Ignatian Conversation: Discernment at ADDU

[Materials for Ignatian Conversations, ADDU, Finster Auditoriam, July 20, 2015]

Appropriating Discernment in the Implementation of the Vision and Mission of the ADDU.

From the Vision and Mission Statement of the ADDU, it is clear that the ADDU is Jesuit, first, in its appropriation of the Jesuit mission, and second, in its appropriation of Ignatian Spirituality. The latter is defined primarily by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Part of the Spiritual Exercises is Discernment, or more specifically, the Discernment of Spirits.

  • Ignatian Spirituality: an option among many Christian spiritualties, but favored in Jesuit schools.
  • Discernment of Spirits:
    • In the presence of the Lord. “finding God in all things”
    • In “interior movements”
    • Finding will of God
    • Cycle: Experience – Reflection – Decision – Action
    • Discerning (Experience, Reflection) Charity (Decision, Action) = “Discrete charity”


The Purpose of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

  • “The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to help the exercitant conquer himself, and to regulate his life so that he will not be influenced in his decisions by any inordinate attachments.”
    • Self conquest vs. Loss of self. Self mastery. Ability to determine myself. Freedom to be myself.
      • Myself as an intimate source of knowing the will of God.
      • Not licentiousness.
      • Not arbitrariness

Principle and Foundation:

  • Man is created to praise, praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.
    • End
  • All other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for which he is created.
    • Means
  • From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him attain his end.
  • Likewise, he must rid himself of them insofar as they prevent him from attaining it.
    • Maxims
    • Tantum quantum
  • Therefore we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in so far as it is left to the choice of our free will and is not forbidden.
    • Virtue of indifference
  • Acting accordingly, for our part, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one, and so in all things we should desire and choose only those things which will best help us attain the end for which we are created.
    • Because the end is clear, the means are just means – neutral in themselves (contrary to conventional wisdom…)

Basic Structure of Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

  • First Week
    • love, shame and confusion, remorse, experience of forgiveness
    • exercitant before the crucified Lord
      • if you have done this in love for me
      • what have I done for you, am I doing for you, what ought I do for you.
        • Kingdom of God
          • Follow the King rationally
          • Distinguishing oneself in following the King
  • Second Week
    • Intimacy with the Lord in “being with” him through his life, passion and death, resurrection, (contemplation) and so finding God and his love in all things that the exercitant responds in love (in action).
    • In this context, making right choices:
      • Two Standards
      • Three Classes of Men
      • Three Degrees of Humility
    • Discreet love
      • Discern out of love
        • Experience-reflection-
        • [discernment without love is self-centered, self-ish]
      • Love out of discernment
        • Decision-action
        • [love without discernment is blind]
          • [In this context, the “Second Week: includes the Third (Passion) and Fourth (Resurrection)]

Rules for the Discernment of Sprits

  • “Rules” – Ignatius’ practical insights in helping the exercitant understand conquer him- or herself from within, that he may be free to do God’s will in discrete love
  • They are offered in the context of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius both as they are experienced and as they impact on one’s life.
  • There are rules for the First Week. There are more subtle rules for the Second Week.
  • We will consider Ignatius’ texts.
    • Note: not a philosophical system; proper context is the Spiritual Exercises
    • Context: Prayer and Service of God
    • Note: If you want to know God’s will, he tells you what it is – in his time. Normally, this is sooner than later


  • “Rules for perceiving and understanding to some degree the different movements that are produced in the soul – the good, that they may be accepted; the bad, that they may be rejected. These rules are more suitable for the first week.”
    • The different movements within…
    • They are significant. Deal with them in freedom. They indicate God’s will.
    • They are relevant to making good choices.

Fundamental dynamic in one’s life: Away from Christ – bad to worse

  1. The enemy is accustomed ordinarily to propose apparent pleasure to those persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin. He thus causes them to imagine sensual delights and pleasure in order to hold them more easily and to increase their vices and sins. The good spirit acts in these persons in a contrary way, awakening the conscience to a sense of remorse through the good judgment of their reason.
  • Persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin
  • The enemy is accustomed to propose apparent pleasure: eg: joy in my hatred, pleasure in inflicting pain, rationalizing negativity
    • The movement away from Christ is reinforced
  • The good spirit acts … in a contrary way
    • Awakening the conscience to a sense of remorse…
    • Awareness of alienation and desire to return
    • Through the good judgment of their reason

Fundamental dynamic in one’s life: towards Christ – good to better

  1. The contrary to the first rule takes place in those who earnestly strive to purify themselves from their sins, and who advance from good to better in the service of God our Lord. Then it is common for the evil spirit to cause anxiety and sadness, and to create obstacles based on false reasoning, through preventing the soul from making further progress. It is characteristic of the good spirit to give courage and strength, consolation, tears, inspiration, and peace, making things easy and removing all obstacles, so that the soul may make further progress in good works.
  • Persons who earnestly strive to purify themselves from their sins, and who advance from good to better in the service of God our Lord.
    • Satisfaction in having made a right choice
    • Pleasure in the happiness I bring to people
    • Contentment
    • Peace, Joy…

Spiritual Consolation

  1. Spiritual Consolation. I call it consolation when the soul is aroused by an interior movement which causes it to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and consequently can love no created thing on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the creator of all things. It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears inspired by love of the Lord, whether it be sorrow for sins or because of the Passion of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is directly connected to His service and praise. Finally, I call consolation any increase of faith, hope, and charity and my interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things, and to the salvation one’s soul, inspiring it with peace and quiet in Christ our Lord.
  • Interior movement
  • Causes the soul to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord
  • Loves created things in the Creator
    • Parallel: the gifts of a beloved
  • Tears inspired by the Lord
  • any increase of faith, hope, and charity
  • my interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things, and to the salvation one’s soul, inspiring it with peace and quiet in Christ our Lord.

Spiritual Desolation

  1. I call desolation all that is contrary to the third rule, as darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptations which lead to loss of faith loss of hope, and loss of love. It is also desolation when a soul finds itself completely apathetic, tepid, sad, and separated as it were, from its Creator and Lord. For just as consolation is contrary are the opposite of those that spring from desolation.
  •  All that which is contrary to consolation
    • Darkness of the soul
    • Turmoil of the mind
    • Inclination to low and earthly things
    • Restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptation
      • Leading to loss of faith, hope and charity
  • It is also desolation when a soul finds itself completely apathetic, tepid, sad, and separated as it were, from its Creator and Lord. For just as consolation is contrary are the opposite of those that spring from desolation.

Conduct in Desolation

  1. In time of desolation one should never make a change, but stand firm and constant in the resolutions and decision which guided him the day before the desolation, or to the decision which he observed in the preceding consolation. For just as the good spirit guides and consoles us in consolation, so in desolation the evil spirit guides and counsels. Following the counsels of this latter spirit, one can never find the correct way to a right decision.
  • In desolation, the evil spirit guides and counsels; one can never find the correct way to a right decision.
  • In time of desolation one should never make a change.
    • Eg. Decisions to leave the seminary, break up a relationship, leave the university, discontinue a course of service

Act against Desolation

  1. Although in desolation we should not change our earlier resolutions, it will be very advantageous to intensify our activity against the desolation. This can be done by insisting more on prayer, meditation, frequent examinations, and by increasing our penance in some suitable manner.
  • Act against the desolation:
    • More prayer, meditation
    • Frequent examinations
    • Increasing penance
    • [Attending to physical tiredness and fatigue…]

God Provident even in Desolation

  1. One who is in desolation should consider that our Lord, in order to try him has left him to his own natural powers to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy. He can resist with Divine help, which is always available to him, even though he may not clearly perceive it, although the lord has withdrawn from him His great fervor, ardent love, and intense grace, he has nevertheless left him sufficient grace for eternal salvation.
  • How God deals with individual is mysterious.
  • Our Lord trying him: resist the temptations without consolation, fervor, ardent love, intense grace. This is possible with God’s help.

Persevere in Desolation

  1. One who is in desolation must strive to persevere in patience, which is contrary to the vexations that have come upon him. He should consider, also, that consolation will soon return, and strive diligently against the desolation in the manner explained in the sixth rule.
  • Vexations
  • Persevere in patience
  • Consider consolation will soon return
  • Strive against desolation

Three Reasons for Desolation

  1. There are three principal reasons why we are in desolation:The first is because we are tepid, slothful, or negligent in our Spiritual Exercises, and so through our own fault spiritual consolation is withdrawn from us.The second is that God may try us to test our worth, and the progress that we have made in His service and praise when we are without such generous rewards of consolation and special graces.The third is that he may wish to give us a true knowledge and understanding, so that we may truly perceive that it is not within our power to acquire or retain great devotion, ardent love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all of this is a gift and grace of God our Lord. Nor does God wish us to claim as our own what belongs to another, allowing our intellect to rise up in a spirit of pride or vainglory, attributing to ourselves the devotion or other aspects of spiritual consolation.
  • First: Tepid, slothful, negligent in our spiritual exercses: Our fault
  •  Second: God trying us to test our worth and progress
    • “We should be grateful to the Lord, our God, for putting us to the test, as he did our forefathers… Not for vengeance did the Lord put them in the crucible to try their hearts, nor has he done so with us. It is by way of admonition that he chastises those who are close to him” {Judith 8: 25-27)
    •  Vine and branches. The Father “takes waway every breach in me that does not bear fruit and every one that does he prunes it.”
  •  Third: God giving us true knowledge and understanding
    •  Not within our power to acquire or gain great devotion
    •  Grace is God’s, not ours

Conduct in Consolation

  1. A person who is in consolation ought to think of how he will conduct himself during the desolation that will follow, and thus build up a new strength for that time.
  • Desolation coming. Prepare.

Humility in Consolation

  1. A person who is in consolation should take care to humble and abase himself as much as possible. He should recall how little he is worth in time of desolation without such grace or consolation. On the other hand, a person who is in desolation should recall that he can do much to withstand all of his enemies by using the sufficient grace that he has, and taking strength in his Creator and Lord.
  • In consolation, be humble. Thank God
  •  In desolation, be courageous.

Understand the Enemy: Like a “Woman.”

  1. The enemy acts like a woman in that he is weak in the presence of strength, but strong if he has his will. For as it is the nature of a woman in a quarrel with a man to lose courage and take to flight when the man makes a show of strength and determination, in like manner, if the man loses courage and begins to flee, the anger, vindictiveness and rage of the woman become great beyond all bounds. In the same manner it is the nature of our enemy to become powerless, lose courage, and take to flight as soon as a person who is following the spiritual life stands courageously against his temptations and does exactly the opposite to what he suggests. On the contrary, if a person begins to take flight and lose courage while fighting temptation, no wild beast on earth is more fierce than the enemy of our human nature as he pursues his evil intention with ever increasing malice.
  • Statements conditioned by culture
  • Woman: same as: bully, coward
  •  Show strength against temptation
  • Otherwise overwhelming

Understand the Enemy: Like a False Lover

  1. The enemy also behaves like a false lover who wishes to remain hidden and does not want to be revealed. For when this deceitful man pays court. With evil intent, to the daughter of some good father or the wife of a good husband, he wants his words and suggestions to be kept secret. He is greatly displeased if the girl reveals to her father, or the wife to her husband, his deceitful words and depraved intentions, for he then clearly sees that his plans cannot succeed. In like manner, when the enemy of our human nature tempts a just soul with his wiles and deceits, he wishes and desires that they be received and kept in secret. When they are revealed to a confessor or some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and evil designs, the enemy is greatly displeased for he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil design once his obvious deceits have been discovered.
  •  Reveal temptations to a confessor, a friend

Understand the Enemy: He attacks where we are weakest

  1. The enemy’s behavior is also like that of a military leader who wishes to conquer and plunder the object of his desires. Just as the commander of an army pitches his camp, studies the strength and defenses of a fortress, and then attacks it on its weakest side, in like manner, the enemy of our human nature studies from all sides our theological, cardinal, and moral virtues. Wherever he finds us weakest and most in need regarding our eternal salvation, he attacks and tries to take us by storm.
  • The enemy attacks where we are weakest
    • Faith, hope, charity

Summary of the Rules of Discernment for the First Week

  • They help us understand where we are: moving away from God or toward God
  •  They introduce us to the mode of interactivity between ourselves and God: interior motions of consolation and desolation
  • If we are moving away from God
    • Bad spirit: apparent pleasure, (false consolation)
    • Good spirit: awakening remorse, desolation
  • If we are moving towards God
    • Bad spirit: discouragement, despair, desolation
    • Good spirit: encouragement, consolation
  • They guide us in desolation and consolation “towards God” as we consider
    • They help us to continue to pray in consolation or desolation
    • The surprise and grace of our Creation, and the purpose for which we have been created
    •  The reality of sin in our lives: shame and confusion, sorrow and remorse
    • But the reality of God’s compassion, forgiveness and love, expressed in the Crucified Lord to whom we respond
    • Colloquy before the Crucified Lord


God brings true joy; the enemy undermines it

  1. It belongs to God and His angels to bring true happiness and spiritual joy to the soul and to free it from the sadness and disturbance which the enemy causes. It is the nature of the enemy to fight against joy and spiritual consolation by proposing (Seemingly) serious, reasons, subtleties, and continual deceptions.
  • It belongs to God to bring true happiness and spiritual joy
  • To free it from the sadness and disturbance which the enemy causes
  • The enemy fights against joy and spiritual consolation
    • By proposing seemingly serious reasons, subtleties and continual deceptions
      • Am missioned to do research. I think I must be doing teaching.
      • Am missioned to finish my dissertation. I think I must be doing work in the parish.
      • I am resolved to reconcile myself with my enemy, but I dwell on the reasons why reconciliation is beneath my dignity.

Consolation without Previous Cause

  1. It belongs to God alone to give consolation to the soul without previous cause, for it belongs to the creator to enter into the soul, to leave it, and to act upon it, drawing it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I say without previous cause, that is, without any previous perception or knowledge of any object from which such consolation might come to the soul through its own acts of intellect and will.
  • Consolation without previous cause
    • All of a sudden, walking along a beach, you are filled with the majesty of God and the mystery of his love for you.

Consolation with Previous Cause

  1. When a cause has preceded, both the good angel and the evil one may console the soul but for different purposes. The good angel works for the advancement of the soul, that it may grow and rise to what is more perfect, the evil one consoles for the opposite purpose, that he may draw the soul on his own evil designs and wickedness.
  • Instruction+Outreach brings joy
  • Winning argument brings joy
    • Good spirit – consolation
    • Bad spirit – [false] consolation
  • Vocation workship….

Deceptive Evil Spirit

  1. It is characteristic of the evil one to transform himself into an angel of light, to work with the soul in the beginning, but in the end to work for himself. At first he will suggest good and holy thoughts that are in conformity with the disposition of a just soul, them, little by little he strives to gain his own ends by drawing the soul into his hidden deceits and perverse designs.
  • e.g. Work on outreach
    • Initially for God’s greater Glory
    • But then for power, pride, self-satisfaction

Pay Attention to the Course of Our Thoughts

  1. We must pay close attention to the course of our thoughts, and if the beginning, middle, and end are all good and directed to what is entirely right, it is a sign that they are inspired by the good angel. If the course of the thoughts suggested to us ends in something evil, or distracting, or less good than the soul had previously proposed to do; or if these thoughts weaken, disquiet, or disturb the soul by destroying the peace, tranquility, and quiet which it had before, this is a clear sign that they proceed from the evil spirit, the enemy of our progress, and eternal salvation.
  • Serving the common good through my organization – good spirit
  • “Serving the common good” degenerates to just serving my organization, or feeding my power, or stoking my pride – bad spirit

Learn from experience of the bad spirit

  1. When the enemy of our human nature has been detected and recognized by his deceptions and by the bad end to which he leads, it is well for the person who has been tempted to examine afterward the course of the good thoughts that were suggested to him. Let him consider their beginning how the enemy contrived little by little to make him fall from the state of sweetness and spiritual delight that he was enjoying, until he finally brought him to his perverse designs. With the experience and knowledge thus acquired and noted, one may better guard himself in the future against customary deceits of the enemy.

For those going from good to better, the action of the good spirit is gentle.

  1. In those who are making spiritual progress, the action of the good angel is gentle, light, and sweet, as a drop of water entering a sponge. The action of the evil spirit is sharp, noisy and disturbing, like a drop of water falling upon a rock. In those souls that are going from bad or worse, the action of these two spirits is the reverse. The cause for this difference of action is the disposition of the soul, which is either contrary or similar to that of the spirits mentioned above. When the disposition of the soul and that of these spirits are similar, they enter silently, as one coming into his own house through an open door.
  • Good spirit: As a drop of water entering a sponge
  • Evil sprit: As a drop of water falling on a rock
  • Cause: disposition of the would: contrary or similar to the spirits

For consolation without previous cause, caution

  1. When consolation is without preceding cause, although there is no deception in it, since it proceeds only from God our Lord, as has been stated above, the spiritual person to whom God gives such consolation ought still to consider it with great vigilance and attention. He should carefully distinguish the exact time of such consolation from the time that follows it during which time the soul continues in fervor and feels the divine favor and the aftereffects of the consolation which has passed. Often in this latter period the soul makes various plans and resolutions which are not inspired directly by God our Lord. They may be the result of its own reflections, in accordance with its own habits, and the consequence of its own concepts or judgments and they may come either from the good spirit or the evil one. It is therefore necessary that they be very carefully examined before they are given full approval, and are put into action.
  • Distinguish the time of such consolation from what follows it
  • Not all undertakings may be from the good spirit

Summary of the Rules for Discernment of the Second Week

  • For the person who seeks to follow the Lord, or even to distinguish himself in the following of the Lord, it belongs to God to bring true consolation: the good spirit speaks in consolation.
    • Be guided by the good spirit of consolation
    • But the good spirit acts subtly, like water entering a sponge.
  •  One must be wary about false consolation, that may have a good beginning but a bad end.
  • For consolation with cause, one must examine its beginning, middle and end.
  • For consolation without cause, one must be careful of what happens after the consolations.

IV. Discernment of Spirits Appropriated Towards to the Implementation of the Vision and Mission of the University

  • For the University as Jesuit, which appropriates the Jesuit mission and Ignatian spirituality, as well as for the University as Catholic, which comes from the Heart of the Church, the realization of the mission of the University is ultimately “in the Spirit”.   The university vision and mission is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guides its implementation.
  • But this implies that the members of the university must be guided in their decisions by the Holy Spirit
  • Decision-making is therefore based not only on responsiveness to the educational market, how the business plan of the university can succeed, nor based only on compliance with the regulations of DepEd and CHED, but on the discrete charity which signals its operation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Discerned decisions are motivated not only by rationality and logic but by discrete charity guided ultimately by the Holy Spirit. Discrete charity suffuses the circle of experience, reflection, decision and action.
  • In this context, the university is not only a community of scholars and students coming together in the pursuit of truth through academic freedom, but a community of believers pursuing truth as God’s will is discerned individually and institutionally.
    • Non-Christian believers may participate in this institutional discernment in dialogue.
  •  Discernment is practiced primarily on an individual basis; the university community is enriched through this practice.
  • For this individual discernment, the Discernment of Spirits is available and recommended..
  • But through shared discernment and prayer, discernment may also be done communally, but definite rules for this have to be worked out in discrete charity.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Prayer and Spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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