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THSP504 Spiritual Exercises: Theory A

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 300 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 the skills developed in Spiritual Exercises Theory A, 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 ‘quad’ groups, learn how to use Ignatian frameworks and adapted forms of the Spiritual Exercises to help directees understand their method and dynamic, and practice 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 - Articulate and illustrate through their own reading, research and praxis, ways in which the Spiritual Exercises, in its different forms, can be used as a resource for spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition (GA8);

LO2 - Identify and comment on foundational dispositions, attitudes and key skills required for spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition (GA1);

LO3 - Demonstrate, under supervision, the ability to provide spiritual direction according to the method, purpose, rhythm and dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises (GA3);

LO4 - Apply the Spiritual Exercises creatively as a means of aiding others in their ongoing individual personal discernment (GA1).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

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


Topics will include:

·       The First Week: introduction to the method, process and dynamics of the First Week; some particular elements and the role of the director;

·       The Second Week: introduction to the method, process and dynamics of the Second Week; particular elements and the role of the director;

·       The Third Week: the Role of the Director; the Role of Contemplation;

·       The Fourth Week: and the Role of the Director;

·       The Contemplation to Attain Love;

·       Practical skills in spiritual direction;

·       Professional Standards and spiritual direction.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

THSP507 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 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

Hurdle Task: Satisfactory demonstration of the ability to provide spiritual direction according to the method, purpose, rhythm and dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises

0% (Pass/Fail)

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA8

Reflective practice review on quad work (linked to the literature) (3000 words). This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to consolidate their learning from ongoing participation in quad groups and to draw out implications for their professional practice of spiritual direction. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA8

30-minute presentation, with accompanying notes (3000 words or equivalent) on the student’s developing experiences of spiritual direction. This task is designed to give students the opportunity to share with others their learnings from their experience as a director, directee and/or observer in the practical spiritual direction sessions.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA8

Written assignment on the theory and practice of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition (6000-words). This task is designed to assist students to consolidate and advance their learning by reflecting critically on their experiences of spiritual direction in narrative form.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA8

Representative texts and references

* = recommended set texts

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

Buckley, Suzanne (ed.). Sacred is the Call. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2005.

Cowan, Marian, and Futrell, John C. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola: A Handbook for Directors. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Jesuit Educational Centre for Human Development, 1982. 

Dyckman, Katherine, and L. Patrick Carroll. Inviting the Mystic, Supporting the Prophet: An Introduction to Spiritual Direction. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1981.

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

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

Haight, Roger. Christian Spirituality for Seekers: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, New York: Orbis Books 2012.

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

Rahner, Karl. Ignatius of Loyola Speaks, Translated by A.S. Kidder. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2013.

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

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