Language can befuddle clarity. St. Ignatius lived long before the science of psychology came into the stream of time. He did not possess the language that modern day mental health professionals use. According to St. Ignatius there are two types of desolation - spiritual and psychological. The antiquated term - psychological desolation - describes modern day depression which has already been covered in a previous section.
Spiritual desolation and depression are not mutually exclusive and have overlapping symptoms. Both create mood changes which color the past, present, and future. Both increase automatic negative thoughts, self-limiting thoughts, self denigrating, self-loathing, despairing, self condemning, etc. They both create the subjective reality of finding every worst case scenario with tunnel vision. Spiritual desolation and depression both distort perception and thinking. Both distort the Christian’s subjective experience and so they think, feel, and act based on their damaged subjective experience. Subjectivity rules, and reason correspondingly diminishes. Distorted thoughts proceed from these states and generate bad feelings. Both spiritual desolation and depression are parasites which can suck the life blood out of their victims spiritual body. Both are capable of hindering healing grace. Wise judgment is severely compromised by both. It is not wisdom to trust decisions made while in these states. It is folly. Properly handled, spiritual desolation and depression can be a source of blessing and grace. There are many depressed people who pray a lot and draw especially close to God. The task is to master desolation as much as possible to remove its control over thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Despite the similarities, there are unique differences. Desolation attacks faith, hope, and love, and doesn’t effect self-esteem. When self-esteem is attacked it’s not spiritual desolation it is depression. Spiritual desolation is a response to the moral state, while depression is a response to our psychological state. When mood disinclines someone to go to Mass on Sunday it could be either spiritual desolation or depression. Spiritual desolation diminishes the pursuit of holiness and lowers spiritual motivation. Spiritual desolation is defined by whether or not it ruins or damages the person’s relationship with God. Desolation exclusively targets the spiritual domain. What makes spiritual desolation uniquely spiritual is that it is attached to matters of Christian life. So they live in a state of bad feelings about who they are in Christ. Depression throws a much wider net and impinges on several life domains. There are types of emotional difficulties that don’t impact spirituality or the relationship with God and that is the difference.
The depressed person may self diagnose their psychiatric disorder as spiritual desolation. Sometimes even the well trained find it virtually impossible to distinguish between them. Conversely, even a morally good practicing Catholic who experiences desolation might label it depression. Sounds a lot like depression but it’s not. From a certain point of view spiritual desolation is simply an emotional disorder. Emotions are certainly involved in spiritual desolation, but this does not necessarily make it a psychological problem. It’s not spiritual desolation, it’s depression. There is even the possibility of spiritual desolation and depression co existing simultaneously having a dual diagnosis.
If someone is in chronic spiritual desolation, prudence requires spiritual direction or Christian counseling. Under the spiritually desolate state medical or psychological interventions are not necessary, but spiritually interventions are necessary. Depression can be treated by medical, psychological and spiritual interventions, whereas if it’s spiritual desolation, medical and psychological work is palliative. So there are probably Catholics in spiritual desolation who are miss diagnosed as depressed. This diagnostic difference is important is because the treatment for spiritual desolation and depression are different.
You would think the more a person is in union with God the less the likelihood of them entering spiritual desolation. If you don’t normally feel connected, you can’t ever feel unconnected. Spiritual desolation does not disrupt attack the atheist or the agnostic because there is nothing to ping against in their soul to cause a disturbance. The way to reestablish the conscious connection is to understand that God permitted the subjective experience of separation. Since it is his will, we should understand that he expects us to cheerfully accept the cross and successfully pass the trial and from it grow in holiness. Abortion often keeps people away from God and church which is the worst thing to do. It is only in the enemies best interest that these hurting souls stay away from God and the church. This creates a terrible situation for a soul because they can’t even go to God, The Divine Physician, the source of their consolation and ask for help because they feel ashamed of what they did. So they consciously and deliberately separate themselves from the source of all healing grace. They are shooting themselves in the foot. Desolation is the opposite of intimacy and friendship. They don’t feel a sense of belonging to God. They feel alienated from Him. The sense of connectedness is missing. They don’t feel cared for, protected, or loved by Him. They don’t feel God is safe. The person’s desolation can be decreased by turning to God in prayer and practicing the sacraments. Either pray to God or fall prey to temptation and continued desolation. Some dread facing Jesus on Judgment Day. Being angry at God is obviously a disconnect. It is very hard for a severely depressed person or a schizophrenic person to feel the conscious connection with God.
Whenever the soul experiences the power of a Holy Spirit-filled new life, it replaces estrangement with enthusiasm. This interior evangelism is sparked by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Divine Healing Mercy.
During the enemies team meetings on how to destroy us, the enemy responsible for causing the post Abortive’s desolation would have to say something like this, “When I put them into desolation they traditionally complained, wallowed, fell into despair and lost hope. But now that soul turns to God all the more strongly and turns their desolation into a blessing.”
Alcoholic’s Anonmyous stress maintaining a conscious connection with God for continued sobriety. Feeling no conscious connection is a sure sign of spiritual desolation. It seems that all of the mind games with defense mechanisms which comprise post abortion trauma reinforce a disconnection with God. Another consequence of desolation is that the post abortive alienates themself from God while thinking God is alientating them.
In genuine consolation the soul experiences a strong sense of closeness to God. Consolation is the experience of this deep connectedness to God, and it fills our hearts with a sense of peace and joy, to willingly follow his will. Spiritual consolation is experienced when our hearts are drawn toward God, even when this happens in circumstances which the world would regard as negative. Consolation is a gift that comes from God, it’s not intrinsic to mankind. Consolations are a type of spiritual food which empower us to cooperate with his grace. The person in consolation will find the whole discernment process peaceful and easier. This is why St. Ignatious taught making discernmnts when we are tranquil, not agitated.
The important lesson about consolation is that it doesn’t actually have anything to do with feeling good. The enemies trap is for us to have a feeling based relationship with God. Consolation can make us focus on ourselves instead of God. This is one of the reasons He permits desolation.
WARNING there are two types of consolation the enemy uses to destroy us. They are estatic consolations and false consolations.
Ignation desolation is never from God, but God permits the enemy to inflict us with desolation. It is always from the enemy. Desolation occures because the enemy hates us and God’s permissive will allows it to happen.
In desolation it’s literally impossible to be objective. Subjectivity rules, reason correspondingly diminishes. Desolation significantly reduces the ability to discern correctly, because the enemy has more influence on us in that mental state. In desolation, you cannot trust your own judgment. Even if we think we can St. Ignatius says we can’t. In desolation it’s okay to make decisions about whether we are going to have chicken or steak for dinner, but make important spiritual decisions only in consolation.
The desolate person experiences a spiritual unsettledness, dryness, emptiness, irritability, and restlessness. The thoughts generated from the state of spiritual desolation are negative, self-loathing, helplessness, self condemning, judjmental, etc. etc. etc. Desolation attacks faith, hope, and, love.
The subjective experience is they feel very separate from God. They might say, “Sometimes I feel he is in the room with me, but now, I don’t even think he’s aware of my existence,” “It seems to me that God has turned his back on me,” “I think he’s mad at me.” Feeling disconnected and distant from God, is a sure sign of spiritual desolation.
3 Reasons for desolation Rule #9
He’s not doing it to punish us, but to help us spiritually grow. All 3 are for our betterment.
Reason #1- Healing us from our faults. The enemy wants us to spiritually regress, stop or reduce our spiritual practices. If we fall into this trap, when we correct it, God’s reason for permitting the desolation (our conversion) is accomplished.
To defend ourselves it’s important to resume our normal spiritual routines and even increase our spiritual practices, just beyond comfort level. (Go from 2 to 2.5)
I think God has observed that human beings pray more when they are either hurting, need, or want something. So he uses the enemies desolation to draw us closer to him through prayer. At these times we are in spiritual warfare.
Reason #2 - God permits desolation as a trial to assess our spiritual maturity. He allows His consolation to be replaced by desolation to see if we are mercinaries or patriots. It’s to see if we will do the good and holy work without payment. (Explain ) The book,”True Devotion to Mary” #122 teaches patratism. God tests us through desolation. It’s not the type of testing that’s done in school to see whether you know something or not. As the acid test distinguished between true gold and fool’s gold, God tests us.
Reason #3 - This third reason for desolation is, it can improve our humulity. It helps us not experience vainglory. (Explain vain glory) Our gifts and talents and their fruits are Gods. They are not intrinsic to ourselves. When someone thanks us for healing them, and we accept the thanks we are actually stealing God’s glory. That’s why it is said that every time someone thanks Mary, she instantly says “Thank you Jesus”. She gives him the Glory. The 3rd reason for desolation is for us to acquire the understanding that everything depends on God, not ourselves.
It is written that the devil can appear as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15 ) We need to discern if our consolation is the enemy appearing as an Angel of light. The enemy appearing as an Angel of light has deceived even very holy Christians.
Consolation is usually the work of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by feelings of peace, with other fruits of the Holy Spirit. Continue with any tentative discernment until it turns into spiritual desolation. If that occurs, you should stop following it. It has become a desolation through false consolation. It’s the enemy leading you away from God. Sometimes the enemy implants thoughts that appear to be aimed at building up our spiritual life, but are designed to destroy us in the long term.
When the enemy can’t tempt a person to sin, he will tempt them to make unrealistic goals on an unrealistic timeline, having too many goals because the enemy wishes to cause desolation by pushing you beyond your limits. Sometimes the enemy gives delusions. ( Burn the clinic)
The really insidious thing about false consolation’s are they initially appear intrinsically as God’s will and are very attractive to us. This is because they match our own personality. The false consolation gives the subjective experience of making a good discernment which is holy and from God, but it is not. False consolation can lead even a mature soul into a future which may be beyond their strength and ability. The trap - wrongly concluding God’s will, when it’s actually demonic prompting matching our good intentions. How many have accepted the voice they hear (false consolation) as the word of God and been completely wrong?
For example, initially appearing as a consolation, a person believes God has called them to a church ministry, but it could be the enemy masquerading as an Angel of light. So if this dedicated church person who is doing all kinds of wonderful church activities is hardly home with his wife and children, neglecting household chores, did he discern correctly? It looks like he was tricked by a good and holy idea, but he isn’t honoring the sacrament of marriage. The enemy tricked him by entering his soul at a place that was acceptable to that soul- which is church service.
Handling Consolations and Desolations
Our Catholic duty is to master consolations and desolation not only to reduce any damaging control over our feelings, thoughts, and actions, but on how to use them to God’s advantage. As Regarding spiritual growth consolation and desolation are 2 sides of the same coin.
Just as it is normal for us to have emotional ups and downs. Fluctuations naturally happen in our spirituality. These spiritual fluxations allow the continuum from spiritual consolation to spiritual desolation.
The superficial definition of consolation as feeling good and desolation as feeling bad is half true. Estatic Consolations without desolation promotes pride and vain glory (St Paul and the thorn ). Desolation without consolations can be a living hell.
God is famous for turning bad into good, so desolation is important for our spiritual growth. When well handled, desolation’s crosses and trials can actually transform spiritual desolation into grace and spiritual blessing. Without crosses and trials we would never grow and become spiritually mature, we would stay spiritual children.
One way to prepare for this is that while you are in consolation you make a plan. When in consolation, look at your thoughts, feelings and actions that usually lead to desolation. With this awareness and understanding, develop a defense strategy. Pray there is a protective hedge, wall, or bubble around you, that God would send his warring Angels to protect you.