“For greater things you were born.” (Ven. Mother Luisita)
FRIDAY, March 26th Jn. 10: 31-42 “The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.’ … ‘If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’”
- Today’s Gospel brings up the question of Discernment of Spirits. How do we know when it is God is speaking to us versus the devil, the enemy of our soul, speaking to us? This is such an important question in our spiritual life that Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote Rules for the Discernment of Spirits.
- In our Lenten journey of purification of our heart, mind, body, soul and life, it is opportune to review the first 14 Rules as we enter Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
- Fr. Ed Broom presents and expounds upon these Rules. Let us examine our spiritual walk up to this point in time to determine whose voice we have been listening to—the good spirit or the bad spirit? Today we will cover the first Six Rules and tomorrow the next Eight Rules.
RULES TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT & WIN THE BATTLE by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
Taken from his own experience, after the life-changing battle of Pamplona, Saint Ignatius of Loyola offers us two series of Rules to help us in our battle for the salvation of our immortal souls. The first series is composed of 14 Rules; the second, of 8 Rules! We will discuss the first 14 Rules.
ORIGIN? After the serious wound in both of his legs in the Battle of Pamplona, Ignatius had plenty of time for recovery. In this period of convalescence, his mind and affections gyrated back and forth between two contrary objects: one was the worldly, the sensual, the vain, the material life he had lived; the other consisted of reading and reflecting on the lives of the saints, as well as the life of Christ. The worldly thoughts and reveries brought him some immediate pleasure on the surface of his emotions, but then he sank into a state of desolation and sadness. The joie de vivre (joy of life) dissipated and went up in smoke. But when he lifted his mind and heart to the spiritual realm of Jesus and the saints, his heart was set on fire and he had the most fervent desire and longing to imitate the saints. Ignatius said: “If Francis could do it, so can I; if Dominic could do it, so can I.”
Then, as recorded in his Autobiography, “his eyes were opened a little and he noticed that some thoughts brought him desolation and sadness, whereas, the others, consolation and joy.” This experience of Saint Ignatius establishes the background and foundation for his renowned Rules for Discernment of Spirits. Ignatius insists on awareness of these various interior movements. We must reject the bad that lead to desolation; we must recognize, accept, and follow the good that lead to consolation. Knowing these various interior motions and applying these Rules is indispensable for living out Ignatian Spirituality, and consequently pursuing an openness to the good spirit, and a ready willingness to reject the bad spirit! In this short essay we would like to give a brief summary of the first series of 14 Rules and some concrete means to apply them to our lives.
RULE ONE: TACTIC OF THE GOOD SPIRIT VS. THE BAD SPIRIT: THE SOUL IN MORTAL SIN.
THE BAD SPIRIT. For the individual who has chosen to live a life of sin, and serious or grave sin, the devil has a specific tactic. The enemy proposes apparent pleasures, sensual delights, and gratifications by means of filling the imagination with these sensual delights. The tactic of the devil? To increase the vices, to augment the sins, to tempt such a person to commit as many and as grave sins as possible. The net result will be total SLAVERY. Actually, Jesus affirms the fact that sin is true slavery. Moreover, the slavery and the chains become more powerful. In modern language, the person becomes an ADDICT. The final step of the devil is to dull and erode the conscience so much that such the addict no longer has any remorse of conscience. Pope Pius XII stated on this matter: “The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.” Finally, if such an individual dies in the state of mortal sin without repentance, then they lose their soul for all eternity. Sad to say, in our modern age, there are many addicts, but the worst part is that they do not admit their addiction. Indeed, a Doctor can only heal a person who admits they are sick.
THE GOOD SPIRIT. Now the good spirit, in dealing with the soul of an individual living in a state of serious sin, uses a totally different approach. In silent reflection and by the use of reason, the good spirit will sting their conscience and fill them with remorse. The road to conversion is now underway! It might be compared to having a thorn in your side, or small stone in your sandal, or some dust in your eye. You just have to remove it. So it is with the Holy Spirit. He makes you feel uncomfortable with your conscience, where you are at morally, so that you feel the real need to change. Saint Augustine mentions this in his classic Confessions before his conversion. Associating with a recently converted man to Christianity who was radiating joy, Augustine felt sad because he did not experience that joy. He was on the path to conversion.
RULE TWO: TACTIC OF THE GOOD SPIRIT VS. THE BAD SPIRIT: THE SOUL IN GRACE AND STRIVING FOR HOLINESS.
THE BAD SPIRIT. In this state of soul, the bad spirit and the good spirit dramatically change tactics. Now the bad spirit strives to harass this soul who is striving for perfection with negative thoughts, often scrupulosity, with the intention of taking away their peace. Saint Ignatius experienced this in Manresa. After he makes a general confession that takes close to four days, and is engaged daily in praying, doing penance, and acts of charity, in sum, striving to really follow the Lord in holiness of life, the devil assaults him with negative thoughts trying to rob him of his peace. Such thoughts are the following: maybe he did not make a good confession after all; also, he is praying long hours and practicing extreme penances now, but there is no way that he will be able to persevere in this way of life for years to come. The devil even tempts Ignatius with thoughts against his own life, thoughts of suicide. These are the astute tricks of the devil in this state. The devil tries to fill the road to holiness with pot-holes, ditches, blocks, obstacles, detours, and even flat-tires. He will do all he can to discourage you, so that you give up pursuing holiness of life and return to a sinful life or at least a life of mediocrity.
THE GOOD SPIRIT. Quite the contrary is the work and action of the good spirit on the soul who in all sincerity is striving to purge themself of sin and live a life of true holiness. The Holy Spirit, in a certain sense, becomes a cheer-leader—encouraging the soul, sending thoughts and desires of peace, joy, and happiness. The soul experiences the spiritual life with the Lord as absolutely marvelous—nothing could be better. The good spirit gives courage and strength, consolation and peace, tears of joy, heavenly inspirations, and removes all obstacles.
What is most obvious is that the spiritual life is a constant battle between the good spirit and the bad spirit; this battle is ongoing and ends only at the moment of death.
RULE THREE: A DESCRIPTIVE RULE OF WHAT SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION IS!
In this Rule Saint Ignatius simply describes in many ways what CONSOLATION consists of. The best way to understand this is to simply compose an Ignatian list of the signs of consolation:
A LIST OF SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION IN YOUR LIFE:
- Your soul is inflamed with love for your Creator.
- You love creatures of God only related to the Creator.
- Tears moved by the love of God. Why tears?
- Tears of sorrow for your sins—true sign of repentance.
- Tears being shed when meditating on the Passion and suffering of Jesus.
- Tears shed in the praise and service of God.
- Increase in the theological virtue of Faith in God
- Increase in the theological virtue of Hope—trust in God.
- Growth in the greatest of all the virtues: Charity, supernatural love.
- JOY—attracted to what is heavenly.
- JOY—related to the salvation of your soul.
- PEACE AND QUIET. Furthermore, your soul experiences great peace and quiet in the Lord. Saint Paul says: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4: 7)
All of the above are clears signs of experiencing CONSOLATION. We can pray to the Holy Spirit that we will experience consolation constantly. It must be noted that our consolation is in the God of all creation, and not simply in creation separated from God.
RULE FOUR: A DESCRIPTIVE RULE OF WHAT SPIRITUAL DESOLATION IS.
As might be expected, noticing the fact that Ignatius plays on literary contrasts, DESOLATION will be the polar opposite of CONSOLATION. Indeed, this is the case! To make this easy for us, like in the last explanation of the rule, we will simply compose a list of signs of DESOLATION. However, it is very important for us to be able to detect in our souls, and in our lives, when we are in a state of consolation or desolation. The following rules give us concrete practices to undertake so as to claim victory over desolation with the help of God’s grace!
A LIST OF SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL DESOLATION IN YOUR LIFE:
- Darkness of soul—imagine being spiritually in a dark tunnel, or dungeon, or cave. There you have it, but within your soul!
- Turmoil of spirit; this is diametrically opposed to inner peace. To the contrary, all peace is gone.
- Inclination to what is low and earthly. In other words, drawn to flesh/carnality—the capital sins. As examples, this might be gluttony, lust, laziness—being pulled toward the earth and its base desires.
- Restlessness. Think of Cain after he killed Abel. He was not at peace in the least; rather he was a restless, wandering, and forlorn soul.
- Disturbances. Being pulled in many directions without any goal or purpose in life.
- Temptations—this is the role of the devil himself! Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the devil exactly that: THE TEMPTER.
- The three Theological Virtues under attack. In consolation, the theological virtues flourish and grow; not so in desolation: they are under attack and weakened.
- Lack of FAITH… Faith seems to wane and decline. What is the purpose of a God-centered life?
- Lack of HOPE… A tendency and temptation to simply throw in the towel, to give up. What is the use???
- Lack of CHARITY… Instead of love for God and neighbor, absorbed in love of self. Instead of Theology, it is Meology!
- SLOTHFUL. The soul is lazy, anemic, lacking in energy to do good.
- TEPID. Another word for tepid is LUKEWARM. The Book of Revelation condemns this: “You are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm; I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3: 16)
- SAD. No joy whatsoever, lost in the valley of sadness and darkness; gloom and doom dominate the soul.
- SEPARATION FROM THE CREATOR. Still more, the soul that is in the state of desolation seems to be separated from God the Creator. God, where are you???
Even though somewhat painful to read and study the reality of the state of DESOLATION, it is indispensable in the spiritual life to name it, claim it, and tame it through the grace of God and by following the next rules that Ignatius so wisely lays out for us!
RULE FIVE: IN DESOLATION, NEVER MAKE CHANGES IN YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE.
Saint Ignatius is very firm and clear in this rule. When you find yourself in the state of DESOLATION, never make any changes in your spiritual life and proposals. Rather, you must remain firm and rock-solid. Why? The reason is very simple: the reality of the DEVIL. When you find yourself immersed in that state of darkness, sadness, and so to speak hopelessness, it is exactly in that state that the devil launches his most powerful weapons. If you give up prayer and your devotional practices, your meditation and examination of conscience, then you are a sitting-duck for the devil’s attacks. Like good soldiers under attack, you must be firm in not abandoning the fight! Saint Paul invites us to fight the good fight until the end.
RULE SIX. THE RULE OF AGERE CONTRA.
The words in Latin AGERE CONTRA are pure Ignatius! What the words mean are simply this: Do the exact opposite of what the devil is tempting you to do! In other words, you cannot give in to laziness in any size, shape, or form. In this rule Ignatius offers fours specific practices, which we will list:
- PRAYER. Do not neglect prayer under any circumstances, but especially when in the state of DESOLATION! Dedicate some time to vocal prayers prayed fervently: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God, Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love, the Hail Holy Queen… All of these are shields against the enemy.
- MEDITATION. Also, under no circumstance should your daily meditation be neglected. This could be fatal. If you have the habit of making your daily Holy Hour, as Ven. Fulton Sheen calls it, THE HOUR OF POWER, be diligent and faithful, even add a minute or two, rather than whittle it down by praying less.
- DAILY EXAMEN. Ignatius insists on the DAILY EXAMEN. However, this is most important in desolation so as to detect the why or the reason for the desolation! By going through your day and actions you might be able to detect some unfaithfulness to the Lord that is bringing on the desolation.
- SOME SUITABLE PENANCE. Finally, Ignatius recommends some suitable form of penance. Jesus said clearly: “Some devils can be expelled only by prayer and penance.” (Mt. 17: 21) Giving up a cookie or soda, saying a few extra prayers, praying on your knees, denying a program you like—any of these can serve to help untie the knot of desolation.
Finding yourself in this state of desolation, it is of supreme importance to remember these four practices and the practice of Agree Contra—Act Against, meaning not to follow the devil of laziness and neglect, but be a faithful soldier—vigilant, working, and obedient!
Note: Ignatian Rules for Discernment of Spirits to be continued tomorrow…