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 […]

The Long Ride

I do some of my best thinking and praying while running or biking. This morning I considered how biking hills is not a bad analogy to the discernment of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. Here’s the idea. Coming to the beginning of a long upward climb can be a daunting experience. You see it looming, and you see that it will be hard and tiring. There is a temptation to quit or turn around. This is […]

Keeping Things Secret

Ignatius warns against the false spirit’s trick of getting me to keep things secret from my mentors and companions. Common sense requires that I not tell everyone everything all the time. However, if my companions and mentors are well chosen and are trustworthy, there is virtually no reason to keep any part of my inner life secret from them. If I find myself doing so, chances are, the false spirit is afoot. When I am […]

Coping with Spiritual Desolation During the Holidays

Usually, during November and December, our thoughts turn to gratitude for God’s blessings and preparing our hearts for the coming of hope through the Christ Child. But what if, as the holidays approach, we feel anything but hopeful? The other day, I was sharing with a friend how excited I was that Advent was coming. My friend usually loves Advent too. However, when I mentioned it, her face literally contorted in pain. She shared that, […]

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