An Ignatian Approach to Virtue Education – an STL Thesis

By Paul J. Shelton, SJ
Sep 2nd, 2016

Anyone working in a Jesuit apostolate, lay or Jesuit, knows well the centrality of the Spiritual Exercises as a guiding principle for the work. Often, we give the Exercises to other adults in either in the form  the or 18th 19th annotation. I began wondering how I might “give” the Exercises to my students.

At the heart of this wondering was the great preliminary point of the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love, “Love ought to be shown in deeds more than words.” I thought if I were to truly teach Christianity, if I were going to let the Exercises inform my teaching, then I had to find a way for students to practice loving.

With this in mind, I began, and still continue, to create theology labs. These labs were based on a specific virtue, gratitude for instance, and became students “homework.” For gratitude, a key component of the 1st week of the Exercises, students make a daily journal entry about 5 things they are grateful for everyday day for two weeks. At the end of the week, we share what is was like to live this virtue.

The following is my  STL thesis: An Ignatian Approach to Virtue Education, where I explored the intersection between the praxis and theory of how one might teach virtue from an Ignatian perspective. Feel free to read the whole thing, but the last chapter gives the actual 5 step method and is more appropriate for those lacking time. Thanks for your time!

Fr. Paul J. Shelton, SJ

St. Ignatius High School

Cleveland, OH