Request: Reading Suggestions for Undergrad Theology Class

I’m teaching “Sacraments of Initiation” to undergrads this fall and request your suggestions for readings around intentional commitment to liturgical practice, as well as intentional rejection of organized religion. I want the students to think hard about how some people find worship attendance to be meaningful, related to their daily life, a constitutive part of their value system, and the like, and also how some people who reject organized religion find meaning and values and a fulfilling life.

I’m interested in blog posts or journal articles or book chapters, and the length can vary from a few pages to perhaps 25-30 pages. I want some readings to be very first-person autobigraphical, but I’m also interested in intellectual studies of this issue, which can be articles or posts but also scholarly analysis with graphs and charts etc.

Here’s an example of an article I think students would find interesting “True Nonbeliever” from the Yale Alumni magazine. It tells of a young man trained at a theological school in Chicago who served as a “humanist chaplain” at Harvard for several years before moving to New Haven in 2014 to build a similarly secular community there.

The Little Atheist Book of Spirituality is also interesting and well-written and I’m considering some chapters from it.

What I’m really looking for, and have not found yet, are credible accounts of people with a liturgical spirituality – people who have decided for Christianity, or have always been a part of it, who write about how their regular participation in the liturgy is essential to their well-lived life.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!




  1. There are some intriguing bits and pieces over at the Catholic blog “Sick Pilgrim,” maintained by young, fervent, smart, often thoughtful Catholics to came to Catholicism from elsewhere, mostly because of the sacramental and devotional practices of the Catholic Church.

  2. About 20 years ago the theater critic Richard Gilman published a memoir titled “Faith, Sex, Mystery.” It deeply impressed me at the time as a powerful account of both conversion and “deconversion” (i.e. gradual loss of faith). I’m sure it’s out of print, but you could find a copy and pdf parts for students.

  3. Fr. Ruff–I’m trying to understand the limits of what you are looking for. I’m a Catholic social psychologist who studies mindfulness and gratitude. And I’m beginning to explore studying the psychology of Catholic contemplative practices. I teach a bit about how people find meaning and could think through what readings I know about finding meaning, though most (all) will be about meaning found in places other than liturgy. I might also be able to find readings about paying attention, which seems important for paying attention to the liturgy. Your first paragraph makes me think your focus is wider than your last. Thanks regardless. This sounds like a great project.

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