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THSP632 Spiritual Exercises Theory A


THSP506 Spiritual Exercises Praxis 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 be prepared for the ministry of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition and for giving the full Spiritual Exercises under supervision. Students will practice spiritual direction skills in daily triad groups, learn how to use Ignatian frameworks and adapted forms of the Spiritual Exercises to help directees understand their method and dynamic, and practise the giving of the Spiritual Exercises. The aim of the unit is to develop students’ skills in the giving of the Spiritual Exercises and to enable them to reflect critically on the implications of their learning for their practice of spiritual direction.

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 - Describe ways in which the Spiritual Exercises, in its different forms, can be used as a resource for spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition (GA2)

LO2 - Evaluate foundational dispositions, attitudes and key skills required for spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition (GA6)

LO3 - Under supervision, provide spiritual direction according to the method, purpose, rhythm and dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises (GA2, GA6)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account


Topics will include:

  • The dimensions of the Spiritual Exercises: The Faith Community Dimension; the Inter-Personal Dimension; the Social Dimension; and, the Ecclesial dimension;
  • The application of the Rules for Discernment of Spirits and the Election during the Spiritual Exercises;
  • Adapting the Exercises to the needs and circumstances of exercitants: a brief history, theory, and practice;
  • Attitudes, disposition and capacities of the Ignatian ‘subiecto’;
  • What makes the Ignatian Exercises, Ignatian?
  • Introduction to ‘Ignatian Dogmatics’: a system of ‘Ignatian principles’.

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 introduce students to the practice of giving the Spiritual Exercises and become adept at some of the skills required for this specialised ministry.

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of distinction. 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 the practice of spiritual direction, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reflective practice review on triad work (linked to the literature) (3000-words). This task is designed to help students to deepen their understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in providing spiritual direction. Students must incorporate the feedback provided by their unit supervisor who has observed their practice.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA6

Essay on the theory and practice of spiritual direction in the Spiritual Exercises (3000-words). This task is designed to assist students to consolidate their learning by reflecting critically on their experience of giving sections of the Spiritual Exercises to their peers.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA6

Hurdle Task In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of distinction (75%).


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA6

Representative texts and references

Alvis, Robert E. A Science of the Saints: Studies in Spiritual Direction. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2020.

Barry, William A., and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction. San Francisco: Harper, 2009.

Guenther, Margaret. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992.

Munitiz, Joseph, and Philip Endean, Eds. Ignatius of Loyola: Personal writings, Reminiscences, Spiritual Diary, Select letters, the text of the Spiritual Exercises. London: Penguin, 1996.

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

Malloy, Richard G. Spiritual Direction: A Beginner's Guide. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2017.

Palmer, Martin E. On Giving the Spiritual Exercises: The Early Jesuit Manuscript Directories and the Official Directory of 1599. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.

Ruffing, Janet. To Tell the Sacred Tale: Spiritual Direction and Narrative. New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2010.

Tetlow, Joseph A.. Choosing Christ in the World: Directing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources 2000.

Tetlow, Joseph A. Handing on the Fire: Making Spiritual Direction Ignatian. Chestnut Hill, MA: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2021.

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