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THSP504 Spiritual Exercises: Theory A

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 Spirituality should be able to critically articulate the interrelationships between their spiritual development and their personal and professional roles, as well as developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the discipline. . Building on Spiritual Exercises: Theory A, students will focus their knowledge of the Spiritual Exercises. In this unit, students will use biblical and philosophical interpretative frameworks to explore the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Weeks Two, Three and Four) and will engage in an in-depth study of focused topics. The aim of the unit is to ground the student in a comprehensive understanding of the 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 - Articulate a detailed theologically and scripturally informed knowledge of the theory, context, content and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises (GA4, GA8);

LO3 - Analyse the Spiritual Exercises in light of foundational Ignatian themes (GA2, GA8);

LO4 - Apply an appropriate theoretical framework for personal discernment and decision-making (GA3, GA4).

Graduate attributes

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

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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


Topics will include:

  • Key Meditations in the Second Week;
  • Discernment of Spirits;
  • The dynamics of the Third Week;
  • The dynamics of the Fourth Week;
  • Employing each of the Four Gospels in the 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

THSP505 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 direction, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Take-home short answer test (2000-words). This task is designed to enable students to test and review the quality of their learning in the context of lectures, reading and peer discussion.


LO1, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA8

Integrative essay (2000-words). This task is designed to enable

students to consolidate their learning by reflecting critically on

Ignatius’ use of the Four Gospels in the Spiritual Exercises.


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA4, GA8

Integrative essay (2000-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.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA8

Representative texts and references

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

Barry, William A. Seek My Face: Prayer as Personal Relationship in Scripture. New York: Paulist Press, 1989.

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.

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.

Gallagher, Timothy M. The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living. New York, NY: Crossroad, 2005.

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

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

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

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

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