In Core I classes during the first two weeks or so of class, students are introduced to the major themes of the whole Signature Course experience, with the "Journey Questions" introduced in Nostra Aetate, the important document on inter-faith relations from Vatican II. These questions are "What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What... is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?"
In many classes, including my own, we combine this text with excerpts from Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium. Students examine the issues raised in Nostra Aetate, written in 1965, with similar issues discussed by the Holy Father in 2013. We see how his texts builds on the first one. For example, he emphasizes the importance of dialogue among people of various religious traditions as crucial toward developing peace in the world: "An attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions.... Inter-religious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities."
Moving into the second week, Core I students begin looking at the works of Plato -- the Apology, the Allegory of the Cave, and (in many class) the "Myth of Er" and the Symposium. Exploring how Socrates, as his ideas are conveyed through his student Plato, understands the meaning of life and answers many of the questions outlined in Nostra Aetate shows students the universality of these questions in terms of both time and space. Socrates' famous saying "the unexamined life is not worth living" echoes across millenia revealing how important issues of value and meaning have been for reflective people from earliest times.
There is something deeply human about how questions of value and meaning are addressed in Plato's writings. Socrates died for his concept of the truth and his right to express it. His Allegory of the Cave shows how important it is for people to be willing to move beyond their love for the shadows of unreality to the light of truth drawing them out of their comfortable illusions. His "Myth of Er" explores what life is like after death, and his Symposium examines the ancient and beautiful possibilities of the power and the nature of Love. So, in Core I, students have begun to explore the Journey of Transformation.