By Father Corey Close
For the last several months I have been writing about the rules of discernment by St. Ignatius of Loyola, rules that have greatly aided people on their spiritual journey through the centuries. These rules help to explain the ins and outs of the spiritual life. Today, I would like to complete my examination of these rules by looking at rules 10-14.
Rules 10 and 11 both deal with consolation. These are times when we feel close to the Lord, but even in these times the Evil Spirit can still trick us with two major temptations. The first temptation is to think that we will never be tempted again, or that we will never again experience desolation. Satan is trying to get us to be unprepared for when consolation leaves us. In rule 10, St. Ignatius teaches us to prepare for the coming desolation. What this preparation looks like will be different, based on our spiritual life. In general, a review of the rules of St. Ignatius — along with prayers that may help us — will aid us greatly. Remembering that desolation will come is a natural part of the spiritual life, so don’t let it catch you off guard!
The second temptation during consolation is to pat ourselves on the back and to think that God is rewarding us for a job well done. St. Ignatius teaches us, in rule 11, that when we are in consolation, we should humble ourselves. Prayers such as the Litany of Humility, among others, would serve us well in times of consolation, so that we don’t get “too high.” Further, St. Ignatius encourages us to take courage when we are in desolation because consolation will come soon. In short, St. Ignatius teaches that consolation and desolation come and go in the spiritual life, and we must never get too caught up in one or the other. The Lord uses both for our continued growth.
The final three rules of Ignatius deal with the nature of the enemy, the Evil Spirit and his tactics. In rule 12, St. Ignatius teaches that Satan is, essentially, a coward who will run when confronted. If we show weakness, he will pounce. I like the analogy of a lion chasing prey in the wilderness. If you run from it, the lion will chase and kill you; if you stand up to it, it will think you are a predator and leave you alone.
In rule 13, St. Ignatius describes Satan as a lecherous lover trying to seduce a queen or great lady away from her husband or father. In this case, St. Ignatius describes that the first time Satan appears he will be readily rejected, but what if the lady does not trust her husband to understand when she tells him what happened? Thus, she may keep it secret, creating a distance in their relationship. Now, the next day, when the false lover returns, his overtures sound just a bit more enticing. St. Ignatius counsels us to tell someone! First and foremost, we should tell God all of our feelings, especially the ones we aren’t proud of. Further, we should tell a spiritual friend what we are tempted by. The Evil Spirit screams at us: “If you tell anyone, they will reject you.” But this is a lie. In St. Ignatius’ analogy, once the husband has been told, the false lover will have no inroads. The Lord will instruct his guards to watch for Satan and not let him near.
St. Ignatius’ final rule, 14, describes the Evil Spirit as a conquering robber seeking to take our castle and sack our city. It is as though he comes to our walled city and, after having examined all of our defenses, attacks us where we are weakest. This is why we sin repeatedly in the same way. It would be a waste of Satan’s time to do otherwise. However, a pillaging brigand does not really want a fight, so St. Ignatius instructs us to build up our walls when we are at peace (in a time of consolation). We are to reflect and to pray about our weaknesses and to bring them to the Lord for strengthening. Then, when the Evil One returns, he will find our ramparts strengthened, and his attack will not be so easy.
It has been a great joy to write for you all these 14 rules of St. Ignatius. I hope you have found them as spiritually profitable as I have. I pray that the Lord will always draw you closer to himself! God Bless!
(Fr. Corey Close is parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish and campus minister at the Newman Catholic Student Center, both in Iowa City.)