Rules for Discerning the Spirits St Ignatius of Loyola
One of our most popular, easy to digest, straightforward books to help better understand the spiritual battle that every person faces. This should be required reading for anyone suffering from depression, sadness, anxiety, anger, addiction or other issues.
Since 1533, the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius have been used by millions to deepen their Christian life. This booklet distills the wisdom of the 30-day retreat into 20 principles so you can discern the spiritual influences in your life that are from God from those that are from the devil. Father writes from 40 years of experience as a retreat master.
60 pp. Softcover.
Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
"How do I know if something is coming just from my brain, from God or from the Devil? It’s not always straightforward, especially since the Devil does everything he can to convince us he does not exist or that he has nothing to do with a particular situation. Five hundred years ago, St Ignatius Loyola gave to the Church a powerful method to analyze all of this in his Spiritual Exercises. I recently finished a simple 60 page book that distills in its essence the rules we can follow when we are trying to figure out whether a certain feeling or intuition we are having is from God or not. Father Ludovic-Marie Barielle’s “Rules for Discerning the Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola”, reprinted by Angelus Press, is a tremendous little booklet!
Fr Barielle suggests that there are six signs of an evil spirit: sadness, regret, impediments, disturbance, fallacious reasoning and discouragement. The Evil One causes us to be overwhelmed with sadness all of a sudden. We begin to lose ourselves in regret over the past. He succeeds in making the practice of virtue seem very difficult, hiding those things that make Christian life easy. Moody temperaments and vivid emotions disturb our souls. We begin to make excuses for sinful behavior. And we end up being discouraged and want to give up.
When St Augustine, at the age of 32, was about to leave his former pagan way of life and be baptized, he all of a sudden was flooded with despair while reading in the garden. He cried so hard he couldn’t even breathe. Thinking of his old friendships that he cherished but knew kept him from good. He was so tortured that he resolved to go to the Archbishop of Milan, the wise St Ambrose, and said, “I’m not ready; I underestimated my strength.” His good angel intervened and then he received an enlightening thought: “What all these Christians do, why could I not do it too? Just like them, I will flee the occasions of sin, I will pray; and if I fall, I will go to Confession and then to Communion.” When he realized that he would then be able to receive Holy Communion alongside his mother, he was filled with peace and joy.
Sometimes we beat ourselves up and imagine ourselves lost when in reality the Evil One is tempting us. It doesn’t feel like a temptation, because we are used to temptations being to physical objects outside of ourselves: food, drink, sex, money and power. But it is, because we can easily think that we can be more “real” by groveling in our own sinfulness, which is the best way to actually then fall for real.
The Church’s spiritual tradition has a powerful insight into the psychology of the human person, and what makes us happy and what makes us miserable. While it is true that observing the precepts of the moral law are the best way to be glad and avoid being sad, it is also true that engaging the spiritual realm of the unseen is also the way we can have the grace to fulfill that moral law. For our own flourishing we cannot afford to be ignorant of the rules of spiritual combat.
Pope Pius XI once wrote: “St Ignatius learned from the Mother of God herself how he should fight the combats of our Lord. It is from her hands that he received this most perfect code, of which the soldier of Christ must make use.” If the Blessed Mother gave the founder of the Jesuits, and us, this gift, shouldn’t we use it?"
Fr. Christopher Smith