False Consolation

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius - cover of book translated by Louis J. Puhl, SJ - available from Loyola Press
From the cover of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, translated by Louis J. Puhl, SJ

In the rules for the Second Week the evil tactics of the enemy present themselves under the appearance of good. At first glance they seem wise and trustworthy. Ignatius here takes an even more sensitive look at spiritual consolation than in the first set of rules. These rules are concerned more with a specially sensitive enlightenment of heart needed to distinguish true from false consolation.

For instance, in his Autobiography, Ignatius describes two spontaneous inner experiences that appeared to be holy and good but required a more sensitive discernment. In his daily routine at Manresa, which was filled with prayer and penance, the time he had set aside for sleep was being invaded with “great illuminations and spiritual consolation”; these experiences “made him lose much of the time he had set aside for sleep.” Later in his life, after his return from the Holy Land, when God’s will that he do more study had become clear, he experienced “new light on spiritual things and new delights” that were so strong that he could not do the necessary memorization of Latin grammar. In both these instances, through some prayerful reflection, he realized that these apparently good spontaneous experiences were actually temptations luring him away from following what clearly was God’s will for him.

—Excerpted from Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ



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