Eight Tools for Combatting Desolation

Editor’s note: Celebrate the 10th anniversary of IgnatianSpirituality.com with us. For 10 weeks, we’ll be “Counting the Gifts of Ignatian Spirituality” by bringing you special content on our website and special offers from our sponsor, Loyola Press. Learn more here. Once called “Devil’s Valley,” California’s Desolation Wilderness is a 100-square-mile protected “forest” near one of the most beautiful spots on earth (in my opinion): Lake Tahoe. I see this topography within my home state as a metaphor for […]

Listening for God When We’re Stuck

Have you ever had a moment when desolation hit you so hard you felt like you were stuck in the mud? Just a few weeks ago, I rode the wave of creative energy for several days in a row. Words poured out of me as I wrote talks for a retreat. More words came as I dug into another writing project. I can remember feeling the lightness and joy of living a call and thanking […]

Can I Be in Consolation and Desolation at the Same Time?

Briefly stated, consolation is a state in which a person is growing in faith, hope, and love. Desolation is a state in which a person is diminishing in faith, hope, and love. Some people think of consolation as moving toward God and desolation as moving away from God. However, we cannot really move away from God—God is always present, and, as Psalm 139 says, we cannot do anything or go anywhere to escape God’s presence. […]

If You Lose Your Way in the Fog

If the worst happens, and the fog gets so thick that you really can’t move an inch, try using these tactics: Tell God, and maybe a human friend, how you feel, and ask them to pry you away from the negative force fields, even though you really want to stay where you are, in isolation. Force yourself to make contact with other people; go to town, walk around the market, make yourself a meal, phone […]

Seagulls as an Image of the Evil Spirit

I like to watch seagulls as they glide across the sky, but as with many of God’s creatures, we can have negative interactions with them as well. This past summer on retreat, I spent much of my time praying near the ocean. One day I watched as seagulls chased down a fishing boat. A flock of seagulls repeatedly dove in, attempting to steal some of the haul from the boat as it sailed forward in […]

Consolation and Desolation Whiplash

I used to think that desolation was a state one entered for a long period of time, like Mother Teresa experiencing years of dry prayer. Lately, though, and perhaps because I’m using the Examen more faithfully, I’ve learned that a single day can hold both consolation and desolation like a zig-zag line or a roller coaster. I’m pushed and pulled simultaneously by various forces, quickly passing from things that increase faith, hope, and love to […]

Three Ignatian New Year’s Resolutions

Here are three New Year’s resolutions grounded in the counsel of St. Ignatius Loyola. 1. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Ignatius said to be, “more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false” (Spiritual Exercises 22). What I am tempted to do: Correct others when I think they are wrong. After all, perhaps I am pretty sure I know the truth, especially if it is on […]

Praying Through the Storms of Life

Sometimes we feel God’s presence and closeness and may even feel favored or gifted by God. During these times, we may see all of our prayers answered in the ways in which we want them to be answered. At other times, God may seem far off. We pray and not only do we not see our requests fulfilled, we may even observe the opposite outcome of what we had asked for in prayer. During such […]

Praying in Dry Seasons of Life

Our prayer lives go through cycles like the seasons of the year. We cycle through spring-like seasons of new life or summer-like seasons of abundance. Today let’s turn to what St. Ignatius invites us to do when we are in a season of prayer that feels more like autumn, when what was once abundant begins to wither, or winter, when our prayer life feels dormant. Keep showing up in prayer! As our prayer life shifts […]

Consolation and Desolation

During Lent, we reflect upon our spiritual state and on our interior movement. Are we moving toward more doubt, fear, and anger? Or are we moving toward greater faith, hope, and love? The Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation can help us. A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the […]

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