Pedagogy of the Spiritual Exercises

(23) A distinctive feature of the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm is that, understood in the light of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, it becomes not only a fitting description of the continual interplay of experience, reflection and action in the teaching-learning process, but also an ideal portrayal of the dynamic interrelationship of teacher and learner in the latter's journey of growth in knowledge and freedom.

(24) Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises is a little book that was never meant to be read, at least as most books are. It was intended, rather, to be used as a way to proceed in guiding others through experiences of prayer wherein they might meet and converse with the living God, come honestly to grips with the truth of their values and beliefs, and make free and deliberate choices about the future course of their lives. The Spiritual Exercises, carefully construed and annotated in Ignatius' little manual, are not meant to be merely cognitive activities or devotional practices. They are, instead, rigorous exercises of the spirit wholly engaging the body, mind, heart and soul of the human person. thus they offer not only matters to be pondered, but also realities to be contemplated, scenes to be imagined, feelings to be evaluated, possibilities to be explored, options to be considered, alternatives to be weighed, judgments to be reached and choices of action to be made -- all with the express aim of helping individuals to seek and find the will of God at work in the radical ordering of their lives.

(25) A fundamental dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius is the continual call to reflect upon the entirety of one's experience in prayer in order to discern where the Spirit of God is leading. Ignatius urges reflection on human experience as an essential means of validating its authenticity, because without prudent reflection delusion readily becomes possible and without careful reflection the significance of one's experience may be neglected or trivialised. Only after adequate reflection on experience and interior appropriation of the meaning and implications of what one studies can one proceed freely and confidently toward choosing appropriate courses of action that foster the integral growth of oneself as a human being. Hence, reflection becomes a pivotal point for Ignatius in the movement from experience to action, so much so that he consigns to the director or guide of persons engaged in the Spiritual Exercises primary responsibility for facilitating their progress in reflection.

(26) For Ignatius, the vital dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises is the individual person's encounter with the Spirit of Truth. It is not surprising, therefore, that we find in his principles and directions for guiding others in the process of the Spiritual Exercises a prefect description of the pedagogical role of teacher as one whose job is not merely to inform but to help the student progress in the truth. If they are to use the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm successfully, teachers must be sensitive to their own experience, attitudes, opinions lest they impose their own agenda on their students. (Cf paragraph #111).