M.A. Program of Study
The M.A. (Theology) degree is a 42-credit-hour degree comprising classes taken in consecutive summer sessions. Summer M.A. (Theology) students may take courses during the academic year for credit towards their degree. However, no academic-year tuition scholarships will be provided for such work.
Students can only take up to 12 credits away from the main campus. This currently excludes, however courses taken at Tantur, Israel and Tucson, Arizona.
Deadline for Applications to Graduate Admissions
The application deadline as a "Degree Seeking Student" or to "Reactivate" your student status for Summer Session to the M.A. (Theology) degree program is April 15.
To expedite the processing of applications, the online application should be completed and submitted by the above deadline.
Areas of Study
- General Studies
- Biblical Studies (BS)
- Catechesis Studies
- History of Christianity (HC)
- Liturgical Studies (LS)
- Moral Theology (MT)
- Systematic Theology (ST)
- Studies in Spirituality (SS)
|Prerequisites||Area Concentrations (6 total areas)|
Six courses in the area of concentration
|6 credit hours in Theology or Religious Studies||
History of Christianity (HC)
Studies in Spirituality (SS)
Systematic Theology (ST)
Biblical Studies (BS)
Moral Theology (MT)
Liturgical Studies (LS)
|All applicable transcripts||One course in five other areas (15 credits)|
|Three letters of rec. & letter of intent||Three free electives (9 credits)|
|GRE's||Three free electives (9 credits)|
Total credits: 42
The M.A. Comprehensive Exam is the Program's capstone. The exams are designed to allow students to explore specific theological issues in more depth than may have been possible during course work, often also asking the student to apply what they have learned to various contexts. The M.A. exams are based on five topics chosen by the student, in light of hers or his unique theological interests. The topics and their bibliographies are chosen from the standard set of exam topics developed by the summer M.A. faculty in conjunction with the summer curriculum. If you chose to concentrate your studies in one theological area, no more than three topics should be in your area of concentration. If you are a General Studies student, no more than two topics should be in a single theological area of study.
The only exception to this process of developing an exam is the student concentrating in Liturgical Studies. In this instance, the student will choose their exam topics from the Liturgical Studies Bibliography rather than the standard set of topics based on our general M.A. curriculum. For more information, please refer to this topics_for_ma_exam_draft_questions.pdf or e-mail Prof. Michael Driscoll.
Written and Oral Exams
The comprehensive exams themselves are made up of written and oral exams. The student will be asked to answer three of the five questions during the four-hour written exams, given on the Monday of exam week. These written answers will then be distributed to the board, ad will form the basis of the forty-minute oral exam on Wednesday or Thursday of the same week. During the oral exams, questions not answered by the student on the written exams may be addressed, as may be addressed, as may books on the bibliography and courses taken by the student. Evaluation of the student's performance will be made on the basis of both the writte and oral exams.
Your chosen topics & bibliographies must be approved by the area advisor (and/or the Summer M.A. Director) no later than one month before you hope to take the exams. M.A. exams are given in the last week of July each summer. Students must enrolled and registered for a Comprehensive Review class (Theo 68802) during the summer session in which they plan to take their exam. It is a very good idea for students to sit in on the Comprehensive Review class in their are of concentration the summer before they are scheduled to take their exams, to gain a clearer idea of the exam process.
The exam board, to be chosen by the advisor (and/or the M.A. Director), will be made up of two faculty from the area of concentration, and one faculty from another area. Students pursuing the general M.A. degree may have an exam board chosen from three different areas. The student may confidentially choose the inclusion of one member of the board (subject to availability), and the exclusion of one faculty member. Each member of the exam board will submit three questions, framed in light of the five topics proposed by the student, to the area advisor, who will then formulate five questions. You will receive these 5 questions on the day of your written exam, but you will only be asked to write answers to 3 of them, as above.
Consult with your advisor; one course in each of the six areas.
Those needing a more general and flexible program of studies may pursue a general MA, in which the course of study is worked out in consultation with the director of the MA program or an area advisor, with the sole requirement being at least one course in each area of study. This may be of particular interest to those teaching theology in high school who wish to use the summer MA to enhance their effectiveness in teaching a number of different areas.
ECHO students please note: Those participating in the ECHO Program will pursue a general M.A., in consultation with their academic advisor.
The Biblical Studies area focuses on the study of the Bible, in particular the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament and the New Testament. Biblical Studies courses in the M.A. use a variety of methods to help win insights from the texts. All methods, however, including the historical-critical method, are engaged to help inform theological readings of the texts.
The Biblical Studies concentration will help students develop the following competencies:
- A working knowledge of the entire Bible. This should include a basic knowledge of the contents of the Bible and the standard critical theories about the texts, so that students can demonstrate a nuanced yet complex understanding of the Bible, especially with reference to various biblical passages.
- The ability to read the biblical texts through the hermeneutical strategies that are common in Biblical Studies, so that students can explain biblical passages in complex and informed yet straightforward language.
- Students will acquire an awareness of how the texts have been received and understood in the Christian tradition.
- Students will recognize the relevance of the texts for contemporary theological reflection and spirituality, enabling the student to grasp and explain the theological and spiritual import of various texts to particular audiences.
- Students will understand the role and place of biblical studies in official documents of the Roman Catholic Church, so that they can delineate the various ways and contexts in which the Roman Catholic Church emphasizes biblical studies with regard to liturgy, catechesis, ecclesial life and/or higher education and the academy.
While not a concentration in the MA degree program, the MA offers a cluster of courses that focus on catechesis and catechetical study. The cluster of courses aims to offer training for catechetical leaders in the basics of Christian doctrine and to form them in a pedagogy that demonstrates the interest, urgency and relevance of Christian doctrine. Though not exclusively, this formation occurs in the teaching of the doctrine itself. The pedagogy is implied in the doctrine itself and not primarily in an educational theory separate from it (so these courses are not courses in religious education). Teaching the basics of Christian doctrine grants access to the relevance and urgency of the Christian faith as it is being taught, resisting false dichotomies between teaching “doctrine” and showing the “relevance” of Christian faith. These courses attempt to provide adequate training in the basics of Christian doctrine as well as adequate training in the sophistication of theological reflection, so that teaching the basics is the formation of a habit of theological reflection (e.g., not only teach that God created the world, but what it might mean and has meant to say that).
Students who engage courses in Catechetical Studies will have opportunities to develop the following competencies:
- To know and understand the Catholic Church’s doctrinal and catechetical heritage, from the early church to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis, with a thorough grounding in the teaching of the church and its application in and for a variety of settings.
- To demonstrate a high degree of proficiency in articulating fundamental aspects of the Catholic theological tradition, including (a) classical areas of theological inquiry and (b) catechesis in historical and contemporary venues.
- To express a strong content-based, theologically sophisticated pedagogy of the basics of Catholic doctrine concurrent with a high degree of proficiency in articulating theories of catechesis.
- To gain and demonstrate the theological sophistication necessary to know and understand the Catholic faith in order to serve as a theological resource person in a pastoral catechetical setting.
Our Department provides a congenial setting for the study of the history of Christianity in all its rich complexity. The main emphasis of this area is historical theology. The area attempts to study the historical contexts in which particular doctrines developed, recovering the riches of the theological and doctrinal traditions of the Church. A sampling of courses from recent years would include:
Courses on theologies of Aquinas, Augustine, Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, Luther, Nicholas of Cusa, Origen, Julian of Norwich, Rahner, and von Balthasar among others
Eros and Agape, a course addressing the writings of Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross
Courses in major periods of Christian theology
Library holdings are especially strong in the early and medieval periods. Most of the reference and research tools crucial for the investigation of early and medieval Christianity are housed in the Medieval Institute, located on the seventh floor of the Hesburgh Library.
The MA concentration in History of Christianity will provide courses for students to develop the following competencies:
- A sense of both the continuity and the development of Christian doctrine as it has been articulated in specific historical contexts and re-articulated and renewed as contexts and questions shift.
- A working knowledge of historical method and the ability to draw upon historical sources in an informed and theologically sound manner.
- A more specialized acquaintance with at least two major periods in the history of theology (e.g., patristic or medieval periods).
- A cultivated acquaintance for the dynamic ways in which human freedom interacts with the guidance of the Holy Spirit in shaping the Church, and thus a sense of Catholic tradition as both a divine and human reality.
The Liturgical Studies requires 21 credits in liturgical studies, 15 credits in each of the other areas, and six credits free electives, totaling 42 credits.
Liturgical Studies Bibliography <For a copy to print, click here.>
The Liturgical Studies area exists in the Department to advance the study and understanding of the worship life of the Christian Church in its various traditions. The Liturgical Studies area is inspired by the conviction that liturgy is the key to the church’s identity, ethos, and orientation toward God and world. The program integrates three subdisciplines: (1) liturgical history; (2) liturgical theology; (3) ritual studies.
Liturgical history traces the roots and origins of Christian worship practices, the development of liturgical orders, and the diversification of liturgical rites. It studies the progress of rituals, calendars, texts, liturgical laws, devotions, architecture, graphic arts, and music—situating them in reference to cultural communities, historical circumstances, and theological understandings. Historical studies of the liturgy include comparative studies of different worship traditions, Jewish and Christian, Eastern and Western. The studies identify not only what was said and done, but also what was ignored, neglected, avoided, or repressed in the course of time.
Liturgical theology reflects upon the meanings which believers, past and present, have associated with their worship traditions. Thus it studies the whole phenomenon of Christian worship, in both its historical manifestations and its contemporary realizations, attempting to articulate its theological content. In so doing, liturgical theology attends to what Christians believe to be happening in their common prayer and sacraments (sacramental theology) and to the ways in which the worship tradition itself interacts within the broader language of Christian faith and practice (historical and systematic theology).
Ritual studies rest on the premise that liturgy is an event, an act posited by faithful believers. Consequently, ritual studies examine the production of human meaning in liturgical celebration, while attending to the social and cultural contexts in which worship takes place. If liturgical history stresses the diachronic development of rites, ritual studies emphasize the synchronic dimension of worship.
The employment of pertinent research in the human sciences (e.g., anthropology, sociology, psychology) allows for study of ritual engagement in personal and social life—a substratum for a detailed perusal of the liturgical act as a phenomenon in which the various “languages” of worship conspire in ritual enactment. Temporal and spatial languages are treated as the symbolic backdrop for worship. Ritual studies also attend to other ritual languages, e.g., the acoustic, verbal (linguistic and mythic), gestural, aesthetic, and symbolic, as well as their interaction, as significant systems of the communication of meaning.
The liturgical studies concentration attempts to provide students with a grounding in the tasks and methods of each of these three approaches to the study of the liturgy.
The MA concentration in Liturgical Studies will provide courses for students to develop the following competencies:
- A broad working knowledge of the worship life of the Catholic Church in its various traditions, both East and West, this includes knowledge of the liturgical documents of the Roman Catholic Church.
- An acquaintance with the worship life of communions of the Reformation together with a sensitivity toward the issues which ecumenical study of the liturgy raises.
- In liturgical history, the ability to trace the roots and origins of Christian worship practices, the development of liturgical feasts and orders, and the comparative liturgical study of the rites of the diverse Christian traditions of East and West, especially those of the Catholic tradition.
- In liturgical theology, an acquaintance with the major streams of theological reflection on the liturgy, including sacramental theology.
- In ritual studies, an awareness of the way in which liturgy involves the production of human meaning and the social and cultural contexts in which worship takes place.
- The ability to integrate the areas of liturgical history, liturgical theology, and ritual studies.
- Knowledge of how to apply theoretical reflection as specified in numbers 1-5 (above) to pastoral practice.
NOTE THAT THE LITURGY COURSES WILL MOVE TO A TWO-YEAR CYCLE
(If you have questions or concerns about this cycle, please do not hesitate to speak with your academic advisor or the direct of the degree program.)
YEAR ONE (odd numbered years, 2009, 2011, 2013, etc.)
- Liturgical Prayer
- Liturgical History
- Liturgical topic (TBD)
- Liturgical topic (TBD, MSM-SummerSong related)
- Liturgical Theology
YEAR TWO (even numbered years, 2010, 2012, 2014, etc.)
- Ritual Studies
- Christian Initiation
- Liturgical topic (TBD)
- Liturgy topic (TBD, MSM-SummerSong related)
- Liturgical Year
- Liturgy topic (TBD)
Underlined courses are among the seven core liturgical courses. The others are electives dealing with other rites and liturgical topics (e.g. liturgical law, music for the rites, rites of dying, marriage rites, etc.) that are offered as electives on an ad hoc basis. The liturgy topics courses will vary according to the professor. Normally two elective courses are offered each summer.
Each year in the second module first class period, a three-week course will be offered aiming at the MSM students to complete the Sacred Music series (Sacred Music V – contemporary) aiming also at SummerSong and Liturgical Studies students. Topics (e.g. Music for the Rites, Hymnody and Psalmody, Music in Catholic Worship, etc.) will vary according to instructor and curricular needs.
Under normal circumstances, new degree-seeking students in the Liturgical Studies area should plan on attending the first module in their first summer of residence.
Moral theology/Christian ethics is that branch of theological inquiry that studies in a systematic way the practical implications of God’s revelatory intervention in Jesus Christ. It is concerned with the kind of people we ought to be and the kinds of actions we ought to perform or avoid. In pursuing its task, moral theology draws upon every available source of understanding: scripture, tradition, relevant human sciences (such as psychology, sociology, economics), and human reason.
Therefore, any adequate study of moral theology, in elaborating “the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world” (Vatican II, Decree on Priestly Formation, 16), must be not only “thoroughly nourished by scriptural teaching,” but also broadly interdisciplinary. Furthermore, it will take ecumenism seriously because it is clear that what the Spirit works in the hearts of others “can contribute to our own edification” (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, 4).
The MA concentration in Moral Theology will provide courses for students to develop the following competencies:
- An understanding that the Catholic moral life is rooted in our baptismal vocation to Christian discipleship, and that the life and teaching of Jesus Christ remains the model and inspiration of Christian behavior.
- An appreciation for the historical development of Catholic moral theology, with special attention to methodologies, foundational principles and moral norms, biblical sources, the use of reason and natural law, and magisterial teachings.
- A grasp of the major tenets of Catholic moral teaching, with particular attention to those issues predictably faced in contemporary pastoral praxis and to the tradition of Catholic social teaching.
- An ability to explain, represent and interpret the moral teaching and tradition of the Church to others both within and outside the Church.
Systematic theology explores the meaning, interconnectedness, and claims to truth of the Christian tradition’s basic expressions of faith. Thus Systematic theology courses focus on the theological topics of Trinity, Christology, ecclesiology, theological anthropology, eschatology, theological method, philosophical theology, and comparative theology. Courses investigate the historical development of major doctrinal and theological themes and their contemporary interpretation.
The ST concentration aims to provide a broad background in the Christian tradition, with particular emphasis on the Catholic theological heritage. Through course work, students develop hermeneutical and theological skills required for a critical and creative appropriation of the tradition.
Students are encouraged to develop either a minor in one of the other areas of the department or an area of concentration that draws from the resources of several areas of the department and/or University.
The MA concentration in Systematic Theology will provide courses for students to develop the following competencies.
- A high degree of proficiency in articulating the full range and unity of Christian doctrine as delineated in the creedal statements from the ecumenical councils of the first five centuries after Christ, with particular attention to the controversies over the person of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the relationship between nature and grace.
- An ability to recognize broad patterns and themes within the historical development of the Christian faith and the ability to apply methods of historical study to classic texts in the history of Christian theology in order both to understand them on their own terms and to grasp their significance for the church today.
- A growing capacity to analyze operative assumptions within various theological methods so as to evaluate the relative strengths and limitations of viewpoints and arguments having to do with Christian, especially Catholic, doctrine and practice.
- An ability to articulate and evaluate Christian belief and practice in comparison with the beliefs and practices of other World Religions.
The Studies in Spirituality concentration uses the methods and resources of several branches of knowledge and gains focus around two foci: the study of the lives of particular persons or groups of people in their historical context, the lives of persons who lived according to the Holy Spirit, patterned after Christ’s own life, death and resurrection; and, (2) the study of the formulation of a teaching about such lived reality as exemplified in the lives of such particular persons or groups of people (e.g., Scholars identify schools or traditions of spirituality such as Pauline, Johannine, Franciscan, Benedictine, Jesuit, lay, Lutheran, etc.). This concentration provides courses that explore topics related to these two foci, encouraging students to reflect on the fundamental connections between spirituality and theology, including understandings of human identity, of Christian discipleship, of the process of spiritual transformation, and of the nature of holiness, etc.
The MA concentration in Christian spirituality will provide courses for students to develop the following competencies:
- A working knowledge of the contemporary field of Christian spirituality as a theological field of study including its methodologies and its connections to, and dependence upon, biblical studies, systematic and liturgical theology.
- A broad acquaintance with the major schools of spirituality in the Catholic tradition.
- An in-depth knowledge of one major school of spirituality, its pedagogy, literature, and conspicuous practices.
- An appreciation for, and defense of, the nexus between Catholic spirituality and the praxis of social justice.
- An understanding of the creative balance between individual spiritual practice and the communal sacramental life of the Church.