Agora for Spiritual, Moral and Religious Education

The Agora for Spiritual, Moral and Religious Education (ASMRE) is a site for information and discussion on the interface between research/scholarship and practice.

The Ancient Greek Agora was a place not just for commerce, but for open discussion of life issues, philosophy, religion and politics. St Paul was said to have debated the 'unknown god' on the Areopagus rock. This website is in keeping with the latter social function of the Agora.

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Click either the photograph or the link below to download Life to the full: The changing landscape of contemporary spirituality -- Implications for Catholic School Religious Education
by Professor Graham Rossiter

Download Life to the Full

This book is about 21st century religious education. It identifies and addresses positively many of the issues in contemporary Catholic school religious education, and it sets a new agenda. While focused on the Australian context, it is relevant to Catholic schooling internationally, and much of its content is also pertinent to religious studies in public education

While scholarly, and pertinent to the tertiary study of religious education, it will make eminent sense to teachers, especially at secondary level, resonating with their experience and reflecting some of the best thinking and praxis in the field. This is ‘ reality -based' religious education at its best. It should be essential reading for all in Catholic Education leadership.

What the book Life to the full is about

Life to the full argues that in addition to educating young people well in their own religious tradition, religious education needs to resource their personal spirituality by helping them to learn how to interpret and appraise the shaping influences of culture. A critical, inquiring, reflective, research-oriented pedagogy has much to offer for young people's study of contemporary spiritual/moral issues, as well as formal religious content.

This volume deals with what a lot of books on religious education tend to avoid, the relatively secular spirituality of most pupils and their low level of interest in religious education. It proposes how a Catholic school religious education can be meaningful and relevant to all its pupils, whether they are religious or not.

It gives special attention to the historical development of secularisation, which is not necessarily ‘the enemy'. This helps educators understand secularisation and how they might teach about it. In addition, it looks at how many secular people today are still quite ‘religious', but their principal ‘religion' is, in effect, a consumerist lifestyle, which is fuelled by what scholars call ‘media orchestrated imaginations of what life should be like'. If consumerist lifestyle seems to function psychologically like a ‘religion', then it merits a critical study, along with the study of world religions.

The book examines evidence of problems in Catholic religious education can have arisen from excessive use of ecclesiastical language for articulating its purposes. It proposes a more direct approach to explaining what it means to educate today's young people spiritually, morally and religiously.

About the author

Professor Graham Rossiter has had a long career in Catholic Religious Education both as a teacher and university scholar – having worked in Australian Catholic University for many years and more recently at BBI – The Australian Institute of Theological Education

Some recommendations

This a challenging and affirming book. It challenges much of what educators take for granted in religious education, and affirms what today's teachers already know it really is a whole new world. Graham Rossiter is a serious scholar and focused writer who masterfully addresses theoretical and practical aspects of selected themes such as spirituality, religion, catechesis, culture and socialisation.

The author draws from his own rich teaching experience and grounds his interpretations and suggestions within a wide and vivid palette of research literature thus rendering his proposals for Catholic religious education reform all the more compelling. In chapter after chapter Rossiter probes, prods and critiques current religious education practice and suggests skills and information for more adequate and appropriate theory building and educational practice. While the focus of this grand work is on Australian Catholic religious education of youth, most of the content can be appropriated easily by educators in other countries. Anyone studying the history and development of religious education in their own setting is sure to benefit from a close reading of this master work. I know I did.

Gloria Durka, Professor of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University, New York, USA.

Rossiter is aware of the marginalisation of school subjects concerned more with the personal development of students than with academic study. Thus he argues that religious education as a school subject should be an academic study, on a par with other curriculum subjects, tailored to different age ranges in primary and secondary education. Its focus should be on educating – rather than communicating or changing – personal faith. It should aim to produce informed, critical thinkers about religion as well as being a resource for spiritual development, giving students agency in relation to their own personal development. Rossiter's approach flies in the face of those who categorise faith-based religious education and inclusive religious education as incommensurable ‘paradigms', and provides a basis for dialogue and collaboration with those engaged in the subject in different contexts and settings. It also makes an important contribution to the literature on spiritual development in educational contexts

Robert Jackson, Emeritus Professor of Religions and Education, Centre for Education Studies, University of Warwick, Warwick, UK.

This book by an author who has worked in and experienced the massive changes in the religious education of students in Catholic schools as classroom teacher and university professor since the 1970s is a notable event. In its passionate defence of the importance of good religious education for students of Catholic schools, and indeed of all schools, it supports a dialogical approach that begins from where young people are in our rapidly changing society. This book merits careful study.

Gerard Rummery fsc, De La Salle Community, Kensington, Australia

Rossiter offers historical perspective, conceptual clarity, a sound theology and practical proposals for RE in Catholic schools. Penetratingly insightful in its cultural analysis, and displaying great wisdom about how to engage students in realistic ways, here is a valuable and challenging diagnosis of where we are in RE and how best we might respond. Rossiter's scrutiny of the field and his guidance for how to operate within it have significance and relevance for religious educators across the world.

John Sullivan, Emeritus Professor of Christian Education, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK

This book is a superb synthesis of forty years of work and insights in the area of Catholic Religious Education written with an eye on the future of the scholastic discipline. It promotes a Religious Education that responds to the signs of the times and is in dialogue with contemporary thought and society. By placing Spirituality at the centre of Religious Education, Rossiter steers this discipline away from ghettoization. This book is a must for those who wish to reflect on how Catholic Religious Education should develop and transform itself to be at the service of twenty-first century pupils. Although deeply rooted within the Australian setting, the reflections are applicable to most Western contexts.

Adrian-Mario Gellel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, the University of Malta, Msida, Malta

Life to the full is relevant and valuable far beyond the Australian Catholic Religious Education context. For all of us concerned with how to find connections between young people's – and others'! - contemporary life and spiritual reality on the one side and the Biblical world and a Christian spirituality on the other side, Life to the full is a gold mine.

Rev. Trond Enger, Emeritus Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Østfold University College, Halden, Norway

Book Review: Published in the International Journal of Children's Spirituality June 2018

In his book, Life to the Full , Rossiter takes his readers on a comprehensive, contemporary and challenging journey on the nature and purpose of religious education in Australian Catholic schools. Although the book has an Australian context, with references to Australian studies and research, the content will resonate, inform and provoke all those interested in deepening their understanding of religion, religious education, faith, and spirituality. In exploring the relevancy of religious education for young people today, Rossiter argues that the study of cultural meanings must be a central component of religious education (p 17). The book provides numerous examples to show the interplay between religion and culture and how cultural meanings are a blend of social, cultural, religious, spiritual and political ideas formed in family, social and cultural groups combined with personal feelings, interpretations and values (p 22). The book ' s twelve chapters are divided into three main parts, with Parts A and B forming the core of the book which explore in depth the changing landscape of contemporary spirituality and the issues this raises for religious education in Catholic schools. He traces the decrease in religious a ffi liation by the general population through to today ' s modern society where many people now draw on popular culture to construct their meaning, purpose and values for life – namely through living a ‘ consumerist lifestyle ' (p 38).

In drawing parallels between medieval Christian spirituality (one historical spirituality marker) with a consumerist lifestyle (contemporary, relatively secular spirituality), Rossiter uses the term ‘ mise-en-scene ' as a way to explain how people make sense and meaning of cultural stories, artefacts and iconography. Rossiter cleverly uses mise-en-scene to ‘ illustrate the ways people refer to, and interact with, cultural meanings that end up having a shaping in fl uence on the way they think about life and how they behave ' (p 40). He identi fi es cultural meanings associated with a secular, individualistic spirituality and proposes that religious education teachers start from the world that students are living in rather than from a traditional perspective based on religion or spirituality.

Rossiter states that Catholic schools do many things well, especially in the areas of theology and scripture. However, if religious education is to be viewed by students, teachers, parents and the wider community as an having an educational purpose it must have relevant and rigorous key success indicators, learning outcomes, content, assessment and pedagogical practices. Success indicators such as mass attendance or a student ' s faith development are inappropriate measures of a religious education curriculum (p 91).

Rossiter makes a strong case for a quality religious education to include the mise-en- scene of the world in which students live – a world that is heavily in fl uenced by advertising, marketing, social media and consumerism. He argues religious education must address the needs of students by using values as reference points to critically analyse and interrogate topics and questions about the world. (p 111). It is for this reason that Rossiter argues pedagogical practices must include teaching students to critically research, inquire, question, interpret and evaluate a wide range of issues. He argues that an e ff ective religious education curriculum must teach students to link moral and spiritual dimensions of development to cultural analysis and give students the skills to address the spiritual and moral issues they will encounter in life. The book also provides a comprehensive exposition of the language used in Catholic schools to describe religious education. Rossiter does not favour the use of ecclesiastical terms such as ‘ faith formation, ‘ faith development ' and ‘ Catholic identity ' to describe the purpose and scope of the religious education curriculum and hopes to see a creative tension restored between ecclesiastical and educational activity (p 87). There are numerous other topics addressed in the book, including: ecclesiastical terms applied to religious education; characteristics of youth spirituality; components of the religious Catholic identity of schools; and the progression of children ' s spirituality from childhood to adolescence. This last topic will particularly interest readers of IJCS as the author explores research showing primary aged children experience a constructivist pedagogy which leads to them being active and enthusiastic participants in their own spiritual journey. As children progress into secondary school there is an ‘ increasing prominence of a relatively non-religious spirituality ' (p 74) where students tend to start openly question the meanings in life that have been put forward by their parents and teachers.

Life to the Full is a book relevant to readers of this journal as it explores spirituality, religious education, faith and cultural meanings in secular societies. The issues and provocations Rossiter raises are relevant to all involved in the education of young people as they seek to nurture and develop every dimension of human growth. The book ' s key messages may speak more directly to those involved in secondary education, especially in Catholic school contexts, as teachers strive to implement a rigorous religious education curriculum that is relevant and meaningful in the lives of young people. This following quote encapsulates the book ' s key message: ‘ If a student has learned “ how to learn about life ” – and if they remember the orientation of their school religious education – that the impact of culture needs to be scrutinised and evaluated – then this may be well make a valuable contribution to their wisdom when pursuing life to the full ' (p 134).

Jane Slattery Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Australia

Click for another book review in the journal International Studies in Catholic Education by Dr Ann Casson, University of Canterbury, UK.

Some highlights from the book launch of
Life to the full

Lectures by Dr Philip Hughes (Christian Research Association) and Prof Graham Rossiter as parts of the Professional Development / Study Day on Catholic School Religious Education titled:

EDUCATING YOUNG PEOPLE SPIRITUALLY, MORALLY AND RELIGIOUSLY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: THE ROLE OF CATHOLIC SCHOOL RELIGIOUS EDUCATION at the Waterview Conference Centre Homebush, Sydney, 10th August, 2018. Sponsored by Sydney Catholic Schools. The lectures are those directly related to the book Life to the full.

Dr Philip Hughes and Professor Graham Rossiter considered how understandings of contemporary youth spirituality and its cultural influences can inform a more relevant religious education that not only acquaints young people with their religious heritage, but can help resource their spirituality and skill them for negotiating a more meaningful life in an increasingly complex and challenging culture.
Click here for the lectures and audiovisual presentations at the Study Day & Book Launch

Waterview Conference Centre Bicentennial Park, Sydney


Audiovisual material complementing the chapters in Life to the full

Various audiovisual presentations and web pages have been used in teacher professional development programs for religion teachers for studying the topics and issues in the book.

Some readers may wish to look into this material -- especially the materials on 'consumerist religion' which relate to the discussions in chapters 5, 6 and 7. Other materials relate to chapters 2, 3, 4 and 10.

Link to complementary audio visual materials on the web



Link to the Conference Paper and Powerpoint presentation on addressing the problem of 'ecclesiastical drift' in Catholic Religious Education (2020)

Click the image or here for the page with links to the complete conference paper and powerpoint presentation titled Re-contextualising Catholic school Religious Education: Educating young people spiritually, morally and religiously for the 21 st century Graham Rossiter


Link to Research Report on Retreats in Australian Catholic secondary schools (2016)

Click the Image on the left or here for the Retreats Research Website with details of the Project and free download of the Retreats Research Report.

For any questions/inquiries about the above contact Professor Graham Rossiter, Email:

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