Catholic Theological Society of America

Catholic Theological Society of America

Call For Papers

Spirituality Topic Session

Administrative Team:

Patrick Kelly, S.J., Seattle University (Convener)
Simon J. Hendry, S.J., University of Detroit Mercy
Wendy Wright, Creighton University

Convention Theme: Sensus Fidelium

Session Description:
The conference theme of Sensus Fidelium brings the field of spirituality into sharp focus, suggesting a deep connection between theology and the lived experience of faith in a way that gives formidable weight to the lived and reflected upon experience of faith. This has implications for the study of spirituality and its connection with theology. The field of spirituality is a comparatively new field. Not too long ago within the Catholic theological tradition, the moral life and spiritual life were seen as subsets of the theological enterprise. The starting point was theology, and spirituality was studied as a practical example of some aspect of theology. Currently, for the field of spirituality, the starting point is reflection emerging from lived experience, which is then examined from a variety of perspectives (historical, psychological, sociological, literary criticism, biblical studies, practical theological, etc). Normally a paper in this field would lay out its argument in terms of a thick description of experience, a reflective critical analysis of that experience, and a constructive understanding of that experience as is it open to transcendence.

In recent years, in our topic sessions at the annual conference, we have become engrossed in numerous discussions to understand more deeply what the nature of spirituality is (and by implication, the academic field of spirituality) and what spirituality has to say to the theological enterprise. For this topic session, we invite papers that advance this conversation. This may seem a bit abstract for a discipline that focuses on concrete lived experiences, but we think it is time to take the conversation and our understanding to another level.

Therefore, we invite papers that advance the understanding of what we mean when we use the term spirituality and what implications this understanding has for the enterprise of doing theology.

There are a number of ways this could be approached.  For example,

  • One might articulate an experience and offer a reflection on and an analysis of that experience in a way that articulates a unique way of doing theology. 
  • A second possibility might involve a discussion of the question:  How does starting with the lived experience of spirituality and reflection upon it influence theology and the way one does theology? 
  • One might ask if studying "lived experience" gives us access to an individual or group's theology? Does it tell us what aspects of a theological tradition inform a person/group's life?
  • Another approach might be to focus on some of the work already done (for example by Sandra Schneiders, Philip Sheldrake, and others) on the understanding of spirituality and then ask where does the academic study of spirituality “fit” in relation to the current theological world of Catholic theology?
  • One might examine the difference between the approaches of spirituality and classical theology (which proceed from the basic assumptions of a given tradition, e.g., triune God, incarnation, resurrection, etc) along with  their mutual influence on each other. 
  • One might specify the approach in #5 and ask about the difference between spirituality and practical theology (i.e., how a particular theology is lived) or about the relationship between spirituality and pneumatology or ecclesiology.

We envision a lively interchange of ideas.

Proposals should clearly state the topic to be developed in the paper, the approach that will be taken, and the conclusion as currently envisioned.  Instead of an individual paper, you may wish to propose a panel on which three speakers would each speak for about twenty minutes on a common topic.  You may also wish to propose a team of two persons who propose the same topic from two different points of view.  

Submission Guidelines:

  • Proposal should be between 200 and 500 words.
  • You should also include a 100 words précis that will be posted on the CTSA website should your paper be accepted.
  • Include full name and contact information of all participants, including e-mail.
  • Indicate whether your presenters will be requiring A/V equipment. 
  • CTSA guidelines require that those making proposals ordinarily be associate or full members in good standing with their dues paid up.  Anyone with an associate or full membership application on file can also submit a proposal if they expect to be accepted for membership in the upcoming June convention. 
  • No member may present a paper/respond to a paper/participate on a panel more than once at a given convention, with the exception of members of under-represented groups.

Deadline: September 1, 2014.  Please submit proposals as a Word document to: Patrick Kelly, SJ: at
You will be notified by e-mail whether your paper has been accepted by September 14, 2014.