you . . . read anything on Saint Ignatius and the Spiritual
Exercisesespecially discernment of spirits? I just cant imagine
a Catholic psychologist who hasnt heard of him.
havent written about Saint
Ignatius Spiritual Exercises anywhere else on this website because,
in their own way, they speak about the same matters I explain here in
The exercises are so grounded
in reverence for the Catholic faith that, if you
cant imagine a Catholic psychologist who hasnt heard of them,
its even more astonishing to imagine that anyone who has followed them
has not become a devout Catholic conservative.
Sadly, those who claim to revere Saint Ignatius and yet remain entrenched
in liberal heresies have only toyed intellectually
with his Spiritual Exercisesthey havent really taken them to
heart and soul.
Rules for the
Discernment of Spirits
Saint Ignatius presents two groups
of rules for the discernment of spirits.
The first group (314327)
of rules is more suitable for the first week of the exercises, and points
to two facts: (a) that, in persons actively in a state of mortal sin,
the influence of demons can maintain sin through
desire for sensory pleasures, whereas the
inspiration of good spirits can discourage sin through feelings of remorse;
and (b) that, in persons earnestly purging away their sins,
the influence of demons can, through feelings of
anxiety, obstruct spiritual progress, whereas the inspiration of good spirits
can bring about spiritual
The second group (329336)
of rules is more suitable for the second week of the exercises. In these
rules, Saint Ignatius addresses the circumstances in which false reasonings,
casuistry, and self-deceptions inhibit our spiritual progress.
The First Group
Consolation and Desolation
The first group of rules deals
essentially with the difference between two psycho-spiritual concepts:
consolation and desolation.
Now, in plain English, a
consolation refers to those experiences
that substantiate the belief that God cares for us and protects
if youre troubled about some course of action to take, and then, at
Mass, one of the readings provides insight into the matter, that is a
consolation. Or, again, if you have an important appointment and everything
seems to be going wrong as you struggle to get there, but you still manage
to get there on time, that is a consolation. A consolation, therefore, points
to the fact that God cares for you and will protect you, if
only you do not push Him away with sin.
In plain English, a
desolation refers to those experiences
that obstruct or inhibit us in our objectives. Psychologically speaking,
desolations can take either of two forms.
Desolations can happen
because of circumstances. A traffic jam can obstruct you as you drive
somewhere. A machine can break down when you feel pressed for time. An illness
can deplete your energy.
Desolations can happen
because of other persons. Someone might refuse to do what you want.
Someone might insult you. Someone might do something that you know is wrong.
The items on this list are as numerous as there are people.
The fundamental danger of a
desolation is that, in consequence of the emotional pain you feel because
of it, you can fall under the influence of demons
and thereby lose confidence in Gods providence (i.e., that He
will protect you) or His justice (i.e., that all
sin will be brought to
judgment in the
Because there are two kinds of
desolations, there are two different ways to cope with them.
of circumstance torment you, the demonic temptation will be to get upset,
lose your patience, and, through your own frantic efforts, reject Gods
will and try to make things go according to your will. So, instead
of succumbing to evil, endeavor to tolerate the
desolations with calmness and
prayer. Turn your thoughts to Gods protection,
and the fruits of the Holy Spirit will
be your consolation.
from others torment you, the demonic temptation will be to get
and take revenge with your own hands, thereby
committing sins against others or committing sins of self-satisfaction (e.g.,
erotic pleasures, using drugs, drinking, smoking, abusing food, etc.) or
self-sabotage. So, instead of succumbing
to evil, endeavor to reject thoughts of revenge, to
trust in divine justice, and to pray for your
enemies that they might repent their
sins. Here again, turn your thoughts to Gods
protection, and the fruits of the Holy
Spirit will be your consolation.
The Second Group
The second group of rules deals
essentially with spiritual distractions which I have described in
detail elsewhere on this website.