In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus Ignatius recommends that Jesuits in formation who are engaged in theological and other studies be instructed about various ways of helping their neighbours. One of these ways is learning how to give the Spiritual Exercises. He writes:
 After they themselves have experienced the Spiritual Exercises, they should get practice in giving them to others. Each should know how to give an explanation of them and how to make use of this spiritual weapon, since it is obvious that God our Lord has made it so effective for his service.
 They could begin by giving the Exercises to persons with whom less is risked, and consulting about their method of procedure with someone more experienced, noting well what he finds more useful and what less so. Their explanation of the Exercises should be such that it not only satisfies people but also moves them to a desire to take advantage of the Exercises.
Generally, only the exercises of the First Week ought be given. When the Exercises are given in their entirety, it should be to exceptional persons or those who desire to decide upon their state of life.
The Complementary Norms reinforce Ignatius’ recommendation about Jesuits: “All should grow accustomed to directing others in the Spiritual Exercises under supervision of an experienced director.”
Ignatius is writing in the Constitutions about Jesuits. But what about those lay men and women, clergy and religious from other congregations who have made the full Spiritual Exercises and who have the desire and the personal gifts necessary to become competent givers of the Exercises?
What formation standards apply to such people?
The following Standards for the Formation of Givers of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises outline the minimum standards of formation that a giver of the Spiritual Exercises who wishes to join Companions must have completed.
John W. Padberg, Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and their Complementary Norms, (St. Louis: The
Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), pp. 168-170, nos. 408-409.
These standards are based on the document Standards for the Formation of Spiritual Directors of the
Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction.
Formation programs for givers of the Spiritual Exercises offer professional qualifications to their graduates, so careful admission procedures are required. Before being accepted applicants should:
(i) have made the full Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, either as a 30-day experience according to Annotation 20, or in the flow of life according to Annotation 19.
(ii) have a sense of being called to the ministry of giving the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and show evidence of their giftedness for this vocation;
(iii) demonstrate a capacity to listen empathically and enter sensitively into spiritual conversation;
(iv) have sufficient life experience to enable them to respond with wisdom to a wide range of people from many different walks of life;
(v) show an openness to learning from their own and others’ experience;
(vi) give evidence of a committed and mature Christian faith, an openness to struggle, a preparedness to embrace paradox and mystery, a willingness to change in response to the call of God, and an openness to the whole community of faith;
(vii) demonstrate a love of and a commitment to prayer;
(viii) be committed to the process of on-going spiritual direction as a directee and have engaged in it for some time;
(ix) be a fully initiated and practicing Roman Catholic for at least three years or a similarly invested member of another Christian denomination who is respectful of, and comfortable with, Roman Catholicism.
(b) Application Process for entry to a formation program
The application process for entry to a formation program should normally entail:
(i) A detailed application form that requires a personal essay.
(ii) At least two recommendation forms with referees to be consulted as needed.
(iii) An interview, normally with two of the teaching staff.
(i) A formation program should give students a clear statement of the philosophy of formation in the course.
(ii) Giving the Spiritual Exercises effectively requires sound theoretical learning, skills training, an experience giving of the Spiritual Exercises under supervision and personal development.
(iii) Given that an extended time is needed for students to integrate their cognitive, personal and experiential learnings, formation programs should be spread over an extended period of time. An extended contact between a student and the teachers gives both time to discern whether the student is called by God to the ministry of giving the Exercises.
(iv) A program of at least 200 hours of student contact, plus at least 50 hours of supervision is required for those wishing to become 19th and 20th Annotation Members of Companions.
(v) A program of at least 100 hours of student contact, plus at least 20 hours of supervision is required for those wishing to become 18th Annotation Members of Companions.
(b) Principles of Learning
(i) The following principles of learning are suggested:
• the course content, process and learning goals should be clearly articulated
• the program should be designed to help the students move towards the learning goals
• the program should provide an adult learning environment
• the program should integrate experience and theory
• learning processes may include lectures, written notes and set readings, seminars, group discussions, role plays, triads, a practicum in giving the Spiritual Exercises.
(i) Since giving the Exercises is a practical art, theoretical components of a formation program should be taught in ways that relate to the actual practice of the ministry.
(ii) While it is not essential that the one who gives the Exercises have a degree in theology, it is important to have a basic understanding of theology and Scripture. A sound knowledge of Christology, the theology of grace and the New Testament is important.
(iii) Courses should also develop a broad theoretical base and include relevant theory on the psycho-spiritual development of the human person, interpreting religious experience, the discernment of spirits, and different ways of praying.
(iv) Because of a deepened relationship with God, an exercitant becomes more intentionally present to his or her world in a grace-filled way. Hopefully this results in a genuine concern for social justice and discerned action to help build the reign of God. Thus, formation programs should include an understanding of social sin and social justice.
(v) Givers of the Exercises need a basic understanding of psychological and spiritual development. Students should be able to distinguish clearly between psychological counselling and spiritual direction, and be able to articulate the difference in terms of theory and praxis.
(vi) Students need to be able to recognise psychopathology and know when to refer exercitants to other helping professions. Courses should include an understanding of the need for and the process of referral and referral options.
(vi) Courses should include an understanding of the ethics of spiritual direction, and ethical behaviour should be modelled in all aspects of the formation program. A formation program should adopt a particular code of ethics and address the issues outlined in that code with students.
(vii) A detailed knowledge of the text of the Spiritual Exercises.
(d) A commitment to personal growth and on-going spiritual direction
(i) The nourishment of a prayerful and contemplative approach to life, self-awareness and sensitivity to the movements of the Spirit are integral to personal growth.
(ii) Personal experience and growth is the most important source of knowledge for the person training to be engaged in the ministry of spiritual direction. Therefore, each student is required to have regular spiritual direction throughout a formation program.
(iii) The process of spiritual direction requires appropriate relationships between directors and their exercitants. Therefore emphasis on the development of personal selfawareness and relational openness of the student is an essential requirement in formation.
(iv) The interpersonal relationship is a core element in the spiritual direction process. If it becomes apparent during a formation program that a student has major psychological issues to be attended to, he or she should be encouraged by the coordinators of the program to undergo psychotherapeutic counselling as a way of deepening personal congruence and self-awareness.
(e) Practicum in giving Exercises
(i) The practice of actually giving Exercises in their many different forms should account for a substantial proportion of the program.
(ii) During the spiritual direction practicum the development of the following interpersonal communication skills are important:
• accurate empathy and staying with the exercitant’s experience
• well-informed understanding of what has been heard, and
• clear, accurate and helpful responding to the movements of the Spirit in the
(iii) There are a variety of ways in which the Spiritual Direction Practicum can occur. One of the best forms of experiential learning occurs when the student spiritual director is actually engaged in the process of direction. Some examples are:
• Structured experiences within a formation program: For example, students
working together in Diads, Triads, Quads and role plays.
• Director-directee experience: The student gives the Exercises to exercitants under supervision.
• Directing a retreat in a retreat centre: The student directs a retreat under supervision.
Supervision is a formal, collaborative process which monitors, develops and supports student directors. It is an essential component of any formation program.
(i) As giving the Spiritual Exercises is a practical art, supervision should be concurrent with the formation program and remain an integral part of the formation process.
(ii) 50 hours of face-to-face supervision in addition to the 200 hours of student contact, are required for 19th and 20th Annotation Members of Companions. A component of the supervision with an approved supervisor must be completed after the 200 hours of face-to-face student contact.
(iii) 20 hours of face-to-face supervision in addition to the 100 hours of student contact, are required for 18th Annotation Members of Companions. A component of the supervision with an approved supervisor must be completed after the 100 hours of face-to-face student contact.
(ii) Supervision provides the opportunity to assess and extend competencies, ensures adherence to standards and allows for the development of individual styles.
(iii) Methods of supervision include: live interviews, verbatims, case studies, role plays. Supervision may be conducted either one-to-one or in a group setting.
(iv) Supervision should include a clear contract with an approved supervisor.
(v) It is presumed that on-going supervision remains an integral part of professional practice. Guidance in on-going professional development and supervision ought be offered as a part of the course.
(g) Distance education
Distance education meets the requirements of this document (eg. admission, curriculum, assessment, credentials of the core staff, etc) in the following ways:
(i) Theory. The theoretical component of a formation program for givers of the Exercises could be done by distance education.
(ii) Practicum in giving the Exercises: A Practicum in giving the Exercises needs to be adequately supervised and assessed. It needs to be incorporated into the program through:
• Intensive residential programs which provide skills formation, supervision and feedback.
• Placement programs with a carefully monitored report from approved supervisors to give evidence of progress. It would not be sufficient that supervision embraces merely a general administrative overview of the student director’s work. Rather a detailed report from the approved supervisor on site in a form that addresses the student director’s practical competencies as set out in the course should be sent to the director of formation as part of the assessment.
(iii) Given the special circumstances of distance education, each program needs to show how its particular sequence of formation meets the standards of this document. For instance, a particular distance education formation program might link in with another accredited program in the area where
the student director lives as part of the requirements. Or an additional well-supervised placement in the student director’s locality could partially fulfil the requirements. Evidence would always need to be given that the standards of this document are not compromised.
Assessment addresses both theory and practice and is carried out by the teachers on the program or by assessors from outside the program with ongoing feedback given to the students in facilitative ways. It is recommended that self-assessment by students in formation be a component of the evaluation process.
There should be ongoing assessment of the knowledge of theory which is relevant to the level of the course. The student director needs to demonstrate an ability to engage in critical thinking in response to theory through written assignments, examinations, oral presentations, book reports,
journalling, personal reflection papers, contribution to class discussion, etc.
Since the purpose of the formation program is to produce competent givers of the Exercises, there is necessarily assessment of the student’s spiritual direction practice. This assessment should include evidence of skills through live supervision in triads and rigorous, frequent one-toone supervision.
5. Credentials of the Core Formation Staff
The following guidelines apply to the core staff who have the primary responsibility for a formation program.
It is the responsibility of this core group to monitor the standards of those additional professionals who teach in a program on an ad hoc basis. The core staff of a formation program for givers of the Exercises should:
(i) have qualifications in giving the Spiritual Exercises at least at the level
of formation /education being conducted by the program;
(ii) be competent supervisors;
(iii) be givers of the Spiritual Exercises with at least five years’ experience;
(iv) be concurrently engaged in practice giving the Spiritual Exercises relevant to the course they are teaching, or have had extensive experience sufficient for their role;
(v) demonstrate competence in facilitating adult learning, with some educational competency;
(vi) be conscious of their own on-going professional development and give evidence of such development when required.
For example, these guidelines apply to those persons who are facilitating the Arrupe Program.