September 9, 2022
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Welcome to the second week of our 30-day retreat as we learn how to discern the divine will in our lives knowing that ever deeper communion with God fosters greater happiness, meaning and peace in our daily life. What is more, it’s good to know that you are doing this with others as disciples together on the way.
The major part of the Christian life is to know that we are in a battle with the Devil. We are called to discern the various spiritual movements to determine which are of the Good Spirit and which are of the Devil.
We all know people who spend so much time together that they can finish each other’s sentences or thoughts, share the same lingo, already know the preference of the other before someone even asks, etc. That is a great beauty of growing in any such relationship.
Well guess what! This is exactly the kind of relationship that our Lord desires us to have with Him! We come to sense the presence of our Lord in our lives and to recognize the ways he leads us to his will because we have been communing closely with him.
For example, we may get a sense of great peace after receiving Holy Communion or experiencing his presence while walking in nature. We may read the Gospel of the day or some other spiritual reading and get an inspiration of how God is particularly speaking at that moment. We may be listening to a friend going through a great struggle in life and God gives us a word of support for that friend. Believe it or not, maybe something on the radio or TV or even on Twitter may be a means for God to speak the thing we need to hear. God uses all things to speak to us. Our job is to be spiritually sensitive enough and pay attention.
Now the Enemy of human nature speaks to us as well. So, in this second week of discernment, let’s hear how we can come to know God’s voice vs. the voice of the Enemy.
This is where Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th century founder of the Society of Jesus, comes in handy with his first set of 14 rules of discernment. In these rules he helps us recognized who’s influencing us, how the influence comes, and how to accept or reject the influence. Here’s the super condensed version of these 14 rules for the discernment of spirits:
Rule 1: For someone moving away from God, going from mortal sin to mortal sin, the Holy Spirit “pricks or stings one’s conscious.” Some would call this Christian or Catholic guilt, a spiritual movement to bring them back to God. The Enemy, on the other hand, wants us to indulge our sensual passions and make sin seem so sweet.
Rule 2: For someone striving toward God, going from good to better, the Enemy tries to prick and put obstacles to holiness before the person. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, encourages, strengthens, gives peace.
Rule 3: Spiritual Consolation is a gift of the Holy Spirit where one is brought to great peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, chastity, and self-control (fruits of the Spirit) and all the things of God. We are drawn toward heavenly things and find ourselves feeling close to God, strong in prayer, and content.
Rule 4: Spiritual Desolation is the spiritual sense of a darkness of soul, despair, anxiety and fear. We lack faith, hope and love, even a sense of God’s presence or even his existence. This is a time where the Enemy has a stronger voice in our ear and influence in this time.
Rule 5: Never Make a Change in Times of Desolation! Don’t change decisions or make any major new decisions while in desolation since the enemy has greater influence in this time.
Rule 6: Resist the enemy by going on the offense – much meditation, prayer, penance, and examination.
Rule 7: Believe and know that in times of trial, you can resist the temptation of the enemy with God’s grace. He has grace ready for you in this trial.
Rule 8: Be patient in times of desolation, knowing that God will soon console you again.
Rule 9: Three causes for desolation: 1) being lazy, tepid, neglectful in spiritual practices; 2) a trial or test of our endurance and motivation to strive for God without the experience of consolation; 3) to remind us that consolation is always a gift from God and that we can’t earn it.
Rule 10: When in consolation, prepare for whatever temptations may come our way when desolation comes again. Maybe this is having some particular scripture verses ready to combat a lie of the enemy or a particular penance that will help you avoid the future temptation of sin.
Rule 11: Be humble…when in consolation, remember your helplessness when you were in desolation. In desolation remember that God’s grace will rescue you again.
Rule 12: The enemy is weak when resisted strongly and he’s strong when resisted weakly. Be quick to resist any temptations during desolation and any thoughts that you sense are the enemy’s work. You can stop a snowball coming down the hill more easily at the start of the mountain than half way down the hill.
Rule 13: Break the Silence. The enemy loves when he can get us to keep his work secret. When you sense the desire to keep something quiet, bring it to the light so the enemy immediately loses power. His lies always look foolish in the light.
Rule 14: Know yourself, and your weak points…where you seem to lack virtue. Ask God to help build that virtue so the enemy doesn’t have easy access to you through your weakness.
These rules can help us be more aware of the spiritual movements in life, help us to understand better who’s leading us, and help us to accept the promptings of the Lord and reject those of the enemy.
Now, I encourage you to continue in this 30-Day retreat with me as we listen daily to a podcast and live the spiritual direction that is given. May God bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing