“Rule #8: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Patience” by St. Ignatius of Loyola

“The eighth: let one who is in desolation work to be in patience, which is contrary to the vexations which come to him, and let him think that he will soon be consoled, diligently using the means against such desolation, as is said in the sixth rule” (St. Ignatius).

“let one who is in desolation…”
  • St. Ignatius now prescribes a two-fold call to persons in time of spiritual desolation.
(1) “work to be in patience”
  • Work = toward an attitude of patience.
    • “work” indicates the effort involved here. An act of the will – always aided by divine assistance – to courageously carry the burden, endure the trial, fight off negative thoughts, and stand firm in the battle. No matter how we feel. Fight. A conscious effort demanded here. To be patient in desolation requires work.
    • Non-spiritual equivalent = marathon runner who feels the fatigue of many miles already run but does not cease running till the race is fully completed.
    • In desolation, the enemy tempts us with anxiety, pressure, burden, urgency – these are the vexations that are contrary to “patience.”
  • Patience = is the key virtue here. From the Latin patior, meaning “to suffer, endure, bear, to go on in the face of forces trying to pull you down”. 
    • Why be patient? Because harsh self-treatment in desolation does NOT lead to greater faith, hope, and love.
    • “Do the next right thing.”
(2) “think that he will soon be consoled”
  • Think = that consolation will return soon, that we will be freed of this desolation in due time.
    • To “think” in this way is to “live the discerning life”.
    • Think what? (1) This desolation will pass soon; (2) Consolation will return soon; (3) and much sooner than the desolation is saying.
    • To combat the enemy’s lie = that this desolation will never end. In the words of Dostoevsky, present desolation is often accompanied by a feeling of “something permanent, eternal, foretelling hopeless years of this cold and deathly misery” (Crime and Punishment, 413).
    • Remember, the enemy does not possess power over the future. The future is in the hands of God’s loving providence, who orders all things for the good of those who love Him (Rm 8:28).
    • Say the things that a good and loving mother would say to her wounded child.
  • Soon = with spiritual boldness, Ignatius counsels us to think that consolation will return very soon.
  • Remember, Job only spent 1% of his life in desolation.
“diligently using the means against such desolation, as in the sixth rule”
  • This thinking must be joined to acting – and this acting is one of the key ways that consolation will return sooner than the desolation is saying.
  • Tip = Journal the following: “This desolation will pass. There will come a time when I will read what I am writing now and will no longer be in desolation.” This act of writing is a concrete act of hope & trust in God’s providential love. When you re-read in at a later date, you’ll confirm this to be a truth of faith – another way to strengthen your resolve.
Examples:
  • Stay the full 60 minutes plus 1 when tempted to lose patience and stop your holy hour.
  • Finish the full rosary.
  • Finish the faith study that you started.
Other Notes:
The mystery of divine grace and human effort
  • Rule 8 captures the dynamic interplay between God’s grace and human freedom.
  • “His grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).
The roller coaster “ups and downs” of the spiritual life. Alternations between consolation and desolation is normal
  • Although the intensity and duration varies, it is a normal pattern of the spiritual life for us to alternate between consolation and desolation.
  • The key thing is to know that “God’s loving call to growth reaches them in both spiritual consolation and spiritual desolation” (Gallagher, DS, 112).
  • The key thing is not whether we go through these times but how we respond to the times that we are in.
  • Tranquil times between consolation and desolation are also common and can be fruitful opportunities to grow (SpirEx, 177).
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