Doc Callahan’s Unique Teaching Strategy


Henry Anyimadu

Theology teacher Dr. Mike Callahan puts a new spin on senior Ignatian Vision class by connecting film to theology.

What do films like The Dark Knight, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Hostiles all have in common besides being great movies? They are all part of Dr. Mike Callahan’s curriculum in his senior Ignatian Vision theology class.

In his second year of teaching the class, he works to link themes observed in all types of movies to seniors’ growth in their spiritual journey.

“We can find God in all things,” Dr. Callahan said, “and we want to try to embrace what’s good about the world around us.”

This is an important topic in light of the “cannonball year.” 2021 marks the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius’s conversion after being struck by a cannonball in Pamplona, Spain. That has been something Dr. Callahan has focused on during this school year.

We can find God in all things, and we want to try to embrace what’s good about the world around us.”

— Dr. Mike Callahan

“It’s awesome to see him link movies back to the conversion of St. Ignatius,” senior Nick Ford said. “We even watched The Bourne Ultimatum which isn’t typically a religious movie, but he found a neat way to relate it back to the qualities of St. Ignatius.”

Dr. Callahan has used this technique of showing movies in some of his other theology classes, and decided to replace any real textbook with films in Ignatian Vision.

“There are books that use clips from movies and connect them to St. Ignatius and the Spiritual exercises so I thought that would be a cool idea to do in class,” Dr. Callahan said. “It got my mind thinking, ‘how can I use themes that would’ve been in a [text]book come to life through films?’”

Outside of the films, Dr. Callahan focuses on teaching his students how to meditate and has his students write reflections over every movie they watch relating it to their life and their beliefs.

“The reflections we are assigned after every movie are really meaningful,” Ford said. “Most recently, we took quotes from our daily meditation book that includes letters from St. Ignatius,  and connected his quotes to qualities we saw from characters in The Dark Knight.”

Dr. Callahan talks about discernment and decision-making that goes hand in hand with the Jesuit philosophy on “ways of proceeding” to help his students connect all the films they watch to their lives.

“It’s really important for the guys, especially senior year, to take time out and slow down to reflect.” Dr. Callahan said. “I like that idea of, how do we live our faith out in the world, so we can look at real examples in movies, which is great.”