Participant & Leader Guide

Baseline Commitments of this Spiritual Exercise

All participants are committing to the following practices:

  • 5 minutes of daily mental prayer with a goal of 15 minutes daily by Week 4
  • One daily Mass in addition to your Sunday obligation every week
  • 30 minutes of Eucharistic Adoration every week (Tabernacle or Monstrance)
  • Confession at least monthly
  • Fasting as well as abstinence from meat on Fridays (as your health allows)
  • Openness to weekly spiritual challenges
  • 30 minutes of weekly spiritual reading from Servant of God Father John A. Hardon S.J.
  • 60 minute weekly small group meeting

Weekly Challenge Guidance

The weekly spiritual challenges are optional but encouraged for all participants.

  • The weekly challenges are an invitation for you to embrace the basic spiritual practices that all Catholics are called to. They are proposed in addition to the baseline commitments of this spiritual exercise. 
  • The challenges will build on each other, and they will help you to establish a personal rule of life that you can follow after the spiritual exercise ends.
  • Discernment is necessary in the undertaking of these weekly challenges. Pace yourself and do not take on too much too fast, or you may become overwhelmed or discouraged, which often leads to abandoning the progress you have made.
  • Consult your small group if you need help discerning whether or not to undertake a particular challenge. 
  • Above all, ask Jesus to give you a spirit of discernment, detachment, generosity, and love as you incorporate the weekly challenges into your daily rule of life.

Small Group Meeting Structure

  1. Begin in prayer.
    Our Father…
    Mary, seat of wisdom, pray for us.
  2. Each small group member should give a brief 30 second report about their week in which they share their successes or struggles with the baseline commitments and weekly challenges of the spiritual exercise. This report functions to provide the accountability and support you need to stay faithful to the most fundamental practices of the spiritual life. Minor shortcomings may simply be acknowledged, while major and repetitive struggles with the spiritual commitments should be discussed.
  3. The discussion questions of the week should be proposed one at a time. Allow for answers and conversation related to each question.
  4. Before ending the meeting, review the upcoming weekly challenge and take a few moments to encourage one another in carrying the challenge out.
  5. Keep an eye on the clock and be sure to end on time.
  6. Close in prayer.
    Hail Mary…
    Saint Joseph, pray for us.
  7. Feel free to stay afterwards for a few minutes to chat and socialize or continue the discussion informally.
  8. Consider visiting Jesus and praying before the tabernacle or monstrance before returning home for the evening.

First Meeting Guidelines

  • Take some time for introductions. Everyone should briefly share their reasons for participating in this spiritual exercise and a few details about themselves.
  • Establish a group text or group email and be intentional about checking-in weekly around mid-week for accountability on the spiritual commitments and weekly challenges. Feel free to share prayer requests and encouragement via this group message.
  • Confidentiality and trust are very important. All small group members should be committed to keeping discussions in strict confidence. A brief reminder about this should be given at meetings in the early weeks of the exercise.

General Small Group Guidelines

  • You should keep up with the weekly spiritual reading and reflect on the discussion questions as you work through the reading. Do not wait until the last minute every week and rush through the spiritual reading. Prepare well so that you can contribute meaningfully at your small group meeting.
  • Try to meet socially on at least one occasion during the course of the eight week exercise. Consider a shared meal or an outing to build unity and the bonds of friendship within the small group.
  • Schedule a regular time to participate in the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass together or to spend time in Adoration of the Holy Eucharist together. Also, consider praying the Rosary as a group.
  • Keep a running list of prayer intentions and accountability needs for the group.

Small Group Leader Responsibilities

Humility and Charity must be the bedrock of your effort in leading a small group. Pray daily that the Lord will assist you in the practice of these virtues.

  • Leaders are expected to attend every meeting. In the event that you will need to miss a meeting, please designate someone to take your place.
  • Facilitate small group discussion using open ended questions and the prompting of individuals when necessary.
  • Do not be afraid of silence. However, if it becomes excessive, volunteer some thoughts yourself to get the ball rolling. Don’t hesitate to pose questions to group members directly, especially to those who may be quieter or less comfortable sharing.
  • Small group meetings are not group therapy sessions. Gently redirect the group if it becomes overly focused on a particular personal struggle of a group member or if discussion gets off topic.
  • Redirect excessive advice giving, overly-political discussion, and those who may be monopolizing the discussion. Address these issues directly with participants outside of the small group if necessary.
  • If conversation leads into a discussion question farther down the list, then feel free to skip to that question. Then circle back to other questions afterwards.
  • Do not hesitate to admit you do not know an answer to a theological question that may arise. Note the question and find the answer before the next meeting. Consider following up via the group text or email to share what you find.
  • In the course of discussion, if you encounter theologically incorrect understandings of the subject being discussed or opinions contrary to the teachings of the Church, do not hesitate to gently and charitably correct and clarify the errors. If you do not feel equipped in the moment to correct or clarify the error, at least note that an error has occurred and promise the group a follow-up clarification in the coming week.
  • Make sure not to dominate the discussion yourself. Generally wait for others to respond before sharing. Your role as leader is not teacher but facilitator. There will be teaching moments, however teaching should not be your focus. Instead, it is your role to make discussion easier and more comfortable for group members. 
  • Touch base with those who missed the weekly meeting to encourage and invite them to attend the next meeting.
  • If you are not able to cover all of the discussion questions in the allotted 1 hour meeting time, that is okay. Make sure to end on time to respect others’ schedules. If the group is interested in a particular question that you did not have time for, consider revisiting the question at the next meeting.