“Rule #10: Spiritual Consolation: A Time to Prepare” by St. Ignatius of Loyola

“The tenth: let the one who is in consolation think how he will conduct himself in the desolation which will come after, taking new strength for that time” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).

“let one who is in consolation”

  • Ignatius now focuses on times of spiritual consolation.
  • Before we go into the added benefit of using times of consolation to prepare for desolation, it’s important to state the truth that times of consolation are gifts of God to be received with gratitude and from which to gain new energy in the ways God intends.
    • “Run while you have the light of life” (St. Benedict).
  • Our primary task in times of spiritual consolation = accept & receive that blessed work of God within us through such consolation.
  • In living the discerning life, most important thing is the accept & drink in all the consolations we experience – where the essential growth in the spiritual life happens. This is why we do Ignatian repetition.
  • Only once you accept this gift can you then choose to prepare for future spiritual desolation.
  • The proper approach to spiritual consolation: Don’t grasp @ it or demand it as a condition to serve God but rather dispose yourself through a faithful spiritual life and then receive it with gratitude.

think how he will conduct himself in the desolation which will come after”

  • Since the spiritual life is a constant ebb and flow from consolation to desolation and then back again, Ignatius now focuses on times of spiritual consolation in order to give us effective spiritual measures to overcome future spiritual desolation.
  • Just simply admitting in a time of consolation that desolation will come is a healthy way to mitigate the impact and power of future desolation.
  • think = consciously about how you will act in future spiritual desolation.
  • Once you are aware of being in a state of spiritual consolation, you must choose to think about how to act in future spiritual desolation.
  • Desolation will come again. It’s your decision to choose whether you will prepare for it or not.
    • Unanticipated spiritual desolation will often bring confusion, sadness, bitterness, discouragement. This leaves us more readily prey to the lies and temptations of the enemy.
  • RealisticThis rule is not a negative perspective about the future but rather a realistic perspective infused by hope because we understand how God is working in the midst of these ebbs and flows between consolation and desolation.
  • We recognize that His sovereign will allows or causes all things necessary for our salvation. Thus, we can look to the future knowing there will be valleys, but that they have a purpose — not to crush us, but to heal us.

“taking new strength”

  • Taking new strength is an additional good that can be gained from spiritual consolation.

What are some concrete ways to prepare for desolation while in consolation?

11 Ways to Prepare for Desolation:

  1. Observe the course of thoughts.
  2. Look out for false consolation.
  3. Attend to vulnerabilities.
  4. Plan for specific situations of spiritual desolation.
  5. Seek God in your painful past.
  6. Reflect on past personal growth through spiritual desolation.
  7. Prayer of petition for strength in future spiritual desolation.
  8. Consideration of the value of spiritual desolation for growth – that God permits such desolation for reasons of love, that without it we would remain spiritual children, etc.
  9. Resolve to make no changes in times of spiritual desolation.
  10. Reflect on the Rules.
  11. Spend 5-10 minutes right now to plan how you will “take new strength” in time of consolation.

2nd Week: Seventh Rule. The seventh: In those who go on from good to better, the good Angel touches such soul sweetly, lightly and gently, like a drop of water which enters into a sponge.

(1) Observe the “Course of the Thoughts” 

2nd Week – Fifth Rule. The fifth: We ought to note well the course of the thoughts, and if the beginning, middle and end is all good, inclined to all good, it is a sign of the good Angel; but if in the course of the thoughts which he brings it ends in something bad, of a distracting tendency, or less good than what the soul had previously proposed to do, or if it weakens it or disquiets or disturbs the soul, taking away its peace, tranquillity and quiet, which it had before, it is a clear sign that it proceeds from the evil spirit, enemy of our profit and eternal salvation.

2nd Week – Sixth Rule. The sixth: When the enemy of human nature has been perceived and known by his serpent’s tail and the bad end to which he leads on, it helps the person who was tempted by him, to look immediately at the course of the good thoughts which he brought him at their beginning, and how little by little he aimed at making him descend from the spiritual sweetness and joy in which he was, so far as to bring him to his depraved intention; in order that with this experience, known and noted, the person may be able to guard for the future against his usual deceits.

Go back and follow the course of thoughts, emotions and actions that led me into desolation.

  • What was on my mind back then?
  • Any significant ideas or insights?
  • Any shifts in my reasoning process?
  • What are the underlying causes?

This is NOT an examination of conscience to find out where I sinned because it is very possible that I did not sin, but rather learn about the particular ways desolation typically enters my life so that I can be better prepared for the next time it begins to creep back in.

(2) Attend to Vulnerabilities

Fourteenth Rule. The fourteenth: Likewise, he behaves as a chief bent on conquering and robbing what he desires: for, as a captain and chief of the army, pitching his camp, and looking at the forces or defences of a stronghold, attacks it on the weakest side, in like manner the enemy of human nature, roaming about, looks in turn at all our virtues, theological, cardinal and moral; and where he finds us weakest and most in need for our eternal salvation, there he attacks us and aims at taking us.

Desolation will push my buttons.

The more I’m aware of my own weaknesses, the more I’ll be able to recognize when the false spirit is going after them.

  • Places
  • People
  • Topics
  • Times
  • Personal traits

Remember HALT: Am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?

Building Fortifications

  1. I name the weak spots in me. In prayer, I bring to God the areas of my life where I struggle with these emotional potholes. I ask the Lord of insight and healing.
  2. I bring my weak spots to my support network.
  3. If appropriate, I tell others about this vulnerability.
  4. I commit myself to pray during the times when I feel especially vulnerable.
  5. I ask the Lord to help me move slowly and deliberately through the tense moments.
  6. I choose to be proactive rather than reactive.

(3) Look Out For False Consolation

The more intense the experience of consolation, the more susceptible I am to false consolation immediately following. Sometimes, after a profound religious experience, we can do something spiritually bold but not very prudent, like resolve to pray 4 holy hours a day or join a religious order.

“If the one giving the Exercises sees that the exercitant is going on in consolation and in great fervour, he must admonish him not to be inconsiderate or hasty in making any promise or vow” ~ SE, Annotation 14

Ultimately, all our actions should be “carefully examined” (#8).

(4) Seek God’s presence in the painful moments of your past

Whereas in desolation, I must believe that God is present in the difficult periods of my life, during consolation, it is important to look back on those dark moments in order to recognize the hand of God in them.

“Find God in all things” ~ St Ignatius

Two Helpful Practices:

  • Spiritual direction & mentorship
  • Spiritual journaling

With that in mind, I have two thoughts regarding what kind of advice to give to someone experiencing strong spiritual consolation.

Active Gratitude

First, to express their gratitude by a constant, loving effort to fulfill and accept God’s will in all the small details of life – normal responsibilities, faithfulness to conscience and to Church teaching, acts of kindness and mercy, etc… Make sure the gratitude doesn’t stay at the level of pure emotion, but also overflows into decisions to seek deeper love and fidelity to Christ and the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. God sends consolations to encourage us, to bolster our effort to live a more intimate friendship with Christ.

In Times of Peace Prepare for War

Second, St. Ignatius also says that times of consolation are meant to be times of preparation: trials and desolations will return. This is the natural rhythm of the spiritual life. And so, during times of consolation, we should remember that times of desolation will come back, and we should stay ready for them. It’s a question of remembering that earth is not heaven, and shoring up a deep appreciation for the truth of God’s goodness and love as we experience them during times of consolation – creating a kind of spiritual reservoir that we can then draw on when we experience dryness and spiritual desolation. Here is St. Ignatius’ tenth rule on the discernment of spirits, which addresses this issue:

So, during these times, make acts of faith and love, acts of hope, acts of confidence in God, driving those fundamental Christian convictions deeper and deeper into the soul, so that when the next storm hits, you are stronger than before.

Other Links:

  • Non-Spiritual Consolation (click here)
  • What is Spiritual Consolation? by Fr. John Bartunek (click here)
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