CC in brief — The Existence of Time in the Afterlife

Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church.  By contrast, our feature CC in brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question.  We invite readers to submit their own questions.

Q.         While sanctifying the Sunday at home, I read in a sermon recently that stated:

“Time is a blessing which we enjoy only in this life; it is not enjoyed in the next; it is not found in heaven nor in hell.”

Is this true that there is no time in heaven or in hell?

  1. There is time in heaven and in hell.

Anywhere that there are bodies which move, there is time.  In fact, time is the measure of the motion of a body.  When a body moves, there is a “before” and an “after” of time, with the movement continuing between this beginning and its ending.  By contrast, angels are not, properly speaking, in time because they do not have bodies.


In heaven

We hold that it will be possible for the blessed to move their bodies in heaven.  We hold that they will be able to smile, to sing, and to move from place-to-place.  In fact, they will have the gift of agility in their glorified bodies.  This will make their movement effortless and extremely fast.  We reject the idea that the bodies of the blessed will be frozen in perpetual immobility.  Because the blessed will move their bodies, there will a “before” and an “after” to these movements and there will be time in heaven.

Further, we hold that it will be possible, e.g., for Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to turn their heads and to smile upon the saints.  

Because of all such movements, there will certainly be time in heaven.


In limbo

The limbo of the babies is a part of hell (but is not a part of the hell of the damned).  We hold that limbo is a place of natural happiness.  We hold that the resurrection of the bodies at the end of the world will include the bodies of those in limbo.  We hold that those persons in limbo will be able to move their bodies.  

Perhaps those in limbo will stroll in beautiful surroundings.  Perhaps they will sing or talk together.  Any such activities (which are part of living in natural happiness) will involve their bodies and will require movement and, thus, time.

In the hell of the damned

It would seem that the damned in hell will not be able to do any activities which will give them relief or enjoyment.  So, in that regard, they might be fixed in immoveable pain and misery.  

However, there are some bodily activities that might occur in hell.  Perhaps the damned will torture each other, or scream at each other, or shout curses and words of hatred at each other.  

So, is there time in heaven and hell?

Thus, we hold that there is unending time in heaven, in the limbo of the babies, and in the hell of the damned.  

Where is there eternity?

In fact, one could ask whether there is any eternity in hell.  Loosely speaking, never-ending time is sometimes called eternity. Since the time in hell is literally unending, we could loosely call it “eternal” in this way.  

Further, we talk about an unpleasant experience being eternal.  For example, if the dentist was drilling my tooth for a long time, we might say, as a manner of expression, that “I sat in the dentist’s chair for an eternity.”

But strictly speaking, it seems that eternity belongs most properly only to heaven, and not to hell.  Whereas time is similar to a point moving along a line, and for which there is a “before” and an “after”, by contrast, eternity is an ever-present “now” which is like a point that does not move.  

Thus, properly speaking, God is in eternity.  He never moves in any way.  He thinks only one thought and has only one act of love without end.

The blessed in heaven are also, properly speaking, in eternity not as they smile at Our Lord (or whatever other acts they do which involve their bodies), but rather as they are immersed in the greatest happiness of heaven, which is the Beatific Vision.  

In this vision, their minds will see God in His essence, without any movement.  As the blessed see God, their minds will not go from “point to point” in the manner in which we think on this earth.  Their minds will see a single vision of God’s essence without movement or weariness, without end.

Thus, in summary, God, the angels, and the saints are in eternity, properly speaking in the Beatific Vision.  The blessed in heaven are also in unending time, along with all humans in limbo and in hell.

Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church.  By contrast, our feature CC in brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question.  We invite readers to submit their own questions.

 

CC in brief

 

The Existence of Time in the Afterlife

 

Q.        While sanctifying the Sunday at home, I read in a sermon recently that stated:

 

“Time is a blessing which we enjoy only in this life; it is not enjoyed in the next; it is not found in heaven nor in hell.”

 

Is this true that there is no time in heaven or in hell?

 

 

A.        There is time in heaven and in hell.

 

Anywhere that there are bodies which move, there is time.  In fact, time is the measure of the motion of a body.  When a body moves, there is a “before” and an “after” of time, with the movement continuing between this beginning and its ending.  By contrast, angels are not, properly speaking, in time because they do not have bodies.

In heaven

 

We hold that it will be possible for the blessed to move their bodies in heaven.  We hold that they will be able to smile, to sing, and to move from place-to-place.  In fact, they will have the gift of agility in their glorified bodies.  This will make their movement effortless and extremely fast.  We reject the idea that the bodies of the blessed will be frozen in perpetual immobility.  Because the blessed will move their bodies, there will a “before” and an “after” to these movements and there will be time in heaven.

 

Further, we hold that it will be possible, e.g., for Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to turn their heads and to smile upon the saints. 

 

Because of all such movements, there will certainly be time in heaven.

 


In limbo

The limbo of the babies is a part of hell (but is not a part of the hell of the damned).  We hold that limbo is a place of natural happiness.  We hold that the resurrection of the bodies at the end of the world will include the bodies of those in limbo.  We hold that those persons in limbo will be able to move their bodies. 

 

Perhaps those in limbo will stroll in beautiful surroundings.  Perhaps they will sing or talk together.  Any such activities (which are part of living in natural happiness) will involve their bodies and will require movement and, thus, time.

 

 

In the hell of the damned

 

It would seem that the damned in hell will not be able to do any activities which will give them relief or enjoyment.  So, in that regard, they might be fixed in immoveable pain and misery. 

 

However, there are some bodily activities that might occur in hell.  Perhaps the damned will torture each other, or scream at each other, or shout curses and words of hatred at each other. 

 

 

So, is there time in heaven and hell?

 

Thus, we hold that there is unending time in heaven, in the limbo of the babies, and in the hell of the damned. 

 

 

Where is there eternity?

 

In fact, one could ask whether there is any eternity in hell.  Loosely speaking, never-ending time is sometimes called eternity. Since the time in hell is literally unending, we could loosely call it “eternal” in this way. 

 

Further, we talk about an unpleasant experience being eternal.  For example, if the dentist was drilling my tooth for a long time, we might say, as a manner of expression, that “I sat in the dentist’s chair for an eternity.”

 

But strictly speaking, it seems that eternity belongs most properly only to heaven, and not to hell.  Whereas time is similar to a point moving along a line, and for which there is a “before” and an “after”, by contrast, eternity is an ever-present “now” which is like a point that does not move. 

 

Thus, properly speaking, God is in eternity.  He never moves in any way.  He thinks only one thought and has only one act of love without end.

 

The blessed in heaven are also, properly speaking, in eternity not as they smile at Our Lord (or whatever other acts they do which involve their bodies), but rather as they are immersed in the greatest happiness of heaven, which is the Beatific Vision. 

 

In this vision, their minds will see God in His essence, without any movement.  As the blessed see God, their minds will not go from “point to point” in the manner in which we think on this earth.  Their minds will see a single vision of God’s essence without movement or weariness, without end.

 

Thus, in summary, God, the angels, and the saints are in eternity, properly speaking in the Beatific Vision.  The blessed in heaven are also in unending time, along with all humans in limbo and in hell.

Lesson #11 The Principle and Foundation – Part II

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

St. Ignatius says,

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.  All other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for which he is created.  From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him to attain his end.  Likewise, he must rid himself of them in so far as they prevent him from attaining it.

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.  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 attain the end for which we are created.

In our last lesson we considered the end of man, which is to give glory to God Our Creator.  (This end is set forth in the first paragraph above.)  We discussed how one can meditate on this first paragraph examining what service we owe to God Who is so great and good to us.  

Now we will consider the rest of the first paragraph concerning our proper use of creatures, and the second paragraph which pertains to the holy detachment that God wants us to have concerning creatures.  Basically, Lesson #10 is the first part of the meditation on the Principle and Foundation, and this current Lesson #11 is the second part of the same meditation on the Principle and Foundation

This meditation is so rich in materials for consideration that this second part can be addressed in two subparts.  As we mentioned before, in Lesson #10, this meditation on the Principle and Foundation is so extremely important for our salvation that we can meditate upon it very often.  This is because St. Ignatius’s principle here must set the tone for our entire outlook on life. 

But how does one meditate on these two Ignatian paragraphs quoted above?  By carefully analyzing St. Ignatius’s two paragraphs to find out what he means.  By analyzing what he says and applying what he says to our own conduct, we can learn about ourselves and what our priorities have been in our life so far.  We can also learn to amend our priorities as needed in order to serve God in a way that is most pleasing to Him.  St. Ignatius has us begin by studying creatures, the use of which, are a means to our eternal salvation (and the misuse of which, to our everlasting damnation).

There are many aspects that we can discuss concerning man’s usage of creatures. We know from the Book of Genesis that creatures were created for the needs and use of man.  Man was given dominion over all the material creatures. We must not forget that besides these creatures, there are immaterial creatures, e.g., time and the angels.  Even though man does not have dominion over time or the angels, he can still make use of them.  St. Ignatius says above, “All other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for which he is created.”


Creatures help man attain his last end.

Creatures help man in the following ways:

  by instruction,

  by example,

  by use,

  by sacrifice, and

  by being a source of crosses.

They help man by instruction because creatures show us God’s omnipotence when we consider them.  Creatures show how great God is by their vastness and variety, their beauty, and their order.  We can clearly see God’s greatness and majesty.  We can likewise see how we owe God praise for His wondrous works of nature.

They help by example because they faithfully serve God by doing what He intended for them to do.  We see that we need to do the same.   

They help by use because we obviously need to use them to sustain our life and our duties, e.g., for health, nourishment, and strength.

They help by sacrifice because man can use them in the practice of religion and as objects of self-denial when man offers up using them as a means of detachment and penance.

They help by being the source of crosses, e.g., sicknesses, accidents, etc. [1]


We can examine how we have used creatures.

Unfortunately, we do not use creatures as we should.  This is precisely because we do not keep St. Ignatius’s rule in mind that if the creature is not good for our eternal end, we should reject it.  Is this because we simply do not take our last end seriously enough?   St. Ignatius would say, “Yes!”  We tend to yield to our passions which seek sensual comforts.  Here are some questions to keep in mind when assessing how well we have used creatures:

  What view do I take of creatures? 

  Do I perhaps look upon them as my property, of which, as a master, I can dispose at pleasure and not as a benefice or alms from God?

  Do I regard them as an end, and not merely as a means to reach my end?

 

  Do I consider them as “talents” of the use of which I must give an exact account to my Lord and Creator?

 

  What rule or direction do I follow in the use of creatures? 

 

  Do I use them simply at my pleasure?

 

  Do I allow myself to be led by sensuality? 

 

  Do I adhere to St. Ignatius’ words “he must rid himself of them in so far as”?  That is, do I reflect whether they are useful or hurtful to my calling, to my destiny [or duty of state]?

 

  Do I ask myself what good I derive from all the disagreeable happenings that befall me, since God permitted them especially for my benefit or straightway sent them Himself?[2]

In the light of this meditation, we come to realize that we are guilty of manifold abuses of creatures.  Let us repent of it; and in the future let us plan and strive to use the world round about us to our true spiritual advantage.  “To them that love God, all things work together unto good!” [Romans 8:28][3]

What St. Ignatius means by Holy Indifference.

Now let us delve into what St. Ignatius teaches us in his second paragraph (quoted above).  He wants us to grasp the concept of holy indifference to creatures.  We must use our reason, led by our Faith, so that all we do and all of the choices we make are pleasing to God, and will lead to our salvation.  

God put creatures in our lives as means to be used in His service, to be conducive to our salvation and not to be a hindrance.  We must consider each creature we come in contact with and use it appropriately.  In order to do this efficaciously, we must be detached from creatures. “For if we are inclined to one thing or to another beforehand, and are too much attached to it, then this too-great attachment will hinder us from readily giving ourselves up to do what reason, Faith, and God command.”[4] 

For if our calling is to serve God, and creatures are but means to this end, reason demands that in the choice and use of them we should not be determined by their beauty and attractiveness, but solely by their usefulness as means to an end.

Hence, we should not be predisposed in favor of any creature, because this predisposition has an influence upon our choice and misleads us to make imprudent selections.  We must cut loose from creatures and be free from bias, so that only their adaptability or the will of God may be the guide in our selection of them.[5]

We do not accept the sufferings and difficulties that God permits in our lives or we generally do not accept them with perfect unselfishness.  The reason for this is that we lack indifference.  We must want to do God’s Will.  When something happens to us which is beyond our control, then we know it is the Will of God for us.  God wants us to accept events in a truly sacrificial manner and without complaint.  Furthermore, He expects us to use our reason in dealing with circumstances.

A religious complained to St. Francis de Sales about the many crosses she had to carry. “Do you know how the cross is made?” asked the saint.  “Take two little pieces of wood, lay one parallel upon the other – no cross.  But lay one piece across the other and the cross is made.  So in like manner when our will conforms to the Will of God – when it is opposed to the Will of God, when we murmur and complain – the cross is ready.  If we wish to escape the cross, then we must conform our will to the Will of God.[6]

We practice this indifference by accepting circumstances which are out of our control and by keeping ourselves detached from creatures, not complaining if they are taken from us.  In this way we acknowledge that our lives and everything in them are in the Hands of God and we simply trust in His Providence.  We remind ourselves that, “For to them that love God all things work together unto good.”


The advantages of indifference

Some basic advantages for practicing holy indifference are:

·         true peace;

·         joy; and

·         the practice of virtue becomes easy.

The mind so disposed with indifference has true peace and permanent rest of the heart.  For, come what may, it recognizes in all things the Will of God, and by doing that will it attains to its destiny.

It has not only peace but joy, for we know that “all things work unto good for those that love God,” so that from all things we can derive advantages.

This disposition of mind makes easy our efforts to acquire virtue and perfection.  When our attachment to creatures is excessive, it becomes more difficult to make the sacrifice which God’s service calls for.[7]


We can examine our level of indifference

  About what do I principally complain and murmur?  There, indifference is wanting; when we murmur about something, we can say to ourselves: “I caught myself in the act of being too attached to a creature”.

  Is my will prepared for all that God is likely to ask of me, or to choose for me?  (However, don’t waste time daydreaming about every possible situation God might send to us.)

  Is my heart too passionately attached to something, to a creature, to an occupation, to an office or position, so that the separation would be at the cost of a hard struggle?  I will begin even now to disengage my heart, that the possible sacrifice be not too bitter for me.[8]

Now that we have examined St. Ignatius’s concept of holy indifference and how we certainly need to improve in using it for our sanctification, we must not think we are finished with the work of self-reflection.

Some additional questions we can use to examine our use of creatures

Here are some additional points of self-reflection:

  How am I using creatures?

  What is my attitude toward creatures – from the lowest – air, food, clothing, shelter; to the highest angels, saints and the Queen of Angels and saints?

  Am I using all of these creatures well and in the manner in which God intends?

  Do I view the lowest creatures for what they really are, or do I use them as if they are something higher than what they are?

  How do I use Mary?  She is a special creature and gift of God created to help me.  Do I consult with her? Do I ever talk with her throughout the day and ask her help to reason better?

All of these points and the self-examining questions posited here are the heart of the meditation on the Principle and Foundation.  In fact, this meditation is a reflection upon what we owe to God in justice and how we ought to serve Him.  A crucial part of the service we owe to God is how we are employed in using the creatures that He put at our disposal.  Thus, this meditation involves a self-examination in how well we are doing what we ought to do.

When we do this long two-part meditation, it is best to focus on the point or aspect that strikes us the most and sparks a real flame in our soul.  This spark of desire is meant to help us tell God that we love Him and to tell Him that we need His all-powerful assistance. 

The fruit of this meditation is the heart-to-heart talk that we have with God.  We may find ourselves making all four kinds of prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition.  

We close our meditation time with some prayers of thanksgiving to God for assisting us in our meditation and with making firm resolutions to use creatures better in the future and/or in practicing holy indifference.

Of course, we should not forget to write down any insights given to us and to examine how much effort we put into our meditation.

In our next lesson we will discuss St. Ignatius’s 1st exercise on sin.



[1]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 9-15.

 

[2]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 16-17.

 

[3]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 17.

 

[4]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 21.

 

[5]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 22.

 

[6]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 23.

 

[7]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 24.

 

[8]           Considerations taken from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 25.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of purgatory?  Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen.  Therefore, in order that you may escape the everlasting punishments to come, try to bear present evils patiently for the sake of God.

 

Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis, Book 3, Chapter 12.

Lesson #10 The Principle and Foundation – Part I

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Having covered the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, it is now time to examine and study the foundation which St. Ignatius gives as the preparation to do his actual Spiritual Exercises.

Before beginning to give the actual exercises, St. Ignatius gives an introductory meditation in which he expounds to the exercitant the true purpose of life.  Because St. Ignatius knew that in order for the purpose of life to be deeply rooted into the soul, a person must generously ponder the very reason why man was created.  This pondering naturally includes understanding more about the Creator.  Hence, St. Ignatius intends that this particular meditation has such an impact on the soul that it is never forgotten.  Consequently, this meditation on the purpose of man’s existence is meant to give the exercitant a firm foundation that he can use for the remainder of his life.  Indeed, this meditation sets the tone for all of his actions.

St. Ignatius calls this meditation the Principle and Foundation.  Every retreat or setting out to do all of the Spiritual Exercises begins with this meditation.  It is such a fundamental and rich meditation that this one lends itself to be done frequently even outside of a retreat per se.  It could be done as a meditation even as often as once per week as a means to keep one working out his salvation with the intense, necessary seriousness we need in this work.

In other words, this meditation on the Principle and Foundation is a powerful way to humble the soul and firmly cement the virtue of humility in the soul.  This is mainly true because this meditation helps a person grasp exactly where he fits in God’s plan of creation.  He sees how crucial it is to fulfill God’s plan for man’s existence and how our entire eternity is determined by how well we love and obey   God’s plan for us.

As the reader may recall, Lesson #2 in Mary’s School of Sanctity[1] explains how to do a meditation.  So here we give the “meat”, as it were, of the meditation which one can use for this introduction meditation of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

First, we give the text of St. Ignatius and then expound on the various points one can use for his considerations in his actual meditation.  St. Ignatius says:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.  All other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for which he is created.  From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him to attain his end.  Likewise, he must rid himself of them insofar as they prevent him from attaining it.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, insofar as it is left to the choice of our free will and is not forbidden.  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.

There are actually two parts here which one must consider.  The first part regards man’s service to God, and the second part is man’s proper use of creatures when serving God.  Therefore, we will divide this beginning meditation into two parts, only considering the first part now.  In our next lesson, we will take the second part.

Man’s Service of God – the reason God created man

God made us to praise, revere, and to serve Him.  We often think of our catechism answer to the question of why God made us, “God made me to know, love, and serve Him in this life so I can be happy with Him in the next.”  Although this is true, it often, unfortunately, makes us focus too much on ourselves.  St. Ignatius would have us direct our main focus on the service of God.  Ad majorem Dei gloriam was St. Ignatius’s motto, which means “all for the greater glory of God.”

St. Ignatius tells us that it is God Who must come first in our lives.  We owe Him praise, homage, and our service.  We must give Him all our praise.  We owe and ought to give Him all of our homage.  We owe Him our complete service.

In this meditation St. Ignatius wants us to think deeply of all the aspects of what it means to say that “Man is created”.  There are many consequences of God creating man.   Let us try to penetrate the most obvious ones.

1) “Whence am I?  I am from God.”[2]

God made man out of nothing.  God made man in His Image and likeness.[3] This means that God made man rational. Man can think and reason things out.  Indeed, man has the obligation to use his reason.  This use of reason is what makes a man’s action moral.[4]

I owe to the Almighty all that I am and possess: my body and soul, my intellect and will, my five senses, my talents and my powers, my health and my life…What gratitude do I not owe to Him?  “What shall I return to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me?” Ps. 115:12[5]

Indeed, we should ponder each and every benefit that God has given to us as creatures and be very grateful.  Hence, “I can attribute nothing to myself, to my own merits; not the least thing did I give to myself.  I must, therefore, be humble and not presumptuous.”[6]

Likewise, I must think about the fact that:

I am the property of God, [and] that I belong entirely to Him.  He that makes a thing has also a claim to it.  As I am the property of God, I must keep myself holy!  I must not desecrate the property of God.  I must keep myself holy, my will, my heart, my imagination, my eyes, my ears, my tongue.  Hence the warning of St. Paul: “Or know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own?   Glorify and bear God in your body.” [I Cor. 6:19-20][7]

Another point to ponder about being owned by God is the fact that God can do what He wills with His own property, namely, me.  He has given me everything to be used for His service and He can take everything away if He wishes.  “He can exalt me and lower me.  I must be entirely submissive to His holy will, and be disposed as Job was.”[8]

Knowing that we are the work of God’s Hands we must marvel at the honor that He bestows on us as being His highest material creatures. 

What an honor, what a joy to be able to glory in having such an originator, such a Creator!  With what confidence in God’s help and assistance ought I not to be filled!  The Almighty will not forsake the work of His Hands: “For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made: for thou didst not appoint or make anything, hating it …  But thou sparest all, because they are all thine, O Lord, Who lovest souls.” [Wisdom 11:25, 27].[9]

2) “Why am I here? I am for God.”[10]

“For what end did God create me?”[11]  “We were not created for this world; He created everything else in this world for us, [12] but us He created for Himself, to praise Him, to honor Him, and to serve Him.”[13]  Then it is clear that God determined what we must do and what our role in His Creation exactly is, namely:

1.    “To honor God in His infinite majesty, in His house, in His Church, in the representatives whom He has placed over us.

 

2.    “To praise God, not only with our tongue, but with our heart also; that His sharp rebuke may not strike us: ‘This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.’ [Matt. 15:8]. We must praise God by our good works, by our good example; for the glory of parents are their virtuous children: ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.’ [Matt. 5:16].

 

3.    “But our principal duty to God is to serve Him, for He is Our Lord and we are His servants.  Now what does it mean to serve?  It means to do the will of the superior, to submit oneself to him.  But how can we know the will of God in order to serve Him?

 

a.    “From His commandments.

 

b.    “From His holy Church.

 

c.     “From our conscience, through which He speaks to us, to warn us against evil and urge us on to do good.

 

d.    “From our parents and superiors, who take His place in our regard.

 

e.    “From the vocation which He has given us; for quite often very definite duties come along with it.

 

f.     “From evils permitted by God, that strike us even against our will.  In spite of all precautions, you get sick –– the permission of God.  It is His holy will that you accept this sickness patiently from His Hands.  You are unjustly slighted, accused and calumniated –– the providence of God.  It is His will that you do not complain and murmur, but humble yourself under the hand of God. ‘Be humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God.’ [I Peter, 5:6].  The time for you to die arrives: submit yourself; it is the will of God. ‘Whether we live we live to the Lord, or whether we die, we die to the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s’ [Romans, 14:8]”[14]

3) “Whither am I going?  We must go back to God.[15]

What will happen if we do what we were created to do?  We shall go back to God for He Himself is our reward.  Yet if we do not do what we were created to do, we shall receive the eternal perdition that we deserve. The following points are crucial to penetrate in this aspect of the meditation:

a.    “How important then our destiny is: this business of which we, here upon earth, have charge and care, –– the glorification, the praise, and the service of God.  On it depends our whole eternity of bliss or misery.

 

b.    “It is our only business, because for it alone we are here on earth.

 

c.     “Precisely because this business is so important and our only one, all other business to which we must attend must be made subordinate to this, so that it [the other business] does not interfere, but supports and promotes our destiny. [The purpose of our existence in the first place]. We must ask ourselves, with St. Stanislaus: ‘What has this to do with eternity?’  Is this or that business conducive to my salvation?

 

d.    “This is a personal business.  I can let friends and servants take care of all other business, but of this I must take care myself.

 

e.    “It is a constant and everyday business, because I am always the servant of God, and He is always my Lord.

 

f.     “Furthermore, I have this business on hand but once, as a concern of my present life.  Should I neglect it, I can never repair it, not even in eternity.”[16]

All of these points are extremely serious and help one to have a proper perspective of life and look on all of life decisions as important in direct reference to pleasing God and eternal salvation.  Each point should be considered and when the exercitant is struck by any of the points and finds himself saying something to God, he should feel free to express what is in his heart at that moment.  Whether these be words of awestruck wonder and amazement or words of contrition for past ingratitude, or words of overwhelming love and thanksgiving, the exercitant should not hold back his heart from speaking to His Creator.  This is the colloquy that St. Ignatius speaks of.  This colloquy is a heart-to-heart talk with God and the fruit of the careful considering of the points.  Namely, we want these acts of the will to arise in us so that we can express them to God.

Some further points in concerning our service of God should be taken.  These points foster a healthy self-examination of how one has viewed God and God’s intended purpose of one’s life.  These points are also very striking and tend to make the exercitant be shaken with the awesome responsibilities that we creatures have in owing God praise, honor, and service.

1.    “Which is the pivot of my life, upon which everything turns, I or God?

 

2.    “Which is my most important business here on earth:  my honor, my praise, my service, the gratification of my passions; or the honor, praise, and service of God?

 

3.    “Is my life a constant service of God, a continuous hymn of praise, a continuous ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’?

“In the light of this meditation we now understand our destiny [God’s plan for us].  Let us repent of our many deviations from our course, and give back to our life its right direction to God. ‘Come let us adore and fall down and weep before the Lord that made us.  For He is the Lord Our God and we are the people of this pasture, and the sheep of His hand.’ Ps. 94; 6-7.[17]

This is certainly a very striking examination of one’s priorities in life.  How full of shame we find ourselves because God is not high enough in our estimation!  The distractions of life are continually tugging us away from this crucial center of our existence.  Even if we think we are trying very hard to have a God-centered life, when doing this meditation, we always find ourselves lacking.

One should ponder this topic as much as possible in the time period of the meditation, trying to draw fruits and humbling himself by seeing how little he is within the plan of God and what he owes to God.  Two strong conclusions that one should take away with from this meditation are that the purpose of life is our service to God and that our goal in life should be to serve God to our maximum capacity.  After the meditation, it is good to jot down some notes of the insights that especially struck one so he can keep these inspirations in mind and truly appreciate them.  Also, it is a good idea to say some prayers in thanksgiving after the meditation to thank the Holy Ghost for His assistance in the meditation.  And it is important to examine the meditation to see if one was generous in his efforts to cooperate with the Holy Ghost in giving glory to God and drawing fruits from the meditation.

In our next lesson we will consider the second half of St. Ignatius’s Principle and Foundation and how we can do a meditation on our proper use of creatures in our service of God.



[2]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 2.

 

[3]           Genesis,1:2

[4]           St. Thomas Summa I-II Q.18 Art. 8 Whether any action is indifferent in Its Species? Respondeo; Art. 9, Whether an Individual Action Can Be Indifferent?

 

[5]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 2.

 

[6]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 3.

 

[7]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 3 [bracketed word added for clarity]

[8]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 3.

 

[9]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 4.

 

[10]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 2.

 

[11]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 4.

 

[12]         While God did make other creatures to help man to attain his end, God did of course make all creatures to glorify Him, according to their capacity.

 

[13]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 5.

[14]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London. Page 5 – 6,

(bi-level list taken from the original).

 

[15]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck copyright 1918.; third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 2.

[16]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London. Page 7 – 8

(lettered list taken from the original).

[17]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 8, (Numbered list taken from the original).

Let us Detach Ourselves from the World and Focus on our Eternal Goal

One key element of the work of salvation is to rid ourselves of a false notion of self-importance and instead to foster a true self-forgetfulness and a focus on the things of God.  Here is a poetic way in which Professor Smith observed the importance of this truth in a speech at the University of Chicago, in 1902:

We proud men pompously compete for nameless graves while some starveling of fate forgets his way into Immortality.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

Let us be fearless in defending the truth!  Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, explains this zeal we should have, quoting Alcuin, Father of the Church:

 

Zeal, in the good sense of the word, is a certain fervor of soul, by which we set aside all human fear, for the sake of defending the Truth.

 

Catena Aurea on St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas, quoting Alcuin, ch.2, §4.

Lesson #9 Explanation of the Second Week Rules for the Discernment of Spirits (part 2)

           Mary’s School of Sanctity – Lesson #9         

In our last lesson we discussed the tactics of the evil one which he uses to drag us off our course when we are in consolation.  In this lesson we will discuss the last two Rules for the Second Week.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #7.  In those who are making spiritual progress, that 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 to 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 is contrary to that of the spirits, they enter it with noise and disturbances that are easily perceived.  When the dispositions of the soul and that of these spirits are similar, they enter silently, as one coming into his own house through an open door.

This Rule reminds us a bit of the First and Second Rules from the First Week, where we saw how the good spirit and the evil spirit each deal with souls based on the state of the soul.  A major point to remember is that the good spirit and the evil spirit always work in opposite directions.  They always oppose each other.

Two opposing spirits for two opposing states of soul:

In his 2nd Rule for the First Week, St. Ignatius speaks about the soul that is striving to serve God.  In this case he tells us that the good angel encourages the soul to persevere in the service of God.  He says the good spirit helps the soul “put away all obstacles”[1] in order to help the soul advance.  In addition to this, the good spirit “gives courage and strength, consolations, tears [of compunction], inspirations, and quiet.”[2]

Here in the 7th Rule in the Second Week, St. Ignatius further informs us that the good spirit is “gentle, light, and sweet, as a drop of water entering a sponge.” In the case we are considering now, the soul is in the proper disposition.  Thus, St. Ignatius explains, that the good spirit will enter silently as if “coming into his own house through an open door.”

In this same soul with proper disposition, the evil spirit, being contrary to the soul’s disposition, will enter it “with noise and disturbances that are easily perceived.”[3] Thus, the evil spirit enters “like a drop of water falling upon a rock” and his action is “sharp, noisy, and disturbing.”[4]

In addition, St. Ignatius told us in the 2nd Rule for the First Week that the devil tries to “bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on.”[5]

It is easy to see how this method is described accurately and how the devil would try to push the soul to scruples or some other form of pride.  One typical tool for the devil to use is to try to sow discouragement into the soul, saying something along the lines of, “It is too hard to keep going like you are.  You can’t ever save your soul.  It is impossible.  Certainly, it is impossible to keep up these efforts you are making.” Of course, the evil spirit is urging the soul into a form of self-pity, pride and despair.

We can see the good spirit would do the exact opposite and soothingly tell the soul the following types of things: “You are doing the right thing.  Hang in there, God will never abandon you.  You can make it (with His help).  Don’t give up, because every struggle is worth the effort.  Remember, God is not outdone in generosity.  This suffering is for the good of your soul and that is one of the reasons why He has sent it.  Look how much God has done for you in the past and see how He has taken such providential care of you.  Etc.

God willing, we are in this state of soul and striving to please almighty God.  Let us strive to stay alert in order to detect the evil one playing his tricks!

Let us now examine what St. Ignatius says about the soul going from bad to worse. 

As we saw in the First Rule of the First Week where a soul is going from bad to worse, the devil encourages the soul to keep in this state.  He proposes apparent pleasures to the soul to entice it to remain living in sin.  In the 7th Rule for the Second Week, St. Ignatius gives us further insights about the devil’s stratagems.  The devil, being similar to this wretched soul, will influence this soul “like water on a sponge,” because he will deal with the soul gently and coax it along to remain indifferent to its perilous state.  This method of the bad spirit is easy to see in the worldling who just lives to go from one pleasure to the next and doesn’t reflect on the purpose of life, namely, his final end.

For the soul in this horrible state St. Ignatius explains in the First Rule for the First Week, that the good spirit pricks the conscience.  He tells us that the good spirit will “prick the soul and bite the conscience through the process of reason.”[6]  It is thus in this 7th Rule for the Second Week that St. Ignatius explains how the good angel enters the soul noisily like “a drop of water on a rock” in order to awaken the soul to its danger.

It is very interesting to note how the good spirit urges the soul to use its reason which is the highest faculty of the human soul.  In stark contrast, we see how the bad spirit incites the soul to not use reason.[7]

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #8.  When consolation is without preceding cause, although there is no deception in it since in proceeds only from God Our Lord, as has been stated above [in Rule 2 of the Second Week[8]] 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 followed it, during which time the soul continues in fervor and feels the divine favor and the after effects 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.

In this Rule St. Ignatius is warning us to be very careful when in consolation.  As we discussed in our last Lesson (#8), the devil knows we are especially vulnerable during consolation.  We are capable of being easily fooled by the bad spirit.  This is because in consolation we feel especially fervent and full of love of God.  We feel as if we would be willing to do any service for Our Lord.  The devil knows this and will tempt us to something perhaps rash or something that will foster inordinate self love and pride.  This is why St. Ignatius recommends getting advice from a wise person, about any resolutions we may have.  So many souls have been led astray because they get some idea to do something that is not truly good for their eternal salvation.[9]

Another key instruction of St. Ignatius for when one is in consolation is to be sure to humble oneself.[10]  Acts of humility are very important.  There are several that would be good to consider and to put into practice.  One is to count one’s blessings and all the insights that God has bestowed on him.  This counting of blessings fosters gratitude towards God.  In turn, this gratitude fosters a greater love of God.

An additional humbling practice that St. Ignatius speaks of is to consider what it is like to be in desolation.  He tells us to remember how weak and helpless we feel during desolation.  He also tells us that during the current consolation, we should build up strength upon which to rely later, when desolation returns, so that we might act well then.[11]

In our next lesson we will begin discussing the first Exercise of St. Ignatius, what he calls the Principle and Foundation.  Let us be grateful to God for these special Rules for the Discernments of Spirits which help us perceive the movements of the good and bad spirits on our souls.  By knowing these Rules and consulting them frequently, we can use them effectively to defend ourselves from the enemy and cooperate with the good spirits.  Blessed be God for His Divine assistance and assurances that He never abandons souls!



[1]  Taken from Rule #2 from First Week.  (see January 2022, Catholic Candle’s Mary School of Sanctity Lesson #6 also found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/01/10/lesson-6-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/ )

[2]  Taken from Rule #2 from First Week.  (see January 2022, Catholic Candle’s Mary School of Sanctity Lesson #6 also found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/01/10/lesson-6-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/ )

[3] See Rule #7 given above

[4] See Rule #7 given above

[5] Taken from Rule #2 from First Week, found in the January Catholic Candle and found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/01/10/lesson-6-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/

[6] Taken from the First Week Rule # 1; see Catholic Candle’s Mary’s School of Sanctity Lesson #6 found in the January 2022 Catholic Candle and found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/01/10/lesson-6-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/

[7] We must remember that our enemy, the evil spirit, hates us and he especially hates the fact that we have the use of reason.  Ever since the Garden of Eden, the tempter has tempted man into not using his reason.  We will discuss this further in future lessons, especially in the Ignatian exercises concerning our final end and on sin. 

[8] Bracketed words added for clarity.

[9] See Catholic Candle Mary’s School of Sanctity Lesson #8 Rules #4 ,5 and found in the March 2022 Catholic Candle and also here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/03/27/lesson-8-explanation-of-the-second-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/

[10] See Catholic Candle Mary’s School of Sanctity Lesson #7 Rules #10 and #11, found in the February 2022 Catholic Candle and also here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/02/25/lesson-7-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/

[11] See Catholic Candle Mary’s School of Sanctity Lesson #7 Rules #10 and #11, found in the February 2022 Catholic Candle and also here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/02/25/lesson-7-explanation-of-the-first-week-rules-for-the-discernment-of-spirits/

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

There are no better means of distinguishing the chaff from the wheat in the Church of God than the suffering of contradictions, trials, and contempt.  He who stands firm through these is the grain.  He who recoils from them is the chaff.  The further he recoils, that is, the more upset and arrogant he becomes, the more worthless he is.

 

Words of St. Augustine taken from the Spiritual Diary, Daughters of St. Paul Press, Boston, © 1962, page 86.

 

 

Lesson #8 Explanation of the Second Week Rules for the Discernment of Spirits

Mary’s School of Sanctity

In our last lesson in Mary’s School, we finished discussing the Rules for the Discernment of the Spirits for the first week of the Spiritual Exercises.  Now we turn our attention to the Rules for the second week of the Spiritual Exercises.  These Rules help with a greater discernment of the spirits. The more one advances in the spiritual life and the more effort one is making to work out his salvation in fear and trembling, the more complex are the subtle attacks of our common enemy, the devil. Therefore, St. Ignatius explains how to be on extra high alert for the sneaky tactics that the devil uses.  He says that these Rules are more applicable to the Second Week because the Spiritual Exercises for this week are designed to help a person to dig harder and deeper to get to know himself even better.  Thus, the soul can get to recognize the movements of the spirits in greater detail.

Yet, as we have been repeating as we go along, these Rules are applicable to our daily lives.  Therefore, it is a good idea to become more and more familiar with them so that when we need to recall them to discern a situation, they are readily available to us.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #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 such joy and spiritual consolation by proposing [seemingly] serious reasons, subtleties, and continual deceptions.

 This is a general rule for us Catholics to keep in mind.  One basic fact we must remember is that the enemy always acts opposite to the good angel. 

Because the enemy is seeking whom he can devour and he is out to destroy us, he does not want us to have spiritual joys.  This Rule reminds us somewhat of the second Rule for the First Week.  In that Rule #2 we saw that when the soul is making spiritual progress, the devil tries to disrupt the progress by throwing wrenches in, as it were.  He presents false reasoning.  For example, he may tempt a soul with scruples so one constantly thinks that he is doing something sinful when the truth is quite the contrary. 

Thus, St. Ignatius is warning us that it is important that we be alert to the devil’s subtle deceptions.   We must keep in mind that one powerful tactic against the devil is simply to use our reason and, with God’s help, the devil will not be able to fool us.  Furthermore, remaining objective and matter of fact in our thinking will help us foster humility which always keeps the devil at bay.   The following Rules get into deeper details of the wiles of the devil.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #2. 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.

One possible previous cause of consolation could be reading an inspiring spiritual book.  So, for example, one could have just read about King St. Ferdinand III of Spain spending the night in prayer and going out to conquer the Moors the next day and about the fact that he was never wounded in any battle.  This would make one glad to be a Catholic and be very edified by such a holy king.  Reading such things could naturally fill one with spiritual joy and an increased love of God.  One could easily see himself praying and thanking God for electing such a wonderful saint.  But St. Ignatius is speaking here of a consolation that God sends to us without anything we did in particular that could have been the cause of a consolation.  In other words, we sense the consolation and we can think of nothing that we thought, did, or said that might have brought on a consolation.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #3.  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 to his own evil designs and wickedness.

St. Ignatius warns us to be careful when we have consolations because we can be drawn by the evil one into sin.  Especially when there has been a previous cause for our consolation, for example, having just got done reading a very beautiful inspirational spiritual book, we still do not know for certain if the consolation we are experiencing has not been inspired by the evil spirit.  We must be on our guard.  The good angel is going to always lead us to holiness, yet we know that the evil spirit wants the opposite and he can lure us away so easily.  The next three Rules explain the tactics of the evil one in more detail.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #4.  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; then, little by little he strives to gain his own ends by drawing the soul into his hidden deceits and perverse designs.

Rule #4 concerns temptation under the appearance of good.  Such temptations are a very common trick of the devil because with them, he succeeds so often.  Some examples of this are the following:

·         The priests and laity going along with the Novus Ordo Missae.  People went along with the “changes” because they were told it was obedient to do so.  Thus, under the “appearance of good,” people accepted a sacrilegious mass.

 

·         Women in the work force during World War II because the U.S. said it needed their help to keep up with the manufacturing needed for the war effort.  The women were told to wear pants for “safety” sake.  Safety is a good thing, so the pushing of pants for women was accepted.  Yet, unfortunately, this fashion was pushed more and more even after the War so that it came to be viewed as the “norm.”  Consequently, what Our Lady of Fatima predicted came true, namely, that fashions would come that would displease her Son very much.  A further harm is the destruction of the nature of women by such abominable attire. [As Deuteronomy and St. Paul call it.]

Another example of this tactic of the devil is found in the marriage of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.  The Martins wanted to live a celibate marriage.   They had both thought they had a religious vocation before they married.  Zelie had been turned away by the Visitation nuns telling her that she didn’t have a vocation to the religious life.  Louis Martin had tried to learn Latin because he wanted to be a priest and finally after spending lots of time and money, he finally gave up the idea.  When Louis and Zelie married, they decided to live as brother and sister.  After nine months of marriage their confessor told them that this was not God’s will and that God wanted them to have children.  They ended up having nine children: three of which died in infancy, one died at the age of five, and five daughters who became nuns.  Thus, under the “appearance of good” this couple, at first, was not doing what God wanted for them.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #5. 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.

St. Ignatius’s warning from Rule #4 continues in Rule #5.  Not only must we be on our guard during consolations with a previous cause, but we must think carefully about any inspirations or resolutions which come to us during this time.  We must ponder where our thoughts are heading.  If we make resolutions or plans during a consolation, we must think through our thoughts carefully in order to discover if they are leading to something good and positive for our salvation.  As St. Ignatius explains, if the thoughts end up being something evil, then of course we would not want to follow those inspirations knowing that they come from the evil one.  Getting advice about any resolutions inspired during consolations of this nature would also be a good idea as a means to prevent doing anything imprudent.

This fits well with our example of the Martins given above.  If the Martins had thought about the fact that they could show God their love by raising up saints for His greater honor and glory, then surely they would have wanted to live a regular Catholic marriage.  The devil wanted to frustrate God’s plan for this holy couple so he most likely hatched this apparently “good” plan for their marriage.  Their confessor saw through this deceit and told the Martins to have children to please God.

During consolations of this type, we must watch our thoughts and the movements of our souls because it so easy to be drawn off course.  The devil will tempt us to do things which would puff us up and lead to other forms of pride.  He can use one’s virtues to deceive the soul.  He can drive the soul to want to climb too high and too fast in order to set the soul up for a fall so one will get discouraged if spiritual progress does not happen as fast as the person expects.   

Also, the devil can use the consolations to foster pride by letting us think we are so wonderful because we have these spiritual consolations.  Thus, as we have mentioned already, we must take every opportunity to humble ourselves when we have consolations and desolations.

St.  Ignatius’s Rule #6. 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 and how the enemy contrived little by little to make him fall from the state of sweetness and spiritual delight that he was enjoying, until the devil finally brought him to the devil’s perverse designs.   With the experience and knowledge thus acquired and noted, one may better guard himself in the future against the customary deceits of the enemy.

This Rule discusses a great strategy for the spiritual life.  When we sense that we have been fooled by the tricks of the evil one, we must retrace our steps, as it were, and find out how the devil fooled us.  On a natural level, we do not want to be deceived by others.  How much more should we want to avoid being trapped by the devil, who is the father of lies!  If we examine the situation and circumstances of our going off course, then we can know ourselves better and know our weakness, which is itself humbling. Then we can be better prepared in order to avoid getting fooled the next time.

In our next lesson, we will examine the last two Rules for the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises.  These last two Rules consider the strategies with which the devil attacks souls based on their dispositions, and give further explanations about desolation and consolation.  Yet, even with the Rules we have considered so far, we can see plainly that with these heavenly aids Our Good Lord trains us to be His soldiers.  Because we battle, as St. Paul says, “with the principalities and powers of darkness,” we need clear and concrete rules to avoid being fooled by the evil one.  Let us thank God abundantly for these powerful aids to our eternal salvation!

Lesson #7 — Explanation of the First Week Rules for the Discernment of Spirits

In our last lesson in Mary’s School we discussed the Rules for the Discernment of the Spirits through Rule # 8. We discussed what St. Ignatius calls consolation and desolation and how to act when in desolation. In this lesson we will look at Rules #9 through #14.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #9. 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 we make 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 of ourselves, 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.

We saw in our last lesson how to react in desolation. First, we saw how it is so crucial to humble ourselves always, but especially, in the time of desolation. Likewise, we saw how Rules #7 and #8 expressly tell us how God does not abandon us when we are in desolation. Thus, by explaining our weakness to us, these Rules help us to be humble and to see the absolute need we have to simply trust in God. Yet, we need to remember that even to obtain the ability to trust God as we ought; we must beg for this gift like little children ask their parents for help.

At this point, when we are considering Rule #9, we can see clearly that desolation is a time of great merit and benefit to the soul.  Although desolation is difficult to endure, we can learn many things about ourselves when we are in desolation.  St. Ignatius explains in Rule #9 that we should examine our desolation and try to discover its cause.  This examination is, in itself, humbling.  If we discover that our desolation came from a failure of our own, then we need to tell Our Dear Lord that we are sorry and, of course, beg Him to help us improve.

Whether the desolation came from our own failing or not, it is a good idea to thank God for allowing us to have the desolation.  Gratitude is something we owe to God on all occasions.  St. Paul reminds us to “give thanks to God for all things.” Further, showing gratitude makes things easier to bear and lightens the cross.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #10. 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.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #11. 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 Rules #10 and #11, St. Ignatius tells how to act when we are in consolation and desolation. Again, St. Ignatius reminds us to abase ourselves. When we strive with all of our might to be humble, then we will be safe.[1]

The following are Three Powerful Rules to conquer the evil one:

St. Ignatius’s Rule #12.  The enemy acts like a woman in that he is weak in the presence of strength, but strong if he has his will. It is in 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. However, 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 leading a spiritual life stands courageously against his temptations and DOES EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE ENEMY 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.

This Rule is often called the Agere Contra Rule.  Literally, this means to act against.  These Rules are really foolproof.  They always work!  If one actually recognizes a temptation correctly and does the exact opposite, the devil will leave him alone. This does not mean that the devil will not try again at some other point; however, just remember to use the same counter-defense.  One example of how to apply this Rule is given by St. Ignatius himself in his Spiritual Exercises.  He explains that when one is tempted to shorten his prayers, he should do the opposite and extend the length of his prayer. How wonderful to know that by simply doing the opposite of what the devil proposes, we can foil his plans and attempts to drag us down to hell! 

St. Ignatius’s Rule #13. Our 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 reveals to her husband his deceitful words and depraved intentions, because he 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 to 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 revealed.

In Rule #13, St. Ignatius is fostering communication and opening up one’s heart to an appropriate person who can help us when we are being tempted.  Prudence must be used when choosing the person to whom one will tell the temptation.   Once the temptation is told, it loses its attraction and goes away.  There are really several logical reasons for this.  First of all, since sin is inherently irrational, then it follows that temptations are not reasonable.  When one articulates his temptation to someone, then the irrational aspects of the temptation stand out and become more evident to the one being tempted.  The person told the temptation can see even more flaws in the temptation and then can explain these additional flaws to the poor person being tempted. A good little saying to remember for this Rule is things hidden, that are forbidden, are from the devil.

There are countless examples from human history of hidden plots and intrigues that were inspired by the evil one.  In our own times and surroundings as well, we can find many examples of things that were kept secret, which were diabolical, and the Good Lord allowed them to leak out and foil the plan of the evil-doers.

God does not intend for us to fight our battles alone.  Prayer is essential, yet, God intends us to use other reasonable means as well. If we keep our temptations to ourselves, then the devil will trick us into some kind of false reasoning and we will undoubtedly fall into sin.

Another aspect of the revealing of our temptations is that doing so is an act of humility.  We see our weakness and our need of help.  We see that we cannot “go it alone” and this is good to curb our fallen human nature and the pride of life.  For one to think he is an island and doesn’t need any help is clearly a form of pride. “God helps those who help themselves” is certainly applicable here.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #14. 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 strengths 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.

This Rule is a very practical one and fits with St. Ignatius’s military background.  This makes perfect sense that the devil studies us.  Lucifer was the highest angel and did not lose his nature when he fell, although he is blinded by his pride.  The devil knows human nature very well.  Of course he will see our weakest spot and attempt to catch us in a snare when we least expect it.  This Rule shows how important it is for us to know ourselves well.  The Spiritual Exercises themselves are a powerful way to get to know ourselves.  They are very humbling and foster in us a desire to see ourselves more and more how God sees us.  They foster in us the desire to please God, namely, they foster in us an eternal perspective.[2]

Later on, St. Ignatius will talk about the Particular Examine which is meant to help us find our particular fault, namely, what Rule 14 calls our weak spot.  It is a great blessing from God to find one’s particular fault. We have many weak spots but usually one particular biggest weak spot which we must try to find. We ought to beg God to help us find it if we have not found it yet.  Once we find it, then we concentrate on fixing this fault.

The devil will be at his tricks again to find the next weakest spot but we can pray and take the appropriate means to find that one too.  How good God is to give these Rules to help us fight the evil one and his helpers!  These are all of the Rules for the first Week of the Spiritual Exercises, although they apply for our whole life.

In our next lesson we will begin to look at the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits for the second week of the Spiritual Exercises (Which also are applicable to our whole lives).  The Rules for the Second Week are more about consolation; its causes; and the subtle tricks that the devil uses then.  We really cannot thank God enough for the countless blessings that He has given us, one of which is the work of St. Ignatius in giving us the Spiritual Exercises!

 



[1]           St. Vincent de Paul said, “The most powerful weapon with which to overcome the devil is humility; because, not knowing how to use it [humility], he does not even know how to defend himself from it [humility].”  Taken from Spiritual Diary, 1962 ed. Page 37; Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, Mass.

[2]      For a further examination of the importance of having an eternal perspective see Catholic Candle Reflection #18 in the Objective Truth Series, available here: https://catholiccandle.org/2021/01/01/having-an-eternal-perspective/

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

In these apostate times, we need words such as the following to encourage us and remind us that God intends that the crosses He sends us will make us better:

 

Let us not revenge ourselves for these things which we suffer.  But esteeming these very punishments to be less than our sins deserve, let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which, like servants, we are chastised, have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.

 

Book of Judith, 8:26,27

 

 

Lesson #6 — Explanation of the First Week Rules for the Discernment of Spirits

Mary’s School of Sanctity

In our last lesson in Mary’s School, we discussed the Spiritual Exercises in general and began to explain the purpose of the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits. 

In this lesson we will begin our examination of the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits that pertain especially more to the first week of the Exercises, although these Rules apply to the spiritual life in general.  These Rules are invaluable for everyone engaged in the test of this life and fighting in the Church Militant.  Saints and spiritual writers highly recommend that we Catholics become familiar with these Rules as much as possible and review them often.  By doing so we can see the tactics of the evil one and cooperate with the helps God gives us through His Holy Angels.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #1. In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons, the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.

St. Ignatius’s Rule #2. In the persons who are going on intensely cleansing themselves from their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord, each spirit uses a method contrary to the one he used in the first Rule, for then it is the way of the evil spirit to bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on; and it is proper to the good [spirit] to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles, that one may go on in well doing.

These first two Rules are very crucial in seeing the general ways in which the good spirits act and the way the evil spirits act.  One basic fact to remember is that the good spirit always acts in an opposite way than the evil one.  Of course, the devil hates God and is always opposed to God’s Will and will always try to undo God’s Plan.  

Another basic difference between the good spirit and the evil spirit is the fact that the good spirit always fosters sound reasoning and the evil spirit tries to drag the soul away from sound reasoning.  St. Thomas explains in the Summa that in order for man to have moral behavior, that is, moral actions, man must act according to reason.[1]  Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the devil’s main tactic is to get men to not use their reason properly.

So, in the first Rule, the devil wants the mortal sinner to become complacent in his sin, and therefore, the devil will endeavor to keep the sinner in sin.  Whereas the good spirit will try to wake up the sinner to the gravity of his situation in order to draw him to conversion.

In the second Rule, the devil will try to get the person, who is striving to serve God, to fall into discouragement and to not use his reason.  The devil will basically try to get the faithful soul to the point of despair.  On the other hand, the good spirit will encourage the faithful soul to persevere.

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 3.  Of Spiritual Consolation. I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all. Likewise, I call it consolation when the soul sheds tears that move it to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one's sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise.   Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one's soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.

In the third Rule, St. Ignatius explains what he means by consolation.  He wants the soul to understand what consolation is so the soul better understands when consolation is happening and know how to recognize consolation as compared to desolation.  Because one must act well, whether in consolation or desolation, he must see the difference between these two movements in order to determine how to act.  Later, St. Ignatius will discuss how to act when one is in consolation.

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 4. Of Spiritual Desolation. I call desolation everything contrary to the consolation explained in the third rule, such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to lack of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. Because, as consolation is contrary to desolation, in the same way the thoughts which come from consolation are contrary to the thoughts which come from desolation.

In the fourth Rule, St. Ignatius explains what he means by desolation.   Again, St. Ignatius wants the reader to have a clear distinction between the two movements of the soul so one can more easily act appropriately in these two circumstances.

In the fifth and sixth Rules, St. Ignatius explains how to act during desolation.

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 5. In time of desolation never make a change; but be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination that you had on the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination which you had in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad [spirit], who tries to trick us into making a bad decision.[2]

In the fifth Rule, St. Ignatius clearly is giving a very strict warning to make no change when one is in desolation.  He means that one should continue carrying out the resolutions that one had made when he was in consolation.   As we have explained above, because the devil tries to drive man off the course of sound reasoning, the devil will especially pull on the soul when one is in desolation.  The devil will try to get the poor desolate soul to make a bad choice.

The devil knows when a soul is in desolation – the devil’s tactic goes something like this: he plays with the soul and tires it out.  The devil wants the soul to feel so overwhelmed that the person feels desperate. When a person feels desperate enough, he will often end up doing something without thinking of the long-term consequences.  Thus, it is very likely that the desolate soul will make a bad choice.  Then, of course, the devil will tempt the soul to think that since the decision has already been made, it is too late to change the decision or “fix” the mistake.  The devil preys on fallen human nature and the fact that we humans have a difficult time admitting that we were wrong.

In short, St. Ignatius is telling us that being in desolation is very dangerous for the soul because the soul is especially vulnerable – precisely because the devil will lure the soul into some form of pride.  Of course, the remedy that St. Ignatius gives to counteract the pride is to foster humility with additional prayer, penance, and examinations of conscience. See below: 

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 6. Although in desolation we ought not to change our first resolutions, it is very helpful to intensify our good efforts against the temptations that come during desolation, by insisting more on prayer, meditation, on much examination, and more penance.

Thus, knowing that the time of desolation is especially dangerous for souls, St. Ignatius tells us to intensify our strictness against fallen human nature in order to bolster the strength to overcome the evil one’s temptations.

In Rules seven and eight, St. Ignatius gives further considerations which show God’s Mercy and that it is God’s Will that the soul recognizes its weakness.  Not only does one need to see his weakness but also the soul needs to see clearly that one must depend on God.  

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 7. 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 agitation 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.

St. Ignatius’s Rule # 8. 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.

So, in Rule eight in particular, one must practice trust in God and remind himself that God will not abandon him.  Therefore, St. Ignatius shows the necessity of a person humbling himself in order to persevere in times of desolation.

In our next lesson, we will discuss St. Ignatius’ explanation of why God allows us to be in desolation.  In addition to this, we will look into St. Ignatius’s clear instructions of how to conduct oneself in consolations as well as his three other powerful Rules which help us to know the tactics of the evil one so we can combat him forcefully and conquer.  

In conclusion, we must remember that God wants us to defeat our foes and persevere.  How loving and tender God is to give us the means to cooperate with Him in our salvation!


[1]         Summa, Ia IIae, Q.75, a.2.        

[2]  Bracketed words added for clarity.

CC in brief — What do we mean when we say that God is everywhere?

Catholic Candle note: We should study the Catholic Faith our whole life.  Part of this duty is to understand more fully the truths of the Faith we already learned as children.  Thus, for example, concerning the question “Who is God?”, we know from our First Communion Catechism that “God is the Supreme Being Who made all things.”  During our life, we should learn more about God, as best we can, little-by-little, using the opportunities we have.

The very short article below is an aid to help us to “peer a little more deeply” into the answer to the catechism question “Where is God?”  

Q:        What do we mean when we say that God is everywhere?

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, gives this simple, clear, and profound answer, explaining how God is everywhere, in three ways:

It is customary to say that God is in all things by His essence, presence, and power.  To understand what this means, we should know that someone is said to be by his power in all the things that are subject to his power; as a king is said to be in the entire kingdom subject to him, by his power.  He is not there [i.e., in his entire kingdom], however, by presence or essence.  

Someone is said to be by presence in all the things that are within his range of vision; as a king is said to be in his house by presence.

And someone is said to be by essence in those things in which his substance is; as a king is in one determinate place [e.g., on his throne].

Now we say that God is everywhere by His power, since all things are subject to His power: “If I ascend into heaven, you are there ….  If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the furthest part of the sea, even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me” (Ps 138:8).

He is also everywhere by His presence, because “all things are bare and open to His eyes,” as is said in Hebrews (4:13).

He is present everywhere by His essence, because His essence is innermost in all things.  For every agent, as acting, has to be immediately joined to its effect, because mover and moved must be together.  Now God is the maker and preserver of all things with respect to the esse [i.e., the being] of each. Hence, since the esse [i.e., the being] of a thing is innermost in that thing, it is plain that God, by His essence, through which He creates all things, is in all things.  [In other words, God creates all things by His Own essence and so God’s essence must be together with all creatures and so is everywhere.]

Lectures on St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas, ch.1, #134.


Conclusion.  God is in all things in these three ways, by His essence, His presence, and His power.