Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spirituality: The Discernment of Spirits

In the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, we see that we and all creatures belong to God. All is gift. All is goodness in itself. Our primary response to God is thanksgiving, praise, and a desire to serve God in others. We can also see that because of inner unfreedom, we can use God’s gifts selfishly. Our goal is to grow in inner freedom so as to choose to be more loving people.

Sin: In some of our prayers, we face sin as a movement toward selfishness and away from God. Sin can be defined as a failure to even try to love. Sin is ancient (Adam and Eve) and pervasive (read the newspapers). We all share in sin (social and systemic in our institutions) and we will always be enticed by the evil spirits to sin. We also see more deeply that God continues to love us, that we are loved sinners. This is a foundational grace for Ignatius: I am a sinner loved by God.

Love and sin indicate the presence of the Good Spirit and the Evil Spirit struggling for our souls. How do we know which one is acting upon us?

1.     If a sinner moves to more sin, the Evil Spirit gives pleasure, but the Good Spirit stings the conscience with remorse.
2.     If a good person moves to being better, the Evil Spirit causes gnawing anxieties, sadness, and sets up obstacles, while the Good Spirit stirs up courage, consolation, tears, inspiration, and tranquility.


Consolation:
a.     moves to being inflamed with love of God.
b.     Moves to tears out of love for God or grief for sin.
c.      Moves to every increase of faith, hope, and love, and every interior joy.

Desolation:
a.     moves to darkness and disturbance of the soul.
b.     Moves to the low and earthly.
c.      Moves to anxiety arising from various agitations and temptations.
d.     Moves to a lack of faith, hope, and love.


Joy is not the same as consolation. A Patriots’ Super Bowl victory (joy) versus dreaming about Lenten prayer (consolation)

Depression (or sadness or grief) is not the same as desolation, but it can feed it. A rainy day can be depressing.

Examples:

After his conversion, Ignatius was attacked by scruples. (desolation)
A woman seeing a ray of light at the burial of her mother and feeling overwhelming consolation.
An experience when I have felt both miserable and greatly consoled. (Sitting in the slums of West Kingston, Jamaica and realizing my powerlessness.)
Consolation in giving, doing, and sacrificing. (service and immersion programs)
Desolation after wasting time on computer and IPhone games, TV, etc.