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THSP632 Spiritual Exercises Theory A


THSP505 Spiritual Exercises Theory B

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spiritual Direction need to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in this discipline in this discipline and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their professional roles. Building on THSP632 Spiritual Exercises: Theory A, students will deepen their knowledge of the Exercises. In this unit, students will use theological and philosophical interpretative frameworks to explore the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises and will engage in an in-depth study of God’s self-communication, Key Meditations, and Ignatius’ use of the Gospels. The aim of the unit is to ground the student in a comprehensive understanding of the theological, biblical, and philosophical underpinnings, as well as 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 - Apply the theory, knowledge of the context, and content of the Spiritual Exercises (GA7, GA10)

LO2 - Demonstrate a fluent knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (GA7, GA10)

LO3 - Analyse the Spiritual Exercises in light of further foundational Ignatian themes (GA7, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Key Meditations in the Second Week;
  • The grace of conversion;
  • Employing each of the Four Gospels in the Exercises;
  • Adaptations of the Spiritual Exercises;
  • Plato and Augustine on the Soul; echoes in the Spiritual Exercises;
  • Aristotle and Aquinas on the soul and virtue; echoes in the Exercises;
  • Postmodernism and Religious Faith;
  • Postmodern Faith and the 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 deepen students’ understanding and self-appropriation of the Spiritual Exercises.

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 direction, 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) including Powerpoint slides on Key Meditations OR Grace and Conversion OR contemporary adaptions of the Exercises. This task is designed to enable students to review their learning in the context of lectures, reading and peer discussion.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA7, GA10

Interpretative essay (1500-words). This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to reflect critically on virtue and the Spiritual Exercises OR the understanding of postmodern faith and the Spiritual Exercises. This critical reflection will scaffold the development and demonstration of their skills in analysis.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA7, GA10

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 Ignatius’ use of the Gospels in the Spiritual Exercises.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA7, GA10

Representative texts and references

Aschenbrenner, George A. Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 2004.

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.

Dyckman, Katherine et al. The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001.

Egan, Harvey D. and Karl Rahner. The Spiritual Exercises and the Ignatian Mystical Horizon. Series IV. Study Aids on Jesuit Topics; Number 5. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2020.

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.

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

Moloney, Francis and Sherri Brown. Interpreting the New Testament: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019.

Munitiz, Joseph A. and Philip Endean, Eds.. Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Personal Writings: Reminiscences, Spiritual Diary, Select Letters Including the Text of The Spiritual Exercises. London, UK: Penguin, 1996.

O'Reilly, Terence. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola : Contexts, Sources, Reception. Jesuit Studies, Volume 31. Leiden; Brill, 2020.

Williams, Monty. The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy: Following the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Toronto: Novalis, 2009.

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