Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


THSP509 Ignatian Discernment and Decision-Making AND THSP520 Introduction to Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian Tradition AND THSP521 Psychological Foundations for Supervision and Spiritual Direction AND THSP522 Ethics and Professional Practice in Supervision and Spiritual Direction

Students are also required to have completed privately the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises according to annotations 19 or 20 prior to commencement of this unit.


THSP504 Spiritual Exercises: Theory A

Teaching organisation

Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of focused learning in this unit. This may include online activities, reading, webinars, preparation of assessment tasks and so on. Webinars may be offered either weekly over a twelve week semester, or in intensive blocks.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spiritual Direction need to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in this discipline and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their professional roles. In this unit students will explore the theory, context, content and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, using biblical and theological interpretative frameworks. The aim of the unit is to ground the student in a comprehensive understanding of the structure, form and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate a detailed knowledge of the theory, context and content of the Spiritual Exercises (GA4)

LO2 - Demonstrate theologically and scripturally informed knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (GA8)

LO3 - Analyse the Spiritual Exercises in light of foundational Ignatian themes (GA4, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises;
  • The role of desire in the Spiritual Exercises;
  • Introduction to the Spiritual Exercises;
  • The Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (Weeks One – Four);
  • Scriptural Foundations: How Ignatius uses Scripture in the Exercises;
  • The Role of imagination in the Exercises;
  • "The Ignatian Way of Proceeding": interpreted through Jesuit documents, the Spiritual Exercises, and key Ignatian Mottoes;
  • Framing Ignatius' Spirituality: Key Mottoes in Key contexts;
  • Two Spiritual Approaches — Mastery and Response — and the Exercises;
  • The soul in the Spiritual Exercises.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a university qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

The unit is normally offered in scheduled online mode, a way that blends the use of online delivery of learning materials and activities that can be undertaken synchronously and asynchronously. This means that students can undertake some learning activities on their own at times that do not depend on the availability of others, and other learning activities that are undertaken interactively with other students and teaching staff at the same time. Using scheduled online delivery means that students do not have to be at the same place as each other, but can interact remotely.

In order to benefit from this mode of learning, students need to be independently motivated. Units offered in the course normally follow a cycle: students complete preparatory activities before meeting together; in webinars, students work collaboratively with each other and the lecturer to clarify, extend and apply what they have learned; and after each collaborative session, students reflect critically on their personal experience and observations in light of materials covered in the unit. As the cycle is repeated, students bring new understandings to bear on further issues and ideas, so that each cycle of learning deepens the one before. Students co-construct a supportive and encouraging learning community through their active participation in classes as well as through offline engagement, such as through discussion boards.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy of this unit has been designed to enable students to demonstrate firm foundations for interpreting and understanding the context, purpose and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.

All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and spiritual practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Presentation (15 minutes = 1000 words equivalent) on the purpose of the Spiritual Exercises. This task is designed to enable students to deepen their knowledge of the theory, context and content of lectures, reading and peer discussion.


LO1, LO3


Interpretative essay (1,500 words): This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to reflect critically on the Ignatian Mottos OR the Ignatian Way of Proceeding OR the Spiritual approach of Mastery vs that of Response OR the understanding of the soul, in relation to the Spiritual Exercises. It will demonstrate their skills in analysis.


LO1, LO3

GA4, GA8

Integrative essay (3500 words): This task is designed to enable students to consolidate their learning and demonstrate theologically and scripturally-informed knowledge and understanding, by reflecting critically on the overall dynamic of the Exercises, and the ways in which Ignatius uses Scripture to deepen the exercitant’s intimacy with the Trinity.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA8

Representative texts and references

Barry, William A. Letting God Come Close: An Approach to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Chicago: Jesuit Way, 2001.

De Mello, Anthony, Gerald O'Collins, Daniel Kendall, and Jeffrey LaBelle. Seek God Everywhere: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. New York: Image/Doubleday, 2010.

Fleming, David L. Draw Me into your Friendship: A Literal Translation and Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.

Haight, Roger. Christian Spirituality for Seekers: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012.

Hughes, Gerard W. Cry of Wonder: Our Own Real Identity. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Ivens, Michael. Understanding the Spiritual Exercises. Surrey, UK: Inigo Enterprises, 1998.

Maryks, Robert A. A Companion to Ignatius of Loyola: Life, Writings, Spirituality, Influence. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2014.

O’Brien, Kevin F. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2011.

Reeve, C.D.C., ed. A Plato Reader: Eight Essential Dialogues. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2012.

Williams, Monty. The Way of the Faithful: The Dynamics of Spiritual Desire. Toronto: Novalis, 2017.

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