Summary of The Rules for Discernment of Spirits by St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Text of the 14 Rules for the Discernment of Spirits (click here)

What is the purpose of the Rules? (click here)

  • What is “discernment of spirits?” (click here)
  • (1) Be Aware. (2) Understand. (3) Take Action.
  • Evangelize 1st. Catechize 2nd. Discern 3rd. (click here)
  • How did St. Ignatius come up with these Rules? (click here)

Rules 1-4 = the foundational texts for (1) “being aware” & (2) “understanding” the different movements of the spirits (instructional rules).

Rules 1 & 2 = focuses on the action of the two spirits with respect to the fundamental direction of a person’s spiritual life.

  • Rule #1: When a Person Moves Away From God (click here)
  • Rule #2: When a Person Moves Toward God (click here)

Rules 3 & 4 = focuses on the two basic spiritual movements of the heart – the “material” or “stuff” of discernment.

Rules 5-11 = focused on (3) “taking action”, especially in regards to rejecting desolation (practical rules).

  • Rule #5: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Fidelity (click here)
  • Rule #6: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Initiative (click here)
  • Rule #7: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Resistance (click here)
  • Rule #8: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Patience (click here)
  • Rule #9: Spiritual Desolation: A Time to Understand (click here)
  • Rule #10: Spiritual Consolation: A Time to Prepare (click here)
  • Rule #11: Spiritual Consolation and Spiritual Desolation: Finding Our Balance (click here)

Rules 12-14 shift away from the experience of spiritual desolation and into the ways that the enemy attacks us. 

  • Rule #12: “Stand Firm in the Beginning” (click here)
  • Rule #13: “Break the Spiritual Silence” (click here)
  • Rule #14: “Strengthen the Weak Point” (click here)

Final Remarks

  • First, “God and the devil are not equals. The strength of the devil is as a single grain of sand compared to all the sand in the world with respect to God’s strength; and this great God is for you. When we begin to avail ourselves of the spiritual weapons and strength He provides, we begin to become a warrior rather than a victim. The presence and power of God grows within us. We move from sinner to saint. This is the call and path of God. Choose this day your destiny in Him, and it will be so. He has promised it to be so, and He is not a liar. You will overcome all the anxiety and damage in your soul. He will heal and strengthen you to become a mighty warrior in His kingdom — to lead others in the face of the storm to Him. You will know the peace that passes all understanding” (Dan Burke).

“Ignatius teaches very simply and very powerfully that, if we are willing to resist him, we will see that the enemy’s power never was more than a façade; it will crumble before us. With wonder, like Paul, we will say: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). As we have said so often in these reflections, Ignatius’s entire teaching on discernment of spirits is charged with hope” (Gallagher, DS, 183).

  • Second, “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly” (G.K. Chesterton). What this Chestertonian quip means for discernment of spirits means that since this is worth doing, don’t worry if you feel like you’re doing it poorly… just go for it! As St. John Henry Newman said, “the only way to begin praying is by praying poorly.” If the best we can do is to live the discerning life imperfectly, with occasional lapses of awareness, struggles to understand, and failures to take the appropriate action – this will be true for all of us – this daily effort is worth doing.
Resources Used: 
1) Living the Discerning Life: The Spiritual Teaching of St. 
Ignatius of Loyola by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV 
2) Awakening Love by Fr. Gregory Cleveland, OMV 
3) God's Voice Within by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, SJ 
4) Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC 
5) Resisting Temptation and Moral Conversion by Fr. Spitzer, SJ
6) Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits by Dan Burke

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