University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Spirituality of the Family

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Pastoral Theology, Liturgy and Canon Law

DESCRIPTION One of the consequences brought about by feminism is the paradigm shift in the understanding of gender relations and non patriarchal family structures. This shift had also an impact on theological reflection and ethical considerations. In fact one can notice in contemporary Christianity an unprecedented interest in the married state and in the spiritual dimension of married and family life. While in Protestant circles, especially in Evangelical Christianity, this interest seems to take the form of counter-reaction to the present radical changes in cultural factors, the Catholic perspective especially through the upholding of the "universal call to holiness" tends to value the nuclear family as a particular sacramental way of living and cultivating Christian discipleship as a sign of the mystery of Christ's bonding with the Church. Pope John Paul II, for example emphasized the social dimension of the family and the nucleus from which a "civilization of love" stems forth.

Starting from the contemporary paradigm shifts and cultural factors the study-unit will analyze the emergence of Christian marital and family spirituality in the context of the historical developments in Christian spirituality, starting at one hand from Jesus' (an the early Christian community's) subversion of one's usual loyalty to the extended patriarchal family relations which were at the basis of the Jewish and Graeco-Roman society to focus on new ties and relationships under the promptings of God's Reign through the choice of virginity (which later developed into monasticism and other forms of consecrated life). On the other hand the study-unit will consider also Jesus' own and the Church's understanding of marriage as forming part of the divine plan for humanity. These two seemingly paradoxical standpoints were brought together in the Middle Ages with the emergence of lay spiritual movements and the canonization of married people and the mystical literature using spousal metaphors. Insights from the fifteenth century Christian humanist movement and the Lutheran and Calvinist Reforms which valued marriage as the ordinary state of Christian discipleship preferred to celibacy will be taken into consideration. The historical overview will place into perspective the present emphasis on the marital and family life practically by all Christian churches and communities.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims at:
1) Demonstrating how the Christian emphasis (or lack of it) in the understanding of the married state and family life were/are in fact conditioned by the surrounding social and cultural factors in an attempt to consciously or unconsciously live the counter cultural aspect (or subversion) of the Gospel values in a given cultural setting;
2) Helping participants to have a more or less clear picture of the development in theological reflection and in lived experience of faith (spirituality) with regards to the married state and family life.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will:
1) be aware of the developments in this are of theology related to Christian life;
2) be aware of the changing cultural factors and paradigm shifts in the way contemporary men and women understand gender relations and how these changes and shifts influence and challenge the traditional understanding of family life;
3) be able to appreciate that the Christian vision and understanding stemmed forth from a counter cultural stand before social norms and constructs;
4) be able to understand how the cultivation of the spiritual life will influence the way one lives the married state and family life.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
1) read the signs of times, especially in the context of the challenges emerging from the radical changes in cultural factors and paradigm shifts;
2) respond critically to both religious and secular fundamentalist approach to the married state and the family;
3) respond creatively in ministry to particular situations and circumstances regarding family life, aided by the insights given through the development of the historical, theological and spiritual reflection on the married state and the family.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Select Bibliography available at the Carmelite Institute Malta.

A bibliographical list will be distributed to participants at the start of the study-unit.

- ANDERSON Kevin, "The seven spiritual practices of marriage. Your guide to creating a deep and lasting love", Monclova/OH 2005.
- DOHERTY William J., "Take back your marriage: sticking together in a world that pulls us apart", New York/NY 2001.
- "Embracing Sexuality", edited by Joseph A. Selling, Aldershot et al. 2001.
- GAILLARDETZ Richard R., "A daring promise. A spirituality of Christian marriage", Missouri/MO 2007.
- "Minding the Spirit: the study of Christian spirituality", edited by Elizabeth A. Dryer – Mark Burrows, Baltimore - London 2005.
- ROBINSON Josephine, "Marriage as gift. A Catholic approach", Boston 2007.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017
The 21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017 will be celebrated on the 5th and 6th December 2017 with two lectures delivered by Rev. Prof. Theodore Dieter.

Closing Date Dissertation Proposals
Deadline to present dissertation proposals for next Faculty Board is Wednesday 29th November 2017 at 1700hrs

Augustinian Institute Academic Year 2017-18

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