This module is part of the Distance Learning Website of the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland (CIBI)

This module, entitled What is Spirituality? has five units. The first surveys the spiritual landscape today, looking at the context within which we live our lives. Unit 2 goes on to consider, in a general way, the basic teaching of the Bible as God’s passionate care for his people – ‘God refuses to be God without us.’ Unit 3 deals with some of the central themes of Christian spirituality – Creation, Incarnation, Trinity, Spirit, Vocation/Call, Body of Christ/Church, Eucharist. In unit 4, an overview (necessarily brief) of the history of spirituality is offered. And in the final unit, an attempt is made to describe what Christian spirituality precisely is.

I offer a suggested reading list below but a helpful book that could be used as a basic text is Understanding Christian Spirituality by Michael Downey (1996 Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press). [See also for general consultation The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, USA, 1993].

Having reached the end of the module, students will have gained some basic understanding of spirituality as a preparation for studying the rest of the programme.

Reading list:

Collins CM, Pat, Finding Faith in Troubled Times, Dublin, Columba Press, 1997.

________. Spirituality for the 21st Century: Christian Living in a Secular Age. Dublin, Columba Press, 1999.

O'Dwyer OCarm, Peter. Towards a History of Irish Spirituality. Dublin: Columba Press, 1995.

Rolheiser OMI, Richard. Seeking Spirituality: Guidelines for a Christian Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998.

________. The Restless Heart. New York: Doubleday Books, 2004.

________. The Shattered Lantern. London: Hodder & Stoughton 1997.

Sheldrake, Philip. A Brief History of Spirituality. Osford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Spirituality, a journal published 6 times a year by Dominican Publications, 42 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, Ireland. It is available in many libraries.

The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey. Collegeville, USA: The Liturgical Press, 1993.

Theology for Today, Introduction to Christian Spirituality. This is available from The Priory Institute, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland.

Woods OP, Richard. Christian Spirituality: God’s Presence through the Ages. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006.

Course Tutor: Thomas Jordan OP 

The course is divided into 5 units of input and, at the end, you may complete a Questionnaire, write a Learning Journal, or write an Essay.

Once posted, each unit will be available until the end of the module. The dates on which each of the units, and the other material for this course is available in the calendar in the Student Section.


Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4

Unit 5


Learning Journal

Essay titles


Please click HERE to access the STUDENT SECTION for module start and end dates

From the date corresponding to the relevant Monday (see main web page of, you can click on the relevant unit to access it. Each module includes links to other internet sites of various kinds related to the material being covered.

    Once you have successfully accessed and studied the material in each module and received the Essay titles and the questionnaire, pleace complete either the Questionnaire, write a Learning Journal, or write an Essay based on one of the Essay titles given, and return it to to the course administrator: [email protected]

Copyright: CIBI holds the copyright to this material (text, graphic and other); distribution to family or friends, or publication (including on internet) of any part of the material is not permitted without the CIBI ’s explicit written permission.