Religious Studies

  • Religious Experience And The Torah
  • The New Testament And Sacraments Of Initiation
  • Church History
  • Christian Ethics
  • Systematic Theology
  • Bioethics
  • Social Ethics of War and Peace
  • The Ignatian Way
  • Native American Spirituality


REL 101 - Religious Experience and the Torah

The curriculum is divided into four components: world religions, overview of Catholicism and Ignatian spirituality, Hebrew Scriptures and human sexuality. To address the freshman’s rapid emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth, the course begins with an investigation of the nature of religion, especially as a universal phenomenon in all cultures, then continues with a survey of the world’s major religions, including a review of key Catholic doctrines. Students will also be introduced to key points of Ignatian spirituality to prepare them for the Sophomore Conversation, a program of service and reflection on the five characteristics of the “Graduate at graduation” conducted in sophomore year. Focusing on the first five books, the Hebrew Scriptures will be studied from the perspective of modern biblical scholarship and will introduce students to a mature awareness of divine revelation and the role of scripture in shaping a contemporary image of God as a compassionate Father. The final component addresses the maturing adolescent’s sexual identity in an attempt to complement earlier education in the home and at school and treats both physical and moral issues.

Prerequisite: None    

REL 201 - The New Testament And Sacraments Of Initiation

Sophomore students continue their study of divine revelation by focusing on the Christian scriptures as an outgrowth of the early Christian community’s experience of God in Jesus. Using available secular, historical, and linguistic scholarship, students will study the essential underlying message contained in the Christian scriptures in an attempt to deepen each student’s spirituality by placing him in the presence of the biblical Jesus as he was viewed by the early Christian community. In addition to these written records of the Christian message, students will also consider the Christian community’s rituals of worship, the sacraments, focusing on the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The sacraments will be viewed as personal encounters with Christ as well as institutional rituals that have developed over the course of the church’s history. Elements of Hebrew wisdom and prophetic literature will also be introduced in the context of Jesus’ teaching and mission.

REL 301 - Church History

Students will develop a mature sense of the history, evolution and continuity of the Roman Catholic Church as a community of believers in Jesus and His way of life. In addition to institutional changes in the church’s history, major theological developments which have affected the life, beliefs and ritual practices of Catholics are considered, including special challenges faced by the church, both internally and in its relation to the world. The course is intended to help students locate their roots in the Christian community, give them a sense of how the church came into being as an institution, and help them appreciate the role of the church in shaping today’s world.

REL 302 - Christian Ethics

Students will examine the process of Catholic Christian moral decision-making. Topics will include the methods of decision-making, Christian principles derived from Scripture and tradition, conscience, sin, and Jesus as the model of moral behavior. These concepts will be applied to specific areas of moral concern including bioethical and sexual issues, with a major concentration on social justice issues such as poverty, capital punishment, business ethics, the environment, discrimination and warfare.

REL 401 - Systematic Theology - 1/2 Credit

This course examines and explains fundamental Catholic beliefs, their origin, meaning and purpose. Special attention is paid to the developmental character of these beliefs and the need for a personal response by each student.

REL 403 - Bioethics - 1/2 Credit

Within the context of the Roman Catholic moral tradition, students will examine contemporary medical-moral issues, especially as they impact both the student’s life and society at large. In addition to shaping informed and responsible personal conclusions, social policies will also be evaluated. Early in the course, students will acquire an understanding of key concepts necessary for analyzing issues clearly and comprehensively. Issues treated include abortion, treatment of handicapped infants, death and the dying process (including physician-assisted, or rational, suicide), care for the elderly, organ transplants, genetic engineering/reproductive technologies, and health care reform. A final theme will be holistic health care and the internal, natural capacity for self-healing.

Prerequisite: None

REL 404 - Ethics of War and Peace - 1/2 Credit

This course will utilize the insights of depth psychology, spirituality and social ethics to grapple with the fascination and fear regarding the warrior within each of us. How can this inner Warrior be directed to assist the person in the human journey without destroying oneself or others? Once this internal investigation takes place, then the ethical examination regarding the role of the warrior in society is discussed. This course will focus upon the Roman Catholic ethical tradition which includes the teachings on pacifism, just war and holy war. Films, case studies and current events will be used to highlight the role of conscientious decision making. The student will be challenged to personally reflect and apply course material to his own life journey. The practice of Mindfulness will be integrated into the course to assist the students in developing a greater sense of inner calm and compassionate listening needed to negotiate the inevitable demands of this complex world.

REL 407 - The Ignatian Way - 1/2 Credit

This course seeks to provide students with an intellectual awareness, heart-felt sense, and personal experience of the various facets of the Ignatian charism. It proposes a way of life that is learned primarily through practice. The course covers the life of Ignatius of Loyola, the graces and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, the gathering of the First Companions and the founding of the Society of Jesus, early and contemporary expressions of the Society’s apostolic mission, the lives of notable Jesuits (Francis Xavier, Mateo Ricci, Roch Gonzalez, Walter Ciszek, Ignacio Ellacuría, Karl Rahner, and Pedro Arrupe), and various themes associated with Ignatian Spirituality.

REL 408 - Native American Spirituality - 1/2 Credit

In this course, students are introduced to the spirituality, culture and history of Native Americans with a focus on the Lakota nation. Major elements of Lakota religion will be compared to aspects of Catholicism. Students will examine the Lakota view of God, creation stories, and other myths and rituals. Issues of justice in relation to Indian reservation life will also be analyzed through the lens of Catholic social teaching. As part of the class experience, students have the opportunity to attend an, optional, eight-day immersion trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservations, at which students will participate in Lakota ceremonies and community service, visit historical sites and hear from residents of the reservation. The trip is limited to 12 students who enrolled in, and completed, the class. Those seeking to attend the trip must go through the application and be formally accepted.

St. Joseph's Preparatory School
1733 West Girard Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130
tel: 215.978.1950
fax: 215.765.1710
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