Are you looking to delve into the breadth and beauty of the Catholic prayer tradition?

Do you yearn to know how to deepen your prayer life?

Are you being called to develop a higher relationship with our Lord?

Then join us at the Avila Institute’s School of Spiritual Formation


“Lord, Teach Us to Pray”

Developed to build on the basics yet prepare you for a deeper relationship with God and increase your preparedness to serve others, the School of Spiritual Formation caters to your busy schedule and need for a less demanding time commitment. You can join in the live/online classes or watch them via video whenever and wherever that best suits your busy schedule. Here is a list of course characteristics:

    • Format: Live/Online or Recorded
    • Course Duration: 6 Weeks
    • Class Time: One 1-2 Hour Class Per Week
    • Grading: Pass/Fail
    • Student Interaction with Professor: As much as desired.
    • Student Interaction with Other Students: As much as desired.
    • Each 6-week course is $150
    • Number of Courses to Earn a Certificate of Completion from Avila Institute’s School of Spiritual Formation: 12

Upcoming Courses: Spring 2018 (March-May)

Session One: March-May

Application Deadline: Wednesday, February 21st

  • Introduction to St. Thérèse of Lisieux taught by Deacon Colin Coleman
    • Mondays: 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time
      • March 5, 12, 19, April 2, 9, 16 (no class March 26)
  • Introduction to St. Francis of Assisi taught by Patrick Linbeck
    • Wednesdays: 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time
      • March 21, April 4, 11, 18, 25, May 2
  • Discernment of Spirits Part One taught by Dan Burke
    • Thursdays: 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time
      • March 22, April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3

Session Two: May-June

Application Deadline: Thursday, April 26th

  • Evangelization and the Spiritual Life taught by Dr. Joseph Hollcraft
    • Wednesdays: 9:00 – 11:00 PM Eastern Time
      • May 9, 16, 23, 30, Jun 6, 13
  • Introduction to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity taught by Dr. Michael Gama
    • Thursdays: 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time
      • May 10, 17, 24, 31, Jun 7, 14
  • Contemplative Prayer and the Beloved Disciple taught by John Johnson
    • Fridays: 8:30 – 10:30 PM Eastern Time
      • May 11, 18, 25, Jun 1, 8, 15

Courses Descriptions:

The following courses will be offered throughout the year:

Transformation in Christ — SSF 101: This course provides a systematic study of the foundational means and principles needed to more fully respond to the call of Christ in the life of the believer. Students will consider the mission of Christ in its various facets, including being sent by the Father, His calling to deeper conversion and intimacy, as well as being sent out to continue His work. Special consideration will be given to the role of prayer and the interior response to Christ in the life of the disciple.

Foundations of Prayer & Union with God— SSF 102: This course will include a review of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive phases of spiritual growth and the related challenges and prescriptions for prayer in each. It will provide an understanding of the entire spectrum of ascetical and mystical dimensions of prayer from vocal prayer to contemplation including insights into how to deepen one’s prayer life, understanding the process of deepening prayer with respect to disposition and virtue, the dark night of the soul as it applies to the transition from ascetical to mystical prayer. The main body of study in prayer progress will include Ignatian dimensions (as with meditation) but will mostly focus on Carmelite perspective and particularly on the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila.

Discernment of Spirits — Hearing the Voice of God — SSF 105: This course will explore the theory and practice of the discernment of spirits as embodied in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s fourteen rules for discernment of spirits contained in his Spiritual Exercises. These fourteen rules provide one of the clearest and most comprehensive explanations of the discernment of spirits in the Christian spiritual tradition. The course will examine the principles and process of the discernment of spirits in the Ignatian tradition by drawing upon both the original text and a commentary of St. Ignatius’s fourteen rules of discernment. This course will also provide students with a better understanding of these principles so that they may apply them to their own spiritual lives and thus recognize more clearly the action of God in their daily lives.

Virtue and Union with God — SSF 107: Throughout Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, we are exhorted to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” and to live righteous lives characterized by holiness, faith and virtue. In this class we will explore this exhortation from several standpoints. First we will review the biblical and catechetical exhortation, followed by a review of the nature and meaning of virtue through the initial 1,500 years of Church history. This will be followed by a deeper look at the Christian view of virtues, both historically and theologically. We will then continue with a more substantive study of the “telos” or goal of the virtues in our lives and their place in our spiritual pilgrimage and salvation as we seek to be like Jesus. The remainder of the class will focus on personal application by asking ourselves how we are to be virtuous, why we ought to be virtuous and why living a virtuous life is so central to our salvation.

The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church — SSF 110The Church was established by Christ to carry out His mission until the end of the age through the power of the Holy Spirit. This course will provide students with an overview of the action and presence of the Holy Spirit throughout Salvation History, highlighting God’s works of creation, redemption and sanctification. The course will also focus on interiorizing these foundations truths of the faith through prayer and personal reflection.

Introduction to Spiritual Direction — SSF 112: This course will provide an understanding of what spiritual direction is, what it isn’t, who should participate, how to engage with a director, how to engage with a directee, how to help the directee make progress against sin, increase in virtue, and deepen in prayer. As well, students will learn how to develop a rule of life.

Evangelization and the Spiritual Life — SSF 115: Evangelization has always been a cornerstone of the mission of Christ and the Church He established. However, the need to renew this foundational aspect of the Church’s mission has been in the forefront since the Second Vatican Council. This course will look at evangelization in its various aspects looking specifically at the writings of some of the recent popes and other important documents. Underlying this, the understanding of evangelization as springing essentially from the interior life, both of the Church and its members will also be considered.

Introduction to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity — SSF 220: In this course, there will be a brief overview of Blessed Elizabeth’s life; introducing the principal themes of her spirituality, her works, and the major influences on her spirituality; reflecting on: the charism of her prayer, her particular contribution to the contemplative dimension of prayer for the lay faithful, and her spiritual mission.

Introduction to St. Teresa of Avila — SSF 225: Course description TBA

Introduction to St. John of Avila — SSF 226: The course surveys the life, influence and spiritual teaching of Saint John of Ávila. Known as the Apostle of Andalusia, this renowned preacher and man of prayer from the 16th Century though imprisoned by the Inquisition was later consulted by Saint Teresa of Avila and the Fathers of the Council of Trent. Many who were converted by his preaching and spiritual counsel themselves became saints including Saint John of God and Saint Francis Borgia. In our time, Pope Benedict declared him Doctor of the Church. This course explores his spiritual teaching imbued with the language of the Sacred Scriptures and a certain experiential wisdom is found in selections from his master work written over the course of his life for a soul who sought him as a spiritual director, Audi, Filia (Listen O Daughter).

Introduction to St. John of the Cross — SSF 230: St. John of the Cross is one of the most misunderstood of the spiritual doctors of the Church, yet his wisdom has led untold numbers of thirsty pilgrims to pure wells of salvation, contemplation, and union with God. In this course we will explore John’s life, introduce his major writings and his central teachings on prayer, meditation, contemplation, and the dark night of the soul. We will place particular emphasis on correcting any misunderstandings of his writings and revealing the profound beauty of his revelation of God’s path to mystical union.

Life & Holiness — The Lay Vocation — SSF 241: Course description TBA

Life & Holiness — The Religious Vocation — SSF 242: Course description TBA

Growth in Holiness: Doctors of the Interior Life — SSF 248: “Sir, we would see Jesus . . .” This was the urgent request from the Greeks in John’s gospel who had met and listened to Jesus’ disciples. And it has also been, essentially, the same ultimate desire of the saints and Doctors of the church who wished nothing more — or less — than to see Our Lord and be transformed by a growth in holiness and purity of heart, knowing that it is the pure in heart who shall see God. In this class we will explore the fruits and lessons of this grand desire in the lives and writings of these saints and Doctors of the Church and their pursuit of God. We will look for guidance in our own pursuit of holiness, to saints from both the east and the west. Saints such as Gregory the Great, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese de Lisieux (The Little Flower), St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Isaac the Syrian. The great Doctors of the Church enjoyed and explored their own unique paths toward holiness and knowing God, originating from different vantage points, but all conforming, as it has been said, to “that great riverbed of Scripture and Tradition.” Our goal will be to learn from them as we, too, conforming to that great “riverbed of Scripture and Tradition,” seek to grow in personal holiness, so that we might better — as did the Greeks described in John’s gospel — seek to be worthy of seeing our Lord and walking with Him into a partaking of the divine nature and fellowship with the Holy Trinity.

Angels and Demons – SSF 275: Explore the reality and nature of angelic beings, their role in the lives of the faithful, fallen angels, their power, role, and origin. This course will also include discussion about possession and exorcism.

For more information on earning a Certificate from the School of Spiritual Formation please click HERE or contact our Admissions Counselor at

To apply, please click HERE.