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 Spiritual Direction and Spirituality should develop knowledge and skills in this discipline and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their professional roles. The Spiritual Exercises are an instrument of conversion, and they reveal their pastoral effectiveness in an actual retreat setting. From the text itself, it is evident that the more original, preferred method of Ignatius in relation to retreat-giving was the individually directed one. This method involved discernment and personal, one-on-one, guidance from a spiritual director, including adaptation to the situation of the one making the retreat. In this unit we will take the key themes of the Spiritual Exercises and examine the overall dynamic. The aim of the unit is to appropriate a clear understanding of the reasons why the Spiritual Exercises have been regarded by many as an authentic school of conversion, a school of prayer, and a school of discernment, thereby enabling students to give the Spiritual Exercises more effectively.

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 Analyse critically the different ‘schools’ of spirituality in the Catholic tradition and the primary elements that define these schools (GA4);

LO2 Interpret the Spiritual Exercises in a contemporary setting through an analysis of the dominant themes (GA5);  

LO3 Synthesise the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (GA4; GA8);

LO4 Consider the implications of their learning for the design of short retreats (up to 8 days) based on the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (GA8).

Graduate attributes

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 


Topics will include:

  • Background of the Spiritual Exercises in the life and spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola;
  • Annotations (The Spiritual Exercises as a pastoral text - a classic work that is to be ‘done’ rather than simply read);
  • The Person of the Spiritual Director (or Guide);
  • The Person of the Retreatant (or Exercitant);
  • The Spiritual Exercises as a School of Conversion;
  • The Spiritual Exercises as a School of Prayer;
  • The Overall Dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises – the “HOW” of Giving and Making the Ignatian Retreat;
  • The Spiritual Exercises as a School of Discernment;
  • Different Kinds of Ignatian Discernment;
  • Spiritual Consolation and Spiritual Desolation;
  • The Ignatian Election;
  • Key Prayer Exercises and their Graces – First Principle and Foundation, Call of the King, Two Standards,
  • Three Degrees of Humility, The Contemplation to Attain the Love of God, Four “Weeks”. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

THSP618 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 practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Critical reflection on the spiritual and theological elements of the Spiritual Exercises (3000-words). This can take the form of a series of short reflections or online forum posts. This task is designed to enable students to reflect critically on their learning as they engage with the material encountered in the unit. 


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5

Theoretical framework essay (3000-words). This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to consolidate their learning by formulating a theoretical framework aimed at guiding individuals and/or directees to make an Election in the Ignatian tradition.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Aschenbrenner, George A. “Consciousness Examen.” Review for Religious 31 (1972): 14-21.

Bautista, Ramon L. A Way to the Desert – 101 Questions and Answers on Retreat, Prayer and Discernment The Ignatian Way. London: St. Paul Publishing, 2003.

Egan, Harvey D. The Spiritual Exercises and the Ignatian Mystical Horizon. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1976.

Fagin, Gerald M. Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous Life. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2010.

Futrell, John. “Ignatian Discernment.” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 2 (1970). 

Futrell, John. “The Authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Some Facts of History and Terminology basic to Their Functional Efficacy today.” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 1 (1969). 

Ivens, Michael. Understanding the Spiritual Exercises: Text and Commentary. A Handbook for Retreat Directors. Herefordshire, UK: Gracewing Publishing, 2016.

Lonsdale, David. Dance to the Music of the Spirit: The Art of Discernment. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1992. 

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

Sheldrake, Philip. ed. The Way of Ignatius Loyola: Contemporary Approaches to the Spiritual Exercises. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1991.

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