text), Ch. 2, 5, 22, 27, 28, 31, 41-63, 75 (Moodle). Focus on ch. 41-63.

Gillian T. W. Ahlgren, “Julian of Norwich’s Theology of Eros,” Spiritus 5 (2005): 37-53. (Moodle)

Practice: Intercessory Prayer

March 27 Spring Break – no class

Week 8 DESIRE AND SEXUALITY 4/3
Read: Sheldrake, ch. 4

Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, tr. Mark F. Williams, (University of Scranton Press, 1994), Life, Doctrine of Spiritual Friendship, Book 2: 42-56 (Moodle)

Etty: The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum: 1941-1943 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), selections. (Moodle)

Write: Report on background research, 8-10 pages, due today
Bring a prop, as noted in the handout (handout)

Discussion: Small group sharing of background research

Practice: Prayer of Light for the Active Life

Sign up for presentations of final papers May 8 and 15.

April 10 Good Friday – no class

Week 9 DESIRE AND CHOOSING 4/17
Read: Sheldrake, ch. 5

David Lonsdale, Eyes to See, Ears to Hear: An Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990), Ch. 4 (pp. 63-83). (Moodle)

Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #101-126 (How to do Imaginative Contemplation), #169-189 (How to
make a serious choice, or "Election"), #313-336 (Rules for Discernment of Spirits), and the 1536
Letter of Ignatius to Theresa Rejadell, a commentary in a real situation (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letters to Women, ed. and commentary by Hugo Rahner, 329-336) (Moodle)

Practice: Examen

Week 10 DESIRE AND CHANGE 4/24
Read: Sheldrake, ch. 6
Sara Miles, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion (New York: Ballantine, 2007), Prologue, ch. 1, 6, 10-12, 24- 25. (Moodle)

Practice: Pastoral Circle Reflection

Form response groups for peer consultations on final projects.

Week 11 PEER CONSULTATIONS ON FINAL PROJECTS
5/1 Post: Post a draft of your final project on Moodle by Tues, April 28.

Read: Read your group members’ drafts before class, noting your questions and responses. What feedback do you need for your own project?

Bring Your draft and copies of your group members’ drafts (for part 1) Your journal, class notes, resources on desire (for part 2)

In class Part 1: Work on drafts in your response groups.
Part 2: Write a definition of desire

Week 12 DESIRE IN CONTEXT 5/8
Student Presentations I (15 minutes each)
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Week 13 ARTICULATING A SPIRITUALITY OF DESIRE 5/15
Final projects due today
Student presentations II (15 minutes each)
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Wrap-up, evaluation, and celebration!