Course Description:

How do we follow Jesus in the media culture? It is about being mystics who see God's grace present in all human longings and desires and so offer the culture a soul. We can be that transformative presence in the world today, if we reflect on our incarnational and sacramental imaginations, letting Christ speak through us for a culture that seeks communion, connection and purpose. Sr. Nancy guides participants in a deeper theological reflection of how to be everyday mystics within this popular media culture and what that means for our spiritual lives.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will develop the skills needed to have a critical awareness of the media they consume applying a media mindfulness strategy to various popular art forms.
  • They will recognize and appreciate the media as the main channels through which popular culture is communicated and critically analyze and evaluate its messages, ideologies, and ways of expressing the common human experience.
  • By grasping the aesthetics of beauty within a theological context, the students will develop an appreciation of various art forms, especially those that fuel the popular media culture.
  • They will learn to appreciate the media as gifts of God and articulate the elements for creating a dialogue between faith and popular culture by exploring various theological approaches to the culture.
  • Through a solid theological and anthropological foundation the students will be able to identify God’s grace at work in the popular culture through the many sacramental signs and symbols the media employ and so establish a theology of popular culture.

Useful Resources:

Usselmann, Nancy. A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock 2018. 

Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor. A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.

Karl Rahner. The Mystical Way in Everyday Life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis 2011.

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger. Introduction to Christianity. New York: Herder & Herder, 1970.


Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP is the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, CA and a Media Literacy Education Specialist. She is an international speaker, theologian, film reviewer, and blogger for and Her award-winning book "A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics" is a theology of popular culture. She has degrees in Communications Arts and a Masters in Theology and the Arts from Fuller Theological Seminary. Sr Nancy is an executive board member of CIMA (Catholics in Media Associates) and a member of NAMLE (National Association of Media Literacy Educators), SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communicators) and THEOCOM (Theology and Communications in Dialogue).

Sr Nancy Usselmann, FSP


Course curriculum

  • 02

    Part 1-What is Mysticism?

    • What is Mysticism?

    • Mysticism Today

  • 03

    Part 2-The Needs of Humanity

    • Needs of Humanity

    • Humanity's Existential Longings

  • 04

    Part 3—Incarnational Theology

    • Incarnational Theology

  • 05

    Part 4—Sacramentality

    • Sacramental Imagination

    • Sacramentality in Film

  • 06

    Part 5—Pop Cultural Mystics

    • Cultural Mysticism

    • Becoming Cultural Mystics

    • Mystical Theology of Karl Rahner

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