Resources for Prospective Students
The M.A. (Theology) degree is a 42-credit-hour degree comprising classes taken in consecutive summer sessions, with various additional off-campus options for courses during the Academic Year. After this course work, the degree is concluded with a Comprehensive Exam. We hope that the resources on this page help you discern whether or not Notre Dame is the right place for your theological studies. If our webpage does not answer all of your questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
Applying to the Program
The application deadline as a "Degree Seeking Student" 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. Students may also apply to start in the Fall (applications due July 15) or in the Spring (applications due by November 15). Still, we strongly encourage degree-seeking students to begin in the Summer. A Fall or Summer start is best suited for students who intend to remain non-degree or who need to acquire the 6 credits of pre-requisites in Theology before becoming degree-seeking. Non-degree seeking students should visit this website for steps to admission, https://summersession.nd.edu/admitted-student-checklist .
Program of Study
Students can choose to either concentrate their studies in one of our six areas of study or to do a General Studies degree. Concentrating in an area requires taking at least 18 credits in the chosen area (see below for a description of each area). The General Studies option allows a student to spread their credits across the areas. When doing either General Studies or Concentrated Studies students must complete the Distribution Requirement. This means students must take at least 1 course in each are of study. The areas of study are as follows:
- General Studies
- Biblical Studies (BS)
- Catechesis Studies
- History of Christianity (HC)
- Liturgical Studies (LS)
- Moral Theology (MT)
- Systematic Theology (ST)
- Studies in Spirituality (SS)
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.