• Undergraduate Program: The Catholic Vision

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    Students who major or minor in Catholic Studies are required to take four core courses: The Search for Happiness, Paths and Practices of Catholic Spirituality, The Church and Culture: Social Dimensions of Catholicism and last, but not least, The Catholic Vision. The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that the Church is universal and therefore contains diversity within unity (1202- 1203), and Pope Benedict XVI reveals in God is Love that the fundamental encounter with the faith is intrinsically relational, both in our relationship with God and our relationships with others. The Catholic Vision course reflects most vividly these two realities of the faith. This course is one of the most popular courses in the department and has been taught by numerous professors over the years, each of whom allows the themes of the course — creation and redemption as the two great works of divine love — to follow varying intellectual paths.

    Dr. Billy Junker, assistant professor of Catholic Studies, is teaching this course for a second year. His reading list reflects the diversity of the course: the Gospel of John, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s homilies on creation, Augustine’s City of God and Shakespeare’s King Lear. He remarks, “Catholic Vision asks students to analytically engage the gifts of creation and redemption from a variety of disciplinary standpoints. The aim is not only to arrive at an understanding of what these gifts are, in so far as it is possible for us to do so, but also to think hard about the implications of creation andredemption for human political and social life, culture, the arts, technology and the natural world.”

    The diversity of the course content and the detailed study accompanying each work, allows for a breadth and depth of study that is not found elsewhere, according to Alexander Rabaey, a sophomore double majoring in Catholic Studies and philosophy. “The Catholic Vision course is unique in the classes I am taking because it is the only one that offers an in-depth perspective on what is going on around me. It allows us to think more deeply about many things that are often just glossed over by many Catholics today. When you are able to do this, it changes the way that you view everything that goes on around you. Catholic Vision is an upbeat class that gives you a helpful perception that you can take with you for the rest of your life. There are things that you have gone over many times with a shallow view, that now I see with a whole new, more beautiful meaning.”

    At the center of the Catholic Vision are the two great works of divine love: creation and redemption. This course considers the implications of these divine works for a radical reconsideration of the world and the human person. Students examine characteristic Catholic approaches to and emphases concerning creation, redemption and ecclesiology, and discuss how Catholic understandings of creation and redemption inform, respond to and critique Catholic practices in various cultural settings. In addition, the course compares and contrasts contemporary Catholic cultural monuments with that produced in earlier eras, and compares and contrasts Catholic Christianity with other forms of Christian and non-Christian belief and practices. In illustrating its themes, the course draws upon sources in art, literature, history, philosophy and theology with special attention given to the intellectual, spiritual and cultural consequences of Catholic doctrine.

    “In the first part of the course we delved into the Gospel of John. We frequently try to escape Dr. Junker’s piercing questions with answers that sound good, but that show we do not yet understand fully. He will not accept those answers. He demands that we place ourselves in the Gospel itself. Dr. Junker asked us one day, “Christ said, ‘the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ What does that mean?!” One of us piped up, “It represents baptism.” “But what does it mean to that woman? What is the spring? Where is it coming from? Where is it going?” Dr. Junker’s class has instilled in us a freshness and newness in the way that each of us prays Lectio Divina outside of class with these words that are truly ever ancient and ever new.”

    Kyle Neterer Senior, Catholic Studies and philosophy majors

    “The Catholic Vision is unique because its purpose is not to teach you anything new about the truths of the Catholic faith but to force you to take what you already know and probe into the deeper meaning and significance of those truths and how they impact all of reality. The course has rekindled in me a sense of wonder for the events of Creation, the Incarnation and Redemption. This has spurred me to venture deeper into these chief mysteries of the faith and radically answer the question, ‘How does the reality of Jesus coming into the world affect the way I live my day-to-day life?’”

    Daniel Sedlacek Senior, Catholic Studies and philosophy majors

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