Rules for the Discernment of Spirits (for little souls) by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC

The following are my notes from an appendix to Consoling the Heart 
of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

This appendix answers the following questions:

  • How do we deal with desolation when it comes?
  • How do we still live our principle and foundation of “praise and thanks” when we don’t see, hear, or feel a thing?
  • How do we console Jesus when we ourselves need to be consoled?

In the Battle for Spiritual Joy

We are all in the battle for spiritual joy. In order to win this battle, we must have the right spiritual weapons. St. Ignatius’ Rules for the Discernment of Spirits is one of the most powerful weapons we have to fight this battle. Fr. Michael gives a simplified “little soul” version of the 22 Rules for us here.

AIR: Awareness, Identify, Respond

  • A = Awareness: The spiritual life is a roller coaster. 

    We are in a battle – and that battle takes place on a roller coaster, rolling on through the ups and downs of consolation & desolation. “Keep your eyes open on the roller coaster of life!

  • I = Identify: Where am I on the ride? 

    Are we up, down, or somewhere in the middle? What kind of spiritual state are we in? Continually ask yourself these questions.

    • Some specific questions can help: Hows my faith, hope and charity? Is prayer easy? Am I keeping my peace and joy? (remaining at peace and in spiritual joy is at the core of Consoling spirituality). Once we identify what state we are in, we can then…
  • R = Respond: What we can do in consolation & desolation

    • Response Rules for Times of Consolation
      1. Eat it up! God gives consolation for a reason, so take it all in!
      2. Humble yourself. Consolation is a gift from God. It’s his to give and to take away. We must keep 2 truths always together: our misery + God’s mercy.
      3. Listen. Since the good spirit guides and counsels us in consolation, we should strive to listen carefully with how God communicates to us in varied ways (always being careful that the devil can appeal as an “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) as well… but the devil will NEVER be in the peace and joy of consolation itself).
        • “In sum: Eat up the chocolate cake of consolation (peace and joy). Be picky about eating the letters in yellow frosting (words, thoughts, or inspirations). Be especially careful with the birthday candles and their burning flames (visions and the like)” (218-9). 
    • Response Rules for Times of Desolation 
      1. Ask, “Why?” Ask yourself, “When did this desolation begin?”
      2. Fight. We need to fight with the soldier-like virtues of patience, perseverance, and trust.
        • 2a. Fight anchored in hope – In order to grow in patience and perseverance as we fight desolation, we need to be anchored in hope. St. Ignatius gives up 3 important instructions before the battle begins:
          1. Consider that God never allows more than we can take & God always gives us more than enough grace to defeat the enemy.
          2. Be patient because consolation will return soon. Know that reinforcements are rushing to your aid in the battle!
          3. Think back to times of consolation – as we fight desolation not only aids our hope but sometimes even wins the battle right then and there.
        • 2b. Fight with the “secret weapon” of trust – this “secret weapon” is always loaded, aimed, and ready to fire. All we need to do is pull the trigger or simply give the word. The key = “Jesus, I trust in you“. “One act of trust at such moments gives greater glory to God than whole hours passed in prayer filled with consolations” ~ St Faustina, 78. “When the burden of the battle becomes too much for me, I throw myself like a child into the arms of the heavenly Father and trust I will not perish” ~ St Faustina, 606
      3. Don’t listen – the enemy has 3 classic phrases that he gives us during desolation. Here is how we recognize and reject them:
        1. Don’t “Keep it a secret.” Often, simply saying the temptation breaks the spell and spoils the bad spirit’s trick.
        2. Don’t “Change your decision.” Never change a decision during a time of desolation.
        3. Don’t “Run!” Watch out for the times when we are tempted to run off:
          1. without our reason – easy to happen to zealous people. We can be tempted with good things from the “angel of light” to pull us away from doing God’s will or to run after God’s will but in an extreme way. Often comes with a sense of urgency & compulsion that makes me feel frantic and rushed.
          2. without our Lord – running to distracting things when we feel the spiritual thirst for God, whereas the Lord wants to transform our heartache and loneliness into deeper intimacy and spiritual joy.

On to Joyful Victory

If, with eyes wide open, we stay in the battle for spiritual joy and fight with these weapons, we’ll win battle after battle.

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