Netherlands, Nijmegen

Rituals in Life

when 12 August 2019 - 16 August 2019
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 400

All cultures and religions have rituals to mark particular moments in life. In (semi-)public organizations such as education, justice, defense and care, professionals are challenged to conduct rituals for participants from different backgrounds. This course offers you theoretical knowledge about the phenomenon 'ritual' and its appearance in different cultures. In addition, attention is given to the design and practice of rituals in various settings and at different moments of life.

The course will include key- lectures of specialists on rituality: Peter Nissen, Thomas Quartier, Hans Schilderman and Wim Smeets. Peter Nissen and Hans Schilderman will share their theoretical knowledge on the topic, Thomas Quartier and Wim Smeets will share their practical experience as well.

Peter Nissen is professor Spirituality Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen and lecturer and chaplain in the Dutch Remonstrant Church. In his contribution for the book ‘Emerging Ritual in Secular Society’ he wrote a contribution on ‘Demonstrating the need for a more inclusive ritual grammar’. Rituals in secular societies should need to respond the demand for a new language. Nissen elaborated this ideas in ‘Present-Day Spiritualities. Contrasts and Overlaps’(2014). Peter Nissen is also an expert on the development of rituals in history and will illustrate this during his lecture.

Hans Schilderman is professor religion and care at Radboud University Nijmegen. The topics of his work include care, solidarity, spirituality, ritual and quality of life. He holds teaching assignments in theology and religious studies, with specialties in spiritual care and research methods. Furthermore, he offers consulting and training in issues of religion in the public domain.
During his lecture Hans Schilderman will share the results of his philosophical understanding of rituals. He edited the book ‘Discourse in Ritual Studies’(2007). The book is a study of public worship that take into account the multidisciplinary and innovative research in ritual studies while dealing with basic issues of religious studies and theology. The contributing authors share an action-oriented and empirical interest in ritual studies while not losing sight of normative questions that characterize the study of liturgy.

Thomas Quartier teaches Ritual and Liturgical Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen and at KU Leuven in Belgium. He gained his PhD in 2007 on a thesis on contemporary conceptions of Christian funerary rites. His current research within the Centre of Thanatology is directed towards the relations between spirituality and death, in particular monastic spirituality. Integrating rituals in daily life, Quartier edited some books from this viewpoint and he will show how it works in practice. On Facebook he wrote: “I like to share my interest and the passion for liturgical and monastic spirituality with others - who might agree or disagree. The human being is a homo ritualis and the monastic charism is a blessing for many. Cultivating your life means ritualize it, and often that is already a spiritual beginning. Ora, lege et labora!”

Wim Smeets is senior supervisor and member of the European Council on Pastoral Care and Counseling and the International Association of Spiritual Care. He will speak about the challenge to deal with actual culture and the medical context. What are the characteristics of rituals in hospital chaplaincy and how similar of different are rituals in general spiritual care? One of the characteristics of the return of religion to the public sphere is the freedom people have to construct their own spirituality, making use of various traditions. The term ‘spirituality’ denotes all human experiences relating to an ultimate reality, otherwise the personal orientation of life – and therefore is broader than institutional ‘religiosity’. The tension between a classic denominational/ institutional religious identity and the ‘postmodern’ eclectic/multifarious and ‘unaffiliated’ religious identity is one of the most striking features of the contemporary religious landscape, causing religious identity to be contested at various levels.

Beside theoretical reflection, the course will include a lot of examples and exercises in practice. From two workshops we have already full-description, the one from Ans Bertens, the other from Ekkehard Muth.
Ans Bertens is theologian, educated at the University of Theology and Pastoral care in Heerlen and at Radboud University. She is now spiritual caregiver at Radboud University Medical Centre and also an expert in living spirituality. She conducts workshops and seminars for a broad public. The title of her contribution is: ‘Sense 4 Sunday, a spiritual, not (non?) religious ritual for patients’. ‘Sense 4 Sunday’ is the name of a non Christian, non religious, yet spiritual gathering for patients on Sunday morning in Radboud UMC. In her presentation she will tell how she came to start the project, the practice and the reception of it. In the course we will discuss some questions concerning the creativity and the spiritual content of the ritual and its chances in our secular society.

Ekkehard Muth studied at the Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey from the World Council of Churches in Geneva. There he experienced the fascinating diversity of beliefs and at the same time the universality in symbolism and rituality. Currently he is pastor at the Augustine Centre de Boskapel in Nijmegen. In his publication ‘De rijkdom van het ritueel’ (the richness of rituals) (Kampen 2009) he emphasizes how rituals ‘say more than one can say’, and how they enrich the liturgy. He is chief editor of Laetare a magazine for liturgy and church music. The title of his contribution is: The connecting power of rituals in a multicultural world. In this workshop we go back to rituals before they became rituals of religious or public organizations. The psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung (Switzerland 1875-1961) discovered the archetypes, primal images and primal patterns of thoughts and idea’s which are found throughout all cultures. Rituals are formed by archetypes, and vice versa they address the archetypes. So rituals follow similar patterns in all cultures. Archetypes are not a matter of cognition, they rather are situated in an universal preconscious knowing. (Like birds without education ‘know’ how to build a nest) So rituals speak to us on a layer prior to language, culture or belief.
After a short introduction we will watch and perform some rituals. We will explore our own and at the same time universal preconscious knowing. We will experience the similar patterns of rituals throughout different cultures. And gradually we will discover the binding and connecting potency of rituals in a multicultural world.

Descriptions of other workshops will follow. So the course will be an interesting mix of theory and practice, listening and creative groupwork.

Interesting to read (not obligatory):

Quartier, T. (2013). On the border of death. Dimensions of Dutch mourning rituals. In E. Venbrux e.a. (Ed.), Changing European Death Ways (pp. 191-212). LIT
Quartier, T. (2012). Monastische Thanatologie. Lebens- und Todessymbolik in der Regula und Vita Benedicti und ihre Bedeutung für den modernen Kontext. Studies in Spirituality, 127-148.

Course leader

Wim Smeets
Spiritual Care Department
Radboud UMC

Target group

Advanced Bachelor

The course examines an important cultural practice – that of rituals – from anthropological, religious and social sciences angles. The course is therefore of interest to students from a range of disciplines, including religious and education professions, health care and welfare professions and the humanities. A strong emphasis on this course is the development of interdisciplinary ways of thinking and working.

Course aim

After this course you are able to:

Describe the relevance of rituals in (semi-)public organisations;
Develop a view on the relevance of rituals for different moments in your own life (history);
Design and perform rituals in your own professional context;
write an essay for the public debate on rituals.

Fee info

EUR 400: Normal fee


€ 360 early bird discount – deadline 1 March 2019 (10%)
€ 340 partner + RU discount (15%)
€ 300 early bird + partner + RU discount (25%)

Register for this course
on course website