Continuing to review St. Ignatius’ 14 rules



St. Ignatius of Loyola continues to guide us in the spiritual life and in the discernment of spirits with his ninth and 10th rules of his 14.

Rule nine is, "There are three principal causes for which we find ourselves desolate. The first is because we are tepid, slothful, or negligent in our spiritual exercises, and so through our faults spiritual consolation withdraws from us. The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we extend ourselves in his services and praise without so much payment of consolations and increased graces. The third, to give us true recognition and understanding so that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to attain or maintain increased devotion, intense love, tears or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and so that we may not build a nest in something belonging to another, raising our mind in some pride or vainglory, attributing to ourselves the devotion or the other parts of the spiritual consolation."

This rule helps answer the question, "Why?" Many may ask why when faced with spiritual desolation. In these times, Father Timothy Gallagher says, "we can shift our attention from the sorrow we feel to consideration of the reason why God, in his love for us, permits us to experience this 'separation'...."  Father Timothy suggests that, if we consider the reason for our desolation, we can move back to trust and strength in our redemptive suffering. He also notes that the word cause, in this context, means God's motive; and that we must still combat the desolation, or it will cause harm.

God can permit spiritual desolation to heal us from our faults, teach us through our trial, and know the true gift of spiritual consolation. Father Timothy goes into detail about these in his book, “The Discernment of Spirits.”

The 10th rule is, "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."

It is important to remember that spiritual consolation is a gift from God. Father Timothy says, "Our primary task in time of spiritual consolation always remains to accept the blessed work of God within us through such consolation." He also says that no other spiritual purpose is greater than simply receiving God's love and his grace – including preparing for desolation.

Father Timothy provides a paragraph to remind us to keep these tools handy and to regularly go through these rules; when we need them, we will be better able to identify what we need and use their guidance.

That's a good reminder for me, too; printing out the rules for use during my morning prayer some days would be helpful for me, and I can continue to learn them and put them into practice.