Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Whelan, Gerard K.

Second Advisor

Kelly, Conor M.

Third Advisor

Cullinan, William E.


This is an interdisciplinary dissertation that integrates neuroscience with Catholic systematic theology. The objective of this integration is, centrally, to hold sacred the wholeness of the human person. Human flourishing involves carefully discerned and intentionally willed actions determined by intelligent, reasonable, and responsible decisions. That which impels willed actions of virtue and the conformation of one’s will to the will of God is the complex theme bringing together neuroscience and theology. Theologically, the doctrine of grace confirms that God is involved in human life, in particular by initiating the desire for holiness and the abhorrence of sin. According to neuroscience, cortical activity is physical action with metaphysical effects. A creative tension between neuroscience and theology will allow for powerful insights into the nature of the human person and the effects prayer has on the human person. For the facilitation of the integration between theology and neuroscience, the work of Bernard Lonergan offers a methodological structure based on functional specializations divided into mediating and mediated phases. Researching and interpreting historical traditions of prayer and the neurological changes that prayer facilitates offers dialectical complexities ripe for dialogue. Foundations categorizes horizons within which doctrines are affirmed, systematics proceeds to understand doctrines, and the theological and neurological dialogue can aid in the communication of the Gospel. This dissertation examines traditional Christian prayer practices to explore the fulfillment of the human person. Prayer practices are intentional actions which were integrated into the fabric of life for millennia and passed to future generations. Like a pilgrimage with a destination of participation in the interpersonal relationship of the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, prayer requires intentional action by both the persons of God and human persons. God’s grace impels the pilgrim along the path of holiness and the human decision to pursue the source of truth and love by elevating the human person into God’s love. This dissertation examines the interactive exchange between God and human persons. It explores the physical and spiritual conversion-changes of the human person by using both Catholic systematic theology and neuroscience. It offers an interdisciplinary study of human nature.



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