“For greater things you were born.” (Ven. Mother Luisita)
SATURDAY, March 27th Jn. 11: 45-56 “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.’”
- Caiaphas, High Priest, does not know the import of what he is saying. It is indeed better for one man, Jesus Christ, to die so that all may be saved. Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us, but we choose whether or not to enter those gates by how we live our lives!
- There are two spirits working in us – the Good Spirit and the Bad Spirit. The purpose of Ignatian Discernment of Spirits is to recognize which voice is speaking to us at any given time and in any situation – the good to embrace it and the bad to reject it!
- Yesterday, we covered Fr. Ed Broom’s excellent exposition of Rules 1 through 6 of Saint Ignatius’ Fourteen Rules for Discernment of Spirits. Today we will cover Rules 7 through 14 for deeper awareness and understanding of the choices we have to make.
RULES TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT & WIN THE BATTLE (Continued) by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
REVIEW: 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.
YESTERDAY, we covered Discernment Rules 1 thru 6. Today we cover Rules 7 thru 14.
RULE SEVEN: THE LAW OF SUFFICIENT GRACE.
When you are submerged in the dark night of desolation, it might appear as if you are in a dark tunnel from which there is no exit; this thought is provoked by the devil. There is always hope! Possibly one of the best Biblical passages is that of Saint Paul who says he was tormented by a thorn in the flesh which he begged the Lord three times to be freed of. The response of the Lord was clear: “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness!” (2Cor. 12: 9) We can overcome the state of desolation if we rely on the grace of God and not on our mere human efforts. In other words, it must be God-reliance and not self-reliance! The fundamental reason for failure and falling into sin is lack of relying upon God and His super-abundant graces. Call upon Mary who is known as “The full of grace!”
RULE EIGHT: BY YOUR PATIENCE YOU WILL SAVE YOUR SOUL.
Rule Eight can be succinctly summarized by just one key word: PATIENCE!!! In this Rule, Ignatius offers three powerful tools!
- Persevere in patience. It can be extremely helpful to meditate upon Jesus carrying His cross and His infinite patience.
- Next, Ignatius reminds us to utilize the practices of Rule Six which are: prayer, meditation, Daily Examen, and some suitable penance.
- Finally, as a psychological boost, Ignatius encourages us to think about the consolation that will soon arrive. If you like, after the storm, the sun breaks through the clouds. After sickness, health will be enjoyed. The barren Winter gives way to Spring flowers.
Being an excellent spiritual psychologist, Ignatius knows how direly we all need to grow in the virtue of patience with God, with ourselves, and with others.
RULE NINE: WHY DO WE HAVE DESOLATION? WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
In this Ninth Rule, Ignatius teaches us the three basic reasons why our soul goes through this state of desolation. The first is due to our own fault; the second and third, God actually allows desolation, so as to bring out of the desolation a greater good. Let us analyze them.
- LAZINESS, TEPIDITY, SLOTH. The first reason for descending into a state of DESOLATION is simply because we have fallen into a state of laziness or tepidity. Examples? Skipping your morning and night prayers, not doing your meditation or Holy Hour, or doing it less, or praying it poorly. Or it might be that you were in the habit of frequent Holy Communion and due to indolence you have given up the practice. Therefore, good Teacher that He is, God allows the Desolation to visit us in order to pull us out of this despicable state of mediocrity and tepidity. How good God is to intervene, to yank us out of the quagmire of lukewarmness!!!
- A TRIAL FROM GOD. So that we do not fall into what Saint John of the Cross terms Spiritual Gluttony. We must seek the God of consolations and not the consolations of God! Or if you like, Seek the Face of God more than the Hand of God!
- HUMILITY AND RELIANCE ON GOD. The last reason Ignatius gives is so we will have a keen awareness that of ourselves we cannot bring consolation to our soul. On the contrary, only God can give us consolation. Also, God gives us consolation when He wants, how He wants, for as long as He wants, and with the intensity He wants. Related to this, Ignatius warns us against pride and vanity. How easy it is to attribute to ourselves holiness, fervor, consolation, and spiritual graces; when in reality all good gifts comes from the Giver of all good gifts, God Himself!
RULE TEN: WHAT TO DO IN CONSOLATION???
Up to this point Ignatius has been instructing us on what our spiritual strategy is, what we are to do, in the state of desolation. Now he turns to the tactic or strategy of what we are to do when we find ourselves in the state of CONSOLATION! This may come to us as a real shock! Ignatius basically warns us that when we find ourselves in joy, peace, happiness, and over-flowing consolation, we should get ready for desolation. In other words, in times of peace, we must prepare and be prepared for war. The devil never goes on vacation and can easily slip in when we are in consolation, simply because this is when we might begin to think less about God, when we might begin to attribute our state of Consolation to our own ingenuity and sanctity. Careful!!! Good athletes when they are ahead in the game, try to advance even further, so as to make their victory absolute!!!
RULE ELEVEN: WHAT ELSE TO DO IN THE STATE OF CONSOLATION.
The key word in Rule Eleven is HUMILITY. When we are in consolation we should not give in to pride, but humble ourselves. Ignatius actually suggests that we rewind the film of our lives and recall how we were when we found ourselves in desolation: the trial, the darkness, the lack of peace, the over-riding sadness, the great turmoil. Reflecting upon that difficult state of desolation, possibly we felt buried in a dark pit, or lost in an endless tunnel, and only God could pull us through. In other words, God loves those who are humble of heart, like the Blessed Virgin Mary. Moreover, God rejects the proud and self-sufficient! As Mary said: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and He has lifted up the lowly.” (Mary’s Magnificat Lk 1:52)
The last three Rules of Saint Ignatius on Spiritual Discernment treat explicitly of the devil and the various ways that he works on the soul. These indeed are spiritual masterpieces that all should get to know well and live out frequently in the daily combat!
RULE TWELVE: COURAGE IN CONFRONTING THE ENEMY
In this Rule Ignatius exhorts us to be courageous and not cowardly. In the case of a street-woman striving to seduce a man, she knows psychology. If she tries to tempt or seduce him and he resists manfully from the outset and resists the temptation, then she backs off, recoils, and disappears. However, if she notes that in her tempting, the man is weak, faltering, floundering, and vacillating like a leaf blown in the wind, then she becomes all the more powerful to overpower him and win. If you like, the following is a short summary in a few words: “The devil is weak with the strong, but strong with the weak.”
Therefore, the tactic that we must use with the devil, applied to this Rule, is the following! As soon as we are aware of the devil tempting us to go against God and to sin, then we must strive with all of the energy in our will to reject the temptation immediately and forcefully! This in most cases will result in victory! The devil is a coward, but if we are cowards then he becomes strong and goes for the kill.
RULE THIRTEEN. AVOID SECRECY, OPEN UP IN TIMES OF DESOLATION!
Ignatius says that the devil is like a vain lover trying to seduce a noble woman behind the back of a noble man. The key word in this rule is that of SECRECY—KEEP IT SECRET!
A SUMMARY OF THE RULE. When we find ourselves in a state of desolation and sadness, assaulted by many temptations, it is the work of the devil to try to get us to keep our desolation a secret, under lock and key, top secret! Tell nobody!
RESULT OF SECRECY! If the devil wins by convincing us to keep our desolation a secret and not open up to anybody, then what happens is the following, by way of analogy. The devil turns a mole-hill into a mountain. Or if you like, a cut that is not treated gets infected with pus, the infection spreads, and finally gangrene sets in, ending with amputation. So it is with the work of the devil. If we do not have the courage and the means by which we can open up to a Spiritual Director or Confessor, or a person in whom we can trust and confide, then the temptation is exacerbated, grows bigger and stronger, until we finally capitulate and give in to the temptation. In the Diary of Saint Faustina, Jesus revealed to the saint that revealing the temptation of the devil to her Confessor, weakened the stronghold of the devil and would eventually conquer him. To open up and to reveal is an act of humility, and the devil hates any shape, size, or form of humility.
IN CONCRETE. In concrete, all of us must be equipped with a Confessor or Spiritual Director, or both. In times of desolation we must have the humility and the courage to open up and to articulate clearly the thoughts and temptations we are experiencing. If we learn and practice this lesson, we have a powerful tool in our spiritual combat.
RULE FOURTEEN. THE KRYPTONITE RULE: THE DEVIL KNOWS OUR WEAK POINT!
In this last Rule, which indeed is a literary masterpiece, Ignatius compares the human soul to a feudal fortress or castle. So as not to be plundered and sacked, the owner of the castle must have barricades, as well as walls of protection, maybe even a moat surrounding the castle. The enemy, of course, circles the castle and studies to see where there might be some opening. Maybe a crevice, a crack, a loose board, an opening in the roof, or possibly an unlocked window or door. Once the enemy becomes aware of an opening, then quickly and energetically he goes for the kill. Entering unaware, he sacks and plunders the castle, taking all that is in his power to steal.
This Middle Age image of the fortress or castle is an image of our immortal soul. Our enemy is not any mere military captain. Much more dangerous and insidious: it is the devil. The devil has many Biblical names: Lucifer, Satan, the devil, demon, Prince of this world, the serpent, the ancient serpent, the seducer, a liar and a murderer from the beginning, Beelzebub (the Lord of the Flies). Saint Peter goes so far as to call the devil a roaring lion who goes in search of whom he can devour.
MODERN IMAGE OF THE ATHLETE. A modern image easy to understand is that of an athlete competing in the sports arena or stadium. To be concrete, the example of a Professional Baseball Pitcher. It is incumbent upon the Professional Pitcher to get to know his opponents—namely the Batters. The Pitcher will study past videos, analytics, and statistics to see where the batter is strong and where he is weak. Then, with this knowledge, he will strive to pitch to the weakness of the batter, hoping for a strike-out. The same can be applied to a Professional Boxer or Wrestler. Find the weak-point of the opponent, then punch and attack for the kill!
KRYPTONITE ANALOGY. Most of us know of SUPERMAN. Clark Kent as Superman, was indomitable, powerful, strong, fast, able to fly over huge buildings. However, despite his prowess, he had one weak-point and that was the famous alien mineral KRYPTONITE. Once exposed to this mineral element, Superman was as weak and vulnerable as any other man. In a word, he had to avoid Kryptonite. So it is with us and Rule Fourteen. We all have our own Kryptonite which we have to detect and avoid at all costs, lest we fall and be overcome. One of the best ways to detect your Kryptonite is once again to have a good Spiritual Director, and to talk out your strengths and weaknesses. However, it is also of paramount importance to study and get to know the seven Capital Sins, to detect and determine which one is your basic Capital Sin, your primary weakness, in a word, your KRYPTONITE! Then try to practice the opposite virtue. The seven Capital Sins are the following:
- Gluttony – opposing virtue Temperance;
- Lust – opposing virtue Purity;
- Greed or Avarice – opposing virtue Charity;
- Sloth or Laziness –opposing virtue Diligence;
- Envy – opposing virtue Charity or Brotherly Love;
- Anger – opposing virtue Meekness (Meekness is not weakness, but powerful emotion under control.);
- Pride – opposing virtue Humility.
In conclusion, we have come to the end of our short study of the 14 Rules for Discernment of Spirits from the great Saint Ignatius of Loyola. We hope that you will become a student of these 14 Rules, not simply to have a head knowledge of these Rules, but most especially to implement them, put them into practice, so as to fight the good fight, run the good race, and win the merited crown of glory that awaits the faithful soldiers of Jesus and Mary in the Kingdom of Heaven!