Approaches to Spiritual Direction and Discernment

Course Code: RGP3265HS


Monty Williams


Winter 2017
Tuesday 11:00 – 13:00



Course Description

An introduction to the dynamics, practice, and issues of spiritual direction and discernment in our contemporary culture with components of theological reflection on personal experience.

Course Objectives

The student is expected to write eight (8) 500 word position papers in the course of the semester elaborating or refining a single point of personal significance –either from a theological, pastoral, or cultural point of view-from the class presentations and discussions around these topics.


These will be assessed in terms of how that single point has been developed competently beyond the class discussion using outside research and references. The papers are to be handed in over the course of the semester. The student will note that extensive bibliographies on spirituality, spiritual direction, and discernment are readily available on the internet or through the University libraries’ resources. These should be used to help the student concentrate on areas of personal interest, and for topics explored in the class. For this reason no books are put on reserve.
It is expected that the papers will conform to approved manuals of style, spelling and grammar. Please note that a significant portion of a paper’s mark will be deducted for failure to meet an appropriate level of proficiency in this area. For those whose grammar and writing skills are weak there is a writing clinic offered at Regis College.

Course Schedule

A detailed course schedule is available for download.

Week 1

Class organization; Overview of Course; What is Spiritual Direction

Week 2

The Spiritual Journey: Biblical Metaphors; Literary Metaphors; Metaphors from non-Christian traditions; The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Week 3

Models of spiritual directors

Week 4
Paradigms of Spiritual Direction: Psychological/Communal/Ecological/ Liturgical/Artistic/Ignatian

Week 5

Changing Traditions in Spiritual Direction: An overview of the cultural analysis of spiritual direction: The post-modern situation

Week 6

Practical concerns in spiritual direction today: a) traps
b) caring for oneself c) spiritual direction in/outside of a retreat setting d) accessing another’s interiority ( e.g. the use of narratives) e. facilitating a spiritual conversation f) performance aspects of spiritual direction –rituals, the use of space; preparing to receive and give spiritual direction.

Week 7

The stories we live by: of self/others/God. Their relationship to spiritual direction. How we read another’s story.

Week 8

Dealing with “Otherness”: Gender/Culture/Nation/ Class/Race/ Age

Week 9

Introduction to Spiritual Discernment: Various Forms/ various traps/ the basic ground. Cultural Structures in discernment- how basic world views influence the process, aims, and ends of discernment

Week 10

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Rules for Discernment

Week 11

Ignatian rules for decision making

Week 12

Case studies in discernment