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Evaluation as pedagogy: models of theological and pastoral formation.

This essay proposes that there is one process but many points of departure for religious education. Each point of departure requires its own construct to facilitate learning. The constructs presented are Bloom's taxonomy of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain, Groome's "shared Christian praxis," the lectio divina, the Ignatian rules of discernment, and the method in ministry of the Whiteheads. The theory proposed found validation in the task of evaluating written assignments of the candidates to the permanent diaconate of an archdiocese.


This essay is both a narrative and an exercise in theorizing on one process but many points of departure for religious education. As a narrative, it outlines its originating context. As an exercise in theorizing, it not only presupposes Lonergan's (1972/1979) precepts of be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible, but also proposes that these precepts underlie some existing pedagogical constructs that fit certain starting points for religious education. If one were to start with a doctrinal text, one can employ Bloom's taxonomy of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain (Anderson & Sosniak, 1994). The construct developed by Groome (1991) itemizes adequately the steps of the process that begin with human experience. The ancient way of the lectio divina demonstrates how to proceed when beginning with a Scriptural text (McGinn, 1994). The Ignatian rules of discernment are an effective pedagogy for moral decision-making (Cowan & Futrell, 1993). The method in ministry of Whitehead and Whitehead (1995) best serves reflection in the aftermath of and subsequent return to praxis.

Intuitively discerned, this theory of one process but many points of departure in religious education was validated in a multifaceted way, the details of which will form the narrative matrix of the essay. The theorizing will summarize Lonergan's precepts, elaborate on the constructs, and articulate their catechetical value.


Written assignments of the candidates of the diaconate program of an archdiocese needed an evaluation rubric that covered the four components of formation: academic, spiritual, pastoral, and human. The rubric should demonstrate that both theory and practice require each other, and that one leads to the other. Numerical (e.g., 85, 90, or 70) or alphabetical marks (e.g., B-, C, or A) were considered not only unhelpful, but also ineffective in fostering an integrated formation process.

A year before the official launching of the Diploma in Theological Studies for Permanent Deacons, the rubric for evaluation--an adaptation of Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives in the cognitive domain--was field tested with a group of candidates and their wives. Bloom's construct identified six levels of knowing--data recall toward understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These levels reinforced the conviction that it was not enough to merely know facts (data recall) and what they mean (understanding). These facts should also be related to previous or analogous knowledge (application), sorted out in their many dimensions and implications (analysis), and integrated into a larger scheme (synthesis), so that as a whole, knowledge might enable judgments about questions of value (evaluation). In the adapted form, the last level had been tweaked and renamed as recognition and living out of value (of the True, the Good and/or the Beautiful), in order to push the thought process toward actual praxis in ministry, prayer, worship, and personal growth.

Frequently, professors were interested only in evaluating a student's understanding or ability to analyze and synthesize knowledge. Adult students, on the other hand, tended to settle for their own opinions or homegrown wisdom. There were not only gaps between understanding and analysis, or analysis and recognition and living out of a value, but also compartmentalization of knowledge. There was a failure to establish a coherent and consistent relationship among the four components of deacon formation. Each component seemed to proceed on its own trajectory, and worse still, the academic seemed to be held incommunicado from the rest of the formation process.

For a whole year, after a series of lecture sessions from different professors, the candidates submitted assignments, which were marked according to the rubric. The first experience of being evaluated thus was mildly unpleasant for most of them. To be told further that, for example, they had not really answered the question posed but instead had gone on their own tangent, or that they had only elaborated on their opinions, was even harder to take. The emotional effect of the rubric clouded the possible perception of it as cogent, coherent, consistent, and adequate. In hindsight, it was realized that the rubric should have been "sold" not only to the candidates, but also to the incoming class, the official candidates of the Diploma in Theological Studies.

It was important to demonstrate that Bloom's construct--either in the original or adapted form--was not some theory that only existed in the rarefied academic realm. So in one meeting, the candidates and the incoming class, guided by a series of questions, brainstormed on what they understood by the term, deacon. They proceeded to identify in what other familiar situations the synonyms for deacon also operated. Furthermore, they reflected on how the Church's understanding was significantly different and why. From such difference, they were to draw implications for their personal, spiritual, and practical life. Lastly, they were asked to articulate how such implications would be demonstrated concretely.

Their discrete answers were written on a blackboard. When demarcated according to Bloom's taxonomy, they recognized the steps specified in the rubric. It dawned on them that the rubric was not imposed to make their lives miserable but to train them to think through from theory to practice. The natural flow underpinning Bloom's construct arose from the procedures of the human mind that Lonergan had itemized and used as basis for the precepts, be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible. Subjecting themselves to the rigors of the rubric could become in itself a learning experience. They could learn to prepare future assignments within its framework. Furthermore, they could even train themselves always to proceed in such a manner once in actual ministry. Evaluation became pedagogy.

After a time, the assignments became more thorough. What remained still to be done was to convince the professors to be more assiduous in factoring the six levels of knowing in their questions. This had never become more urgent until one professor assigned the candidates to craft a homily for an interfaith marriage. It was presumed that the candidates knew how to write one. Without parameters or guidelines, the candidates did what they could. It was obvious that the homilies were unconsciously patterned after what they had been exposed to in their respective parishes. Only to a certain degree were the homilies a reflection of their own temperaments or level of religious education. Some of the candidates did manifest an instinct for a good homily. Others prepared lectures. Others still prepared grave moral exhortations. How was one to evaluate them objectively?

The point of departure a candidate used for the homily--the doctrine about marriage in the Catholic tradition, the Scriptural readings, or the presence of the couple and the gathered community in the wedding event--called for constructs other than Bloom's. These constructs differed from Bloom's and from each other in their point of departure, in their focus of attentiveness. Of course, homilies that began with doctrine were evaluated using Bloom's construct. Those that began with the Scriptural readings were evaluated using the lectio divina. Those that focused on the wedding event at hand were evaluated using the "shared Christian praxis" developed by Groome (1991). Though different in starting point, these constructs had Lonergan's precepts as underlying principle.


Lonergan's precepts--be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible--iterate the process of knowing in general, and religiously in particular. Although Lonergan adds a fifth precept, be in love, he also admits that it is there as a "horizon that direct[s] one's life" (1972/1979, pp. 32-33). Love is already in one's attending, thinking, judging, and acting, even if it is also true that being in love becomes deeper and more deliberate responsibility in the aftermath of being attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible. To be in love with God is the precondition not only for the possibility of a religious education, but also, for Christian being and existence. Therefore, religious conversion, though deepened further by intellectual and moral conversion, is already nascent in the process of religious education, and need not be posited as a step that only occurs after moral conversion.

Lonergan draws the precepts from his analysis of the procedures of the human mind. These procedures are "seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, inquiring, understanding, conceiving, formulating, reflecting, marshalling and weighing the evidence, judging, deliberating, evaluating, deciding, speaking, writing" (1972/1979, p. 6). The first five on the list are of course the sensory operations, the fundamentally human contact with reality out there--what one sees, hears, touches, smells, and tastes. One then processes what comes to the senses, and asks what, why, and how come. One conceptualizes and names the experience. These constitute the next four operations on the list. Furthermore, these experiences are pondered over, thus involving the next five operations. One asks whether or not what one thinks is the case really is the case. One reflects, judges, deliberates, and evaluates, and subsequently either affirms or negates what in fact is the case. The affirmation or negation translates into concrete responsible/irresponsible action or inaction. Lonergan, like a true academic, then lists deciding, speaking, and writing as expressions of responsible action. Realistically speaking though, the full sweep of knowing does not end with mere speaking and writing, but with fully living its implications in one's life.

Lonergan (1972/1979) also claims that the operations (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, inquiring, understanding, conceiving, formulating, reflecting, marshalling and weighing the evidence, judging, deliberating, evaluating, deciding, speaking, writing) are self-transcending, in that they move one beyond what is given to the senses to what they mean, to what indeed may be the case, toward being claimed by a sense of responsibility.
 So intelligence takes us beyond experiencing to ask what and why
 and how and what for. Reasonableness takes us beyond the answers of
 intelligence to ask whether the answers are true and whether what
 they mean really is so. Responsibility goes beyond fact and desire
 and possibility to discern between what truly is good and what only
 apparently is good. (Lonergan, 1972/1979, p. 11)

Claiming that there is a natural flow in the movement from attentiveness, to intelligence, reasonableness, and responsibility, does not at all imply that it is automatic. Though it is the very nature of human consciousness to intend these operations, one can actually deny, stall, or manipulate them. One can choose to be inattentive, stupid, unreasonable, and irresponsible (Lonergan, 1972/1979). One, therefore, has to exert effort to make these operations a matter of intellectual, moral, and religious habit.

Taken together, then, the precepts become not only the fundamental method of knowing, but also the fundamental imperative of human existence. Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible are normative. Defying them, one risks missing out on what is given as data. One risks stupidity, unreasonableness, and irresponsibility. The precepts form a pattern that constitutes a logical step-by-step method from beginning to end. One can only be responsible for what is reasonable. One can only be reasonable with what is intelligible. One can only be intelligent about what one perceives. Each cluster of operations presupposes the previous and anticipates what follows. Each cluster of operations carries the reality over into the next set, such that at the end, the reality perceived becomes greater than merely empirical, intellectual, or rational. The pattern is not linear but spirals toward increasingly comprehensive knowledge. Full knowledge is at once empirical, intellectual, rational, and responsible.


Bloom's (Anderson & Sosniak, 1994) construct starts not with a sensory experience, but with factual data. The same requirement of attentiveness still obtains. With one's self thus focused on a concept, one then proceeds to inquire and to understand, and subsequently to conceive and formulate one's understanding. Bloom's levels 2 and 3 (understanding and application) fulfill the precept, be intelligent. Reasonableness results from further reflection, marshalling and weighing of evidence, judgment, and deliberation. Levels 4 and 5 (analysis and synthesis) heed the precept, be reasonable. Level 6 (recognition and living out of value) fulfills the precept, be responsible.

In a teaching-learning event, the teachers assume the responsibility of providing information or opportunities for data recall (Level 1). Then, they offer possibilities for explaining the information or data recalled (Level 2), which calls for opportunities to relate the data with previous knowledge that the learners already have (Level 3). Within a certain framework, both teachers and learners will analyze the newly acquired information further (Level 4). The synthesis (Level 5) encompasses the first four levels of knowing in a broader and deeper perspective so that the learners may demonstrate learning through some agreed upon concrete action (Level 6).

Of course, demonstration of learning does not only occur at the end, but at each move from one level to the next. Learners, in response to the identified teacher activity, will have to demonstrate the ability to take in information or to recall data (Level 1); to elaborate factual information (Level 2); to associate new information with previously known concepts, ideas, or experience (Level 3); to further subject newly acquired information to analysis (Level 4); to place newly acquired knowledge within a larger perspective (Level 5); and, to use newly found knowledge in practical life--in pastoral application, reflection, or prayer (Level 6).

Bloom's construct is not always congenial to other possible subject matter that merits attention. A Scriptural text, for instance, cannot be treated like objectified data from a cold and distant perspective, even if exegetes may claim they can do so. The same can be said of a gathered community whose very presence impels one not only to acknowledge the multifaceted meanings they invest into an event, but also to be oneself an active participant therein. That a Scriptural text calls for the lectio divina, on the one hand, and that the theological reflection on human experience demands Groome's construct, on the other, may seem obvious. Taking them together as part of the proposed theory of one process but many points of departure for religious education is the synaptic connection that this essay seeks to render intelligible and reasonable.


The lectio divina is an ancient way of praying Scripture. It creates a particular psychological, mental, affective, and spiritual, even physical framework that makes Scripture not merely one text among many, but a privileged place for encountering the Word of God. Within this dialogical matrix, though one reads the text, one is actually called to listen as well. Though one is apparently active, one is equally receptive.

As a disciplined way of praying Scripture, the lectio divina positions the "prayer--er" toward communion with God. Within the lectio divina, one is attentive to the Biblical text in its literal and spiritual meaning (lectio). Aided by exegesis one meditates upon or makes the text intelligible (meditatio). One responds to the proclaimed text in the oratio. Then one attempts to make oneself as wholly present as possible to the presence of God that is mediated by the Scriptural text (contemplatio). It is presumed that in authentic prayer, the outflow manifests concretely in one's life.

This dialogue with the Scriptural text is, therefore, a process of communication with God. One believes in the revelatory power of Scripture so that as one prays, one is also before the presence of God. God's presence is the basis for Scripture's reasonableness, from which then flows a sense of responsibility to act as prayer inspires or challenges.

The lectio divina offers a good basis for evaluating a homily because its very natural flow facilitates the recognition that in human words, the Word not only speaks but also makes himself present in the here and now. It is the task of the homilist to mediate this presence so that as the homilist speaks, the community may apprehend the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit. The homily moves from proclamation to rumination toward that point, when after everything is said, the gathered community can indeed contemplate the deeper reality of God's presence. In the liturgical context, the homily is an extension of the proclamation of the Word of God. The homilist has the task to break the Word open so that, like the Eucharistic bread, the Word can be chewed, ruminated upon, and savored.

Perhaps part of the residue of religious mis-education in the Roman Catholic tradition manifests itself in first, the inability to make use of even a minimum of what exegetical scholarship can already offer homilists, and second, the tendency to gravely moralize without providing the benefit of the Good News that God has loved us first and because of that our "righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees" (Mt. 5:20). Cast against the lectio divina-based rubric, some candidates' homilies did betray lack of intelligence. Worse still, some homilies bypassed both intelligence and reasonableness, and pounded on the last precept, be responsible. Deeply ingrained in the Catholic religious psyche is a theology of a God who wills high ideals that are very difficult to meet, while dangling the carrot of heaven and raising the stick of hell. It has not been ingrained deep down in the soul's marrow that God has already saved us in Jesus and that through, with, and in Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to live as the new creation right here and now. Indeed it does need to be underscored what Lonergan himself has conceded that the love of God is there as the "horizon that direct[s] one's life" (1972/1979, pp. 32-33).

The lectio divina presumes that the one who prays is surrounded by grace, and in prayer, one is in conversation with God-who-is-there. In the back and forth dialogical move of meditatio and oratio, the one who prays reaches a point when all words recede and one is simply there before the presence of God. Contemplatio is simply being there before God, while God-whois-there, mediated by the biblical text and by the prayer exercise of attentiveness and intelligence, becomes the very source of reasonableness for the insights that occur in prayer and for the courage to live as the insights impel. Only then can one assume responsibility.

Though encountered as a rubric for evaluation, the lectio divina educates the candidates not only to heed Lonergan's precepts, but also to consider re-shifting their implied theology in order to make it more salvific for themselves and also for those they will minister. As well, approaching Scripture through the lectio divina is an education in biblical imagination because one learns to inhabit the imageries of Scripture and actually lives from within them. One does not just read or listen to Scripture proclaimed, one also responds to the invitation inherent in the proclamation. One will begin to behold the reality of the presence of God in one's midst. God is God. Grace is grace. Beatitude is beatitude. These are not empty words but are reliable referents to substantial reality. They reveal the presence of God.

Not merely an evaluative tool, but also a framework for religious education, the lectio divina enables any teacher to assume leadership in the process of Scriptural reflection. The teacher ministers not only to the learners but also to the Scriptural text and more importantly to the religious world that Scripture proclaims. Mediated in the lectio divina, the world of Scripture enables the learners to regard their here-and-now reality in a new light. It is the same reality but informed much more deeply by Scripture.

Teacher activity may then involve a creation of the proper prayerful environment within which the learners can listen to the Word of God (readings and readers are chosen beforehand). The teacher then provides guides for meditation including relevant exegetical information about the text and involves the learners in sharing their meditation. After the group sharing, the teacher may then provide guidelines for a communal response to God's Word through recitation or singing of psalms, or free flowing shared prayer of the faithful, after which, some space, time, and appropriate guidelines can be given so that as a class, everyone may gradually move into silent communion with God. To properly close the lectio divina, the teacher may invite the class qua praying community to sing some concluding song that inspires active ministry.

The corresponding learner activity in each crucial move of the lectio divina may involve assuming the external and internal disposition of prayer and prayerful listening or reading of a Scripture; reflecting and sharing about the Word of God based on given guidelines; participating in the communal recitation or singing of a responsorial psalm, or prayer of the faithful; submitting themselves to the invitation to prayerful silence as well as to ministry according to their individual capacity.


Groome (1991) developed a process of religious education, which he called "shared Christian praxis" (p. 135). It has worked well as a framework for evaluation. The homilies that began with words of welcome to the couple to be wed and their families and friends named the "present praxis" (p. 146) as a celebration of love in Christ. Groome's construct begins with just that--a focusing activity (e.g., a wedding, which becomes the subject of attentiveness, and which must be properly named). Naming present action constitutes movement 1 of Groome's shared Christian praxis. Imagine how the homiletic mood changes according to the point of departure--how a homily that begins with the Church doctrine on the sacrament of matrimony is different from one that reflects on the Gospel, or from one that acknowledges the joyful occasion that gathers a community together. This is not to say that only one point of departure is the most appropriate. Rather, this indicates that points of departure dictate their own respective terms, but that Lonergan's precepts need to be followed, nevertheless.

Movement 2 is "critical reflection on present action" (Groome, 1991, p. 147), which, in Lonergan's framework extends the task of intelligibility, and which, in the homily, allows the homilist to echo to the gathered community its shared understanding of the event at hand. Movement 3 is "making accessible Christian story and vision" (p. 147), that is, the moment to relate the occasion with the Scriptural readings of the rite. Movement 4 is "dialectical hermeneutics to appropriate Christian story and vision" (p. 147), where the homilist attempts not only to break the Word of God open to the gathered community but also to bring the community in contact with the Word who is God. Movement 5 is "decision/response to lived Christian faith" (p. 148), and the homiletic context can be brought about through exhortation, encouragement, or blessing.

It is not difficult to discern that Lonergan's precepts inform Groome's construct as well. Groome presupposes that any focusing activity enables analysis of the human situation so that existential issues may be uncovered. Once articulated as key to a meaningful human life, the Christian message can then be proclaimed as its response, corrective or deepening. In order to come to the fore, consciousness of these issues more often than not requires a certain mood or disposition or stimulus. In a teaching-learning event, learners need to be provided with some concrete basis for such a realization. They not only need to be attentive but also to be intelligent about the matter at hand. Then, in the light of Christian revelation, religious education proceeds into demonstrating that the Christian message has a more penetrating response to the shared human condition. After a back-and-forth dialogue between existential issue and Christian response, there emerges the possibility of decision to live Christian faith.


The constructs employed to evaluate the candidates' assignments demonstrate first that there is a logical flow from theory to practice; and, second, that there is one process but many points of departure for religious education. These constructs, therefore, are not only evaluative, but are also pedagogical tools that will guide any religious educator in the teaching-learning event. In whatever point of departure--factual data, Scriptural text, human experience--one process works. Furthermore, the variables that are key to religious education--human experience, Scripture, tradition, doctrine, transfer of learning in ministry, self-integration, prayer, and worship--are all woven in the concrete application of the constructs. In fact, the constructs require that the inherent connection of these variables be worked through deliberately. Religious education is not merely reflecting on human experience, nor is it merely an abstract exposition of doctrine. It is neither enough to motivate people to perform pre-determined acts of justice or piety nor is it enough to mouth Church doctrines or quote Scriptural passages. Integration of these variables is necessary.

Within the context of the deacon formation program, the adaptation and adoption of Bloom, Groome, and the lectio divina need not be of use only for the academic component of their formation. These constructs can be applied as well in the facilitation and evaluation of the other components of their purportedly holistic formation program.


The effectiveness of the candidates' pastoral formation is tested in how well they respond to issues and predicaments while in active ministry. Aside from Groome's construct that requires attentiveness to a concrete experience, the Ignatian rules of discernment are also helpful in providing the steps of decision making to enable the move from a moral predicament toward responsible action. First, recognize within the predicament itself, which of the interior movements orient one toward God and which orient one away from God. Know that consolation is interior peace, spiritual joy, hope, faith, love, tears, and lifting of the mind to God; that desolation is conflict, sadness, attraction to base things, lack of love, distractedness, and lack of trust. Never make a decision when in desolation and take practical measures to open, against desolation, to the gift of consolation. Recognize the root cause of desolation--one's own fault; one's inability to seek God for God's own sake; one's failure to surrender to God by self-emptying. Remind oneself that consolation is a gift from God and humbly accept it. Detect the orientation of consolation. Does it draw one toward God or away from God? Second, reflect carefully on the whole progression of one's thoughts: how they begin, how they proceed, and where they finally lead. Third, recognize the affective experience at the heart of being drawn wholly to the love of God passively and gratuitously. Furthermore, form a profound affective attitude of love for the Church, an ecclesial mentality to be in union with the Church, so that one may hold oneself ready to seek reasons to support rather than to attack (Cowan & Futrell, 1993). It is presumed that one will know the best course of action to take in the aftermath of these rigorous deliberations.

Underlying the rules is still Lonergan's be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible. Though the Ignatian rules of discernment and Groome's construct are similar in approach, the former has an advantage over the latter in that the Ignatian rules of discernment presuppose that a moral predicament has an inherent religious dimension right at the outset. One must already be aware of the stirrings of grace when being confronted with a moral problem. One has to be attentive to feelings of consolation or desolation. One needs to appropriately name the issue at hand. One needs to know what constitutes consolation or desolation. The intelligence required is not only conceptual or intellectual, but is also affective and spiritual. One is called to be humble before the gift of consolation, as well as to be prudent in arriving at a decision. While rushed decisions may be expedient, they may well be wrong. One is open to a full range of feelings and emotions because these signal the presence of consolation and desolation. Wrestling with the moral issue becomes a prayer event because one is called to lean toward grace, toward the guidance of Church teachings. Church teachings become signposts of reasonableness. The decision one makes is at bottom not only a resolution of a particular moral predicament, but is also a response to God's call of discipleship heard at the heart of prayer.

One grows in one's capacity to make decisions as the circumstances of life become increasingly complicated. Like faith development, moral development goes through stages, but the process of decision making remains the same. While issues may become more complex, and perspectives harder to define categorically, depending on the readiness of the moral person--a child or an adult--the same process is at work.

Made workable in a teaching-learning event, the rules of discernment require that the teacher create a prayerful environment within which the learners can practice moral decision making on a problem that is relevant to their age. The teacher will have to provide guide questions to assist the learners in coming to an accurate definition of the problem at hand as well as to recognize signs of consolation and desolation. In the process, the learners are also assisted in identifying unhelpful attitudes and courses of action that may be tempting but not helpful in the long run. With adequate guidance the learners are also enabled to identify relevant Biblical situations and Church teachings that may uncover the call to discipleship that is embedded in the issue they are facing. The teacher will allow the learners that space of freedom within which they come to a right decision, according to which, the teacher hopes, the learners will act.

Learner activity will involve placing the process of moral decision making within the context of prayer; attempting to accurately name the real issue at hand while also naming unhelpful strategies that cut short the process of discernment; reflecting on relevant Biblical situations and Church teachings to recognize a deeper call to discipleship that may be borne by the moral predicament; and, claiming the freedom to come to a decision and to act accordingly.


Since learning is proven in praxis, it follows that there should also be a religious education that derives from and returns to praxis. Praxis is a "purposeful human activity that holds in dialectical unity both theory and practice, critical reflection and historical engagement" (Groome, 1991, p. 136). Though seemingly an adult form of ministry, the quality of Christian praxis can be adjusted to the psychological readiness of any believer.

Christian praxis or ministry follows the dynamic of action-reflection-action. Engagement in some form of ministry becomes the subject matter of reflection. Reflection results in deepened and more committed engagement in ministry. Reflection is an act of uncovering all the unrecognized presuppositions that have influenced action. It is discovering implications and possibilities inherent in action as well as in dialogue with the Christian tradition. It is recovering the original intent and courage to continue in ministry. The return to ministry ideally will be imbued with more hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom.

Religious education, then, can begin not only with factual data, a Scriptural text, human experience, or a moral predicament, but also with an exposure to ministry. Though there are many models of reflection on praxis, this essay chooses the Whitehead and Whitehead (1995) method in ministry to demonstrate the process. The Whitehead and Whitehead construct considers the following questions as key: What is my experience of ministry? What has been its impact on the people to whom I minister? How does the Christian tradition respond to my pastoral concern? It then offers a three-stage method--attending, assertion, and pastoral response. Attending is listening critically, while suspending judgment. Assertion brings the perspectives gathered from personal experience, Christian tradition, and cultural resources into a lively dialogue of mutual clarification in order to expand and enrich religious insight. Assertion implies taking the courage to share one's convictions and the willingness to be challenged. Pastoral response involves moving from discussion and insight to decision and action, which includes the discernment of how to respond, planning what to do, and evaluating what has been done.

Placed in the hands of the teacher, Whitehead and Whitehead's (1995) construct requires that the teacher offers guidelines to assist learners in articulating the feelings, difficulties, challenges, questions, and concerns brought about by their experience of concrete ministry. Then the teacher facilitates the drawing out of key insights and lessons learned from the experience of ministry and by so doing, the teacher also assists learners in finding from Scripture, the teachings of the Church, or theological treatises some perspective that may critique, affirm, or deepen their insights so that the learners may be able to arrive at conclusions and resolutions. The teacher may then position the learners to return to ministry informed and transformed by their reflection.

Correspondingly, the learners will have to articulate feelings, difficulties, challenges, questions, and concerns encountered in ministry and from there draw out underlying issues these may imply. They actively engage in dialogue with Scripture, teachings of the Church, and reflections of theologians so that their understanding may deepen and their motivation to continue in ministry be made stronger. They return to ministry informed by the preceding reflection.


The different constructs discussed above fundamentally follow the logic of Lonergan's (1972/1979) precepts. Lonergan's precepts in turn emerge from an analysis of the procedures of the human mind. Heeding them is not difficult but does require conscientious effort. Overlaps among the constructs are not only feasible but also commendable. For instance, in Whitehead and Whitehead's (1995) construct, Bloom's construct can be inserted when, in the assertion phase, a Church document is studied. As well, one can find a place for the lectio divina, when a Scriptural text allows further reflection. The Ignatian rules of discernment can operate as the deliberation moves from the assertion to pastoral action. Functioning as tools for evaluation and facilitation of learning, these constructs certainly aid in bringing about an integrated view of religious education.

A word of caution is, nevertheless, in order. Mastery of the one process underlying the different constructs presented here can seduce one to presume that everything is under one's control. In such a case, religious education becomes an exercise of power, not so much over the learner (although this is possible), but over its subject matter or content. However, the Truth one encounters in religious education is not a thing but a person. In the fullest reach of religious knowledge, the ultimate basis for Lonergan's third precept, be reasonable, is God who is self-revealing, and before this God one is actually moved to respond in awe, wonder, and worship. Failure to recognize this dimension of religious knowledge also leads to failure to account for that which inspires responsible action. The True that we come to know, is the Good that we do, but what is it that makes the True attractive and the Good inspiring? This is an aspect of religious knowing that seems absent in much of religious education in particular, and theology in general. In fact, one Lonergan scholar has claimed that Lonergan's work is in need of such a complement (Doran, 1997). To illuminate further:
 If the verum lacks that splendor which for Thomas is the
 distinctive mark of the beautiful, then the knowledge of truth
 remains both pragmatic and formalistic. The only concern for such
 knowledge will then merely be the verification of correct facts and
 laws, whether the latter are laws of being or laws of thought,
 categories and ideas. But if the bonum lacks that voluptas which
 for Augustine is the mark of its beauty, then the relationship to
 the good remains both utilitarian and hedonistic: in this case the
 good will involve merely the satisfaction of a need by means of
 some value or object, whether it is founded objectively on the
 thing itself giving satisfaction or subjectively on the person
 seeking it. (von Balthasar, 1982, p. 152)

This quote comes from the only theological voice, that of von Balthasar, that speaks about the forgotten "third transcendental" after the True and the Good. He speaks of the Beautiful that informs aesthetic knowledge, and that completes theoretical and practical knowledge. The Beautiful is that which gives splendor to Truth (verum), and delightfulness (voluptas) to the Good (bonum). When the Beautiful shines forth upon the beholder, it draws the response of contemplation. It will give the impetus, courage, and joy to act as one sees, understands, realizes, and affirms. Only then can Lonergan's fourth precept actually be heeded. Only then can one truly be responsible. Duty becomes a joyful and loving act. Though explicit in the lectio divina, and perhaps implied in the Ignatian rules of discernment, the contemplative moment in the process of religious education needs more elucidation than a short essay allows. It suffices for now to mark it as possibly emerging in (the adapted version) of Bloom's (Anderson & Sosniak, 1994) recognition of value, in Groome's (1991) dialectical hermeneutics, or in the assertion phase of Whitehead and Whitehead (1995). If indeed the value one recognizes (after data recall, understanding, application, analysis, and synthesis) is a person; if indeed the interpersonal event of faith transfigures dialectical hermeneutics into faith as faith in--implying love, access to the person, knowledge through intercommunion, acceptance of the authority of the one believed in, and knowing in the fullest sense of the word (Fries, 1985/1996); and, if indeed the One who asserts ultimately is the Holy One, lived faith will manifest joyful conviction, loving decision, and committed trust in God within a faith community. To demonstrate that indeed such is the case will constitute another undertaking.


Anderson, L. W., & Sosniak, L. A. (1994). Bloom's taxonomy: A forty-year retrospective. Chicago: NSSE.

Cowan, M., & Futrell, J. C. (1993). Companions in grace: A handbook for directors of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.

Doran, R. M. (1997). Lonergan and Balthasar: Methodological considerations. Theological Studies, 58, 61-84.

Fries, H. (1996). Fundamental theology (R. J. Daly, Trans.). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. (Original work published 1985)

Groome, T. H. (1991). Sharing faith: A comprehensive approach to religious education and pastoral ministry. San Francisco: Harper.

Lonergan, B. (1979). Method in theology. New York: Seabury Press. (Original work published 1972)

McGinn, B. (1994). The growth of mysticism. New York: Crossroad. von Balthasar, H. U. (1982). The glory of the Lord: A theological aesthetics: Vol. 1. Seeing the form (E. Leiva-Merikakis, Trans.). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Whitehead, J. A., & Whitehead, E. E. (1995). Method in ministry. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.


St. Augustine's Seminary, Toronto School of Theology

Vivian Ligo is an associate professor of systematic and pastoral theology at St. Augustine's Seminary of the Toronto School of Theology and serves as academic advisor of the Formation Program for Permanent Deacons of the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Diocese of Hamilton. Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Dr. Vivian Ligo, 86 Lowther Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1E1, Canada.
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Author:Ligo, Vivian
Publication:Catholic Education
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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