Reflection on some of Ignatius’ Rules for Discernment

Reflection on some of Ignatius’ Rules for Discernment

Our much beloved Fr Patrick O’Sullivan SJ had the strongest ties with JISA Campion during his long life of ministry of the Spiritual Exercises. Fr Pat died in May this year, and we wish to recognise the outstanding, compassionate guidance he gave at Kew, and beyond. He had been the Superior of Jesuit formation communities at Campion in earlier days before his distinguished leadership of the Ignatian Spirituality Centre in later years. Many of us have enjoyed his company, but many more have been nourished and nurtured by his deep and succinct insights expressed in his classic writings. With gratitude to Fr Pat, this piece on important aspects of the discernment movement is offered as timely.

Michael Ryan SJ, Director JISA Campion

Ignatius: “Rules for understanding, to some extent, the different movements produced in the soul.” So not every movement “is on or of Spiritual Consolation or Spiritual Desolation.”

  1. Spiritual consolation is centred on our relationship with Jesus, and what enhances it. Spiritual desolation is centred on ourself in a way that shadows our relationship with Jesus. The operative word is “spiritual”.
  2. There is a difference between spiritual consolation and non-spiritual consolation (eg: high spirits). And there is a difference between spiritual desolation and non-spiritual desolation eg: depression). However, non-spiritual desolation can easily lead into spiritual desolation.
  3. Some reasons for spiritual desolation:
  • We have become sloppy and careless in our relationship with Jesus, eg: prayer drops off
  • We have become sloppy and careless in our relationships with others… eg: we carry a resentment, or are quite uncharitable
  • Our relationship with Jesus is going deeper… we are no longer connected with Him on the previous level and not yet connected on the new level. We may feel as though we have lost Him. Strictly, this is not spiritual desolation, though it is rather close to it. When this happens, if we remain faithful to the relationship with Jesus, eg: in our prayer, then we will find that the relationship will “come to life again”, though now at a deeper level
  1. Final word: Never make a decision when we are on a high, and never make a change when we are on a low.

“Evil loses its power once it is exposed. (In Heaven there are no secrets)

Patrick O’Sullivan S J