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Important article to help me understand my spiritual struggles:
Ignatius tells us that times of spiritual desolation are a normal part of the
spiritual journey for those moving towards God, ebbing and flowing between
periods of consolation. The spiritual desolation of which he speaks should not
be confused with psychological or medical conditions, which bring on
depressive feelings and sometimes require professional help. Spiritual
desolation is characterized by our relationship with God. God feels far away.
Prayer is dry, difficult, and unappealing, and we can feel tempted to abandon
or lessen our faith practices. This can occur with or without concurrent
psychological or physical desolation.
Spiritual desolation, the saint tells us, comes upon those earnestly seeking
God, for three principal, but not exhaustive, reasons. In his Ninth Rule, he
speaks of Gods saving purpose for allowing the enemy to oppress us with
such troubles of the heart. The first reason is because we have become
negligent in our own spiritual exercises (eg. prayer, Mass, the Sacrament of
Reconciliation), and through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from
us. The second is that God tries us to see how much we extend ourselves to
serve and praise him without a sense of his grace or consolation. The third is
to help us feel and understand that spiritual consolations are graces from
God, and not due to our own striving, lest we become prideful and attribute
them to ourselves.


In spiritual desolation, there is one change to be avoided. Never, says St.
Ignatius, go back on a faith-filled, God-centered proposal or determination,
made before the desolation began, because the good Spirit counsels us more
in times of consolation, and the evil spirit advises us in our desolation, trying
to root up and destroy what God just tried to plant. In the counsel of the evil
spirit, we cannot find the right way to a decision.
In Rule Six of the Exercises, Ignatius helps us to stand firm in the hour of the
test, by recommending we do the four following practices, and with greater
frequency or length than is usual, for in this way, we habituate ourselves not
only to resist the adversary, but even to overthrow him.
PRAY: Often in desolation, we experience a sense of helplessness. The enemy
insinuates the possibility or inevitability of our defeat. As difficult as it is to
feel an attraction to God in such a state, turn to Him and the saints in prayer,
and beg for the assistance that you need.

MEDITATE: Meditate on the truths of faith, Gods promises, those words of

Scripture, those memories of His personal touchanything, that brings to
mind Gods faithful love. Such meditation may require a certain effort, but it
bears rich fruit.
EXAMINATION: While it feels easier to escape into welcome diversions, like
busyness, the media, or sundry gratifications, use time, instead, to examine
possible sources within you and around you that brought on the desolation, in
order to gain a deeper understanding of its causes and remedies. Ask, What
is my heart saying? When did my desolation begin? Do I know what caused
it? With insights gained, an unbearable heaviness can be reduced to a
manageable concern.
PENANCE: Make small, suitable gestures of courage and initiative that
counter desolations destructive tendencies. Fasting is a most powerful way
to counter its effects. Bad habits, vices, and indulgences often contribute to
spiritual desolation and prolong distress and unhappiness. Taking action to do
a penance directly opposes this tendency of spiritual desolation. Pray to
understand and act upon the personal sacrifices that will counteract any
destructive distractions. Hope will grow through each small victory over self.