Discerning Hearts

As I am teaching at IPF in Omaha these days, I have been saturated by the abundance of wisdom that this place overflows with.

Lead Us Not…

Just today, I attended a lecture on St. Ignatius’ rules for discerning spirits by a true master of that topic, Fr Tim Gallagher. Among the many points he made, he talked about the nature of temptation. He simply defined it as ‘a deceptive suggestion from the Enemy,’ with the enemy meaning (for St. Ignatius) the fallen angels in their sleepless malice.

In particular, he spoke in depth about the nature of temptation vis-a-vis our commitment to daily prayer. Ignatius, as with all of the spiritual authors of the Catholic tradition, insists that the Enemy’s fiercest and most subtle temptations revolve around getting us to stop praying. If he is able to accomplish that, he will have effectively isolated us from our only true source of protection and power, God, and renders us easy prey to innumerable other temptations.


Often those ‘deceptive suggestions’ by the ‘Enemy of human nature’ (as Ignatius also calls him) are in and of themselves good things, as there are always many good things than can be done in place of prayer, things that can easily and rationally justify our limiting or abandoning a prior commitment. The Enemy tempts ‘the good with good and the evil with evil.’

And while the Enemy is our advocate prior to our succumbing to temptation (arguing the temptation’s case), he becomes our accuser afterward (arguing why our fall from grace merits despair). The Spirit, contrawise, convicts us in the midst of temptation (calling us to resist), but becomes our advocate after a fall extending to us hope and mercy.

What to do?

The key in the midst of temptation, in IPF lingo, is to say ARRR: Acknowledge the inner battle, Relate it immediately to God in prayer, Receive God’s inner strength in response, and Resolve to recommit to your original good resolution. Daily practice of this in all areas of life will grow in you an immense power that is not your own. Or, as St Pio worded it after he had suffered a very dark time of trial, “after I cried out to God from the depths there was within me a Giant rising up…”

Let God arise within you: pray without ceasing.

St. Benedict, pray for us…

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