Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

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. 

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spirituality should develop knowledge and skills in this discipline and demonstrate a capacity to critically analyse, synthesise and evaluate the various ways in which their personal development impacts upon and contributes to their professional roles. Every Christian seeks to know God more intimately, to love God more dearly, and to follow God more faithfully. Ignatius of Loyola discovered a method for achieving this goal through reflection on his own experience; his development of the Spiritual Exercises was his way of sharing this gift with others. This unit assists participants to deepen their understanding and practice of prayer, develop their capacity to identify the Spirit of God in their lives, and grow in the ability to discriminate between that Spirit and other ‘spirits’. Based on (i) the Rules for Discernment of Spirits, and (ii) the Election in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, this unit will provide a theoretical framework for personal discernment and decision-making as well as group and ‘social’ discernment. Discernment is a driving force of the Exercises and this unit aims to help all participants arrive at a sophisticated, contemporary understanding and appropriation of it. 

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 theoretical understanding of the Rules for Discernment of Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises [313-336] (GA5); 

LO2 Describe and reflect theologically on the patterns of spiritual consolation and desolation, and detail the strategies for dealing with these experiences (GA4; GA8); 

LO3 Demonstrate the application of the Election in the Spiritual Exercises [169-189] in the context of personal and communal decision-making (GA3); 

LO4 Articulate a critical, reflective and technologically informed understanding of the ways in which discernment techniques can be applied to communal, social, environmental and political issues (GA4; GA5; GA10) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 Apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

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

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


Topics include:

  • The meaning of discernment in the Ignatian tradition;
  • Rules for discernment close reading (Weeks One & Two of the Spiritual Exercises);
  • Discernment and Election: “Times” and “Ways”;
  • Discernment: the psychological factors;
  • Discernment and Social Justice;
  • Discernment and “Ecological Conversion”;
  • Discernment and the Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus;
  • Discernment in Common.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

THSP509 will be delivered in multi-mode, that is, in various combinations of face to face and mediated learning environments, utilising strategies which may include: 

  • Self-directed activities (such as completing scaffolded reading tasks or web-based exercises) which enable each student to build a detailed understanding of a topic; 
  • Small-group tasks and activities (such as contributing to discussion forums or undertaking peer review) which enable students to test, critique, expand and evaluate their understandings; 
  • Plenary seminars and webinars which enable students to link their understandings with larger frameworks of knowledge and alternative interpretations of ideas; 
  • Practical or fieldwork activities which enable students to rehearse skills necessary to the discipline and to be mentored in that practice; 
  • Critically reflective activities (such as a guided Examen or private journal-writing) which assist students to learn reflexively, that is, to identify their affective responses to the learning and to integrate their learning with action. 

The unit is delivered with the expectation that participants are adult learners, intrinsically motivated and prepared to reflect critically on issues as well as on their own learning and perspectives. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass. 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 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

1. Critical reflection on selected readings (3000 words). This task is designed to enable students to demonstrate appropriation of the Rules for Discernment. 


LO1, LO2 

GA4, GA5, GA8 

2. Integrative essay (3000 words). This task is designed to enable students to consolidate their learning by reflecting holistically on Ignatian discernment in a variety of professional contexts. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA10

Representative texts and references

* = recommended for purchase 

Au, Wilkie and Noreen Cannon Au. The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path. New York: Paulist Press, 2006. 

Barry, William. Letting God Come Close: An Approach to the Spiritual Exercises. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 2001. 

Conroy, Maureen. The Discerning Heart: Discovering a Personal God. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1993. 

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

Dyckman, Katherine, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert. The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2001. 

*Gallagher, Timothy. The Discernment of Spirits: The Ignatian Rule for Everyday Life. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2005. 

Gallagher, Timothy M. Spiritual Consolation: An Ignatian Guide for the Greater Discernment of Spirits. New York: Crossroad Pub. Co., 2007. 

Kiechle, Stefan. The Art of Discernment. Making good Decisions in your World of choices. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2005. 

*Munitiz, Joseph A. and Philip Endean. Personal Writings: Reminiscences, Spiritual Diary, Select Letters Including the Text of the Spiritual Exercises. London: Penguin Books, 1996. 

Thibodeaux, Mark E. God's Voice Within: The Ignatian Way to Discover God's Will. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2010. 

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs