The Craft of Surviving Desolation
1. Be gentle.
In times of spiritual desolation, be kind and gentle to yourself (Spiritual Exercises 7).
2. Ask for courage and strength.
In spiritual desolation, ask the Spirit for courage and strength. You may also talk to the person giving you your retreat, a spiritual conversation guide, spiritual director, or a prayerful, wise, and nonjudgmental friend (Spiritual Exercises 7).
3. Reveal the tricks of the enemy.
In times of spiritual desolation, ask the Holy Spirit to lay bare the tricks of the enemy of human nature (Spiritual Exercises 7).
4. Discern the two spirits.
If you experience various agitations and thoughts brought about by different spirits, the good and the bad, seek out the Giver of your Exercises or look at “The Craft of First Discernment” in this studio.
Absorb the four descriptions, 5-8, below. They will always help you to identify the direction of the good spirit and spiritual consolation so that you may move forward in that direction. (Spiritual Exercises 7–8, 17).
5. Bad Spirit.
It is characteristic of the bad spirit to harass, sadden, and obstruct, and to disturb with false reasoning, so as to impede progress – Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises 315).
6. Good Spirit.
It is characteristic of the good spirit is to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and quiet, making things easy and removing all obstacles so that the person may move forward in doing good – Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises 315).
7. Spiritual Desolation
Desolation is the name I give to everything contrary to consolation, for example, darkness and disturbance in the soul, attraction to what is low and of the earth, disquiet arising from various agitations and temptations. All this leads to a lack of confidence in which one feels oneself to be without hope and without love. One finds oneself thoroughly lazy, lukewarm, sad, and as though cut off from one’s Creator and Lord – Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises 317).
8. Spiritual Consolation.
I use the word consolation when any interior movement is produced in the soul which leads her to become inflamed with the love of her Creator and Lord. I give the name consolation to every increase of hope, faith and charity, to all interior happiness which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, leaving the soul quiet and at peace in her Creator and Lord – Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises 316).
9. Trust the cycle of consolation.
Do not make big decisions in desolation. Wait for the consolation which always follows. Knowing this, take heart (Spiritual Exercises 7).
10. Face suspicious obstacles.
If you experience temptations, such as disheartening hardships, worrying about what people think of you, embarrassment, or fear of the unknown in your spiritual progress, you should be suspicious. In a person moving from good to better, like you, such confusion is likely the work of the bad spirit (Spiritual Exercises 9).
11. Expect resistance.
You need to be aware that the enemy of our human nature will try anything to disrupt your retreat. In times of consolation it is easy to keep to your commitments, but in desolation it is difficult to last out. So, you might add a little to your usual commitment, so as to “get into the way not only of resisting the enemy, but even of defeating him completely” (Spiritual Exercises 12–13).
12. Surrender to God.
In times of spiritual desolation, when you have done your best, and sought the help you can, surrender and leave everything else to God. Then make ready for the spiritual consolation which is surely to come (Spiritual Exercises 7).