St Ignatius had a conversion experience at the age of thirty. As a soldier, he was wounded in the battle of Pamplona against the French. He was recovering in his sister’s place at Loyola in the Basque region of Spain. It was a slow recovery and he had much time to think. He was bored stiff and asked for the romantic stories that he used to enjoy. There were none in the house. In fact, there were only two books available, one on the life of Christ and the other on lives of the Saints!
Out of sheer boredom he read them. The readings touched his heart and started his conversion experience. What followed were years of pilgrimage to use his own designation, of active travel and searching. It was a time of great interior progress for him in the Christian life. These were years of preparation for the establishment of the great religious order, the Jesuits. The Jesuit order founded by Ignatius was to make a dynamic thrust into the turbulent Europe of the Protestant Reformation. It was also to provide a great number of missionaries for the expanding world of his day. It was a time of great discoveries, the Americas and so much else.
In the lives of the Saints, such as St Francis and St Dominic, he found hope. “If they, with the Grace of God, could overcome sin and be holy, so can I with that same grace”.
Ignatius saw the world as the scene of a conflict between Christ and Satan. It was a spiritual conflict for the souls of human beings. Ignatius saw this as the real issue that confronted all at the core of the human drama. All are invited to work with Christ in winning over souls for him.
Ignatius came to view the world in the dramatic terms of a sacred history, in which the human person is called to action by God who is ever active in creation, “who works and labours for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth”.
We are invited into a decisive commitment and engagement under the standard of Christ.
We need to learn to distinguish as to what comes from God and what does not in our lives. What is God saying to me?
Ignatius talks about the good spirit and the bad spirit.
The Good Spirit:
Helps to bring about true repentance for sin, a healthy remorse, an acceptance of God’s love.
Encourages non-judgement of others, helping them also to repentance and true commitment.
Also helps in the life-giving and energising of others. Promotes Peace.
The Bad Spirit:
Harsh judgement of self and others
Condemnation of self and others.
A sense of hopelessness and depressive spirit.
Desolation and spiritual oppression.
Consolation is when one is informed with the love of God.
Desolation is the opposite; it is about separation from God.
Ignatius warns about changing prior decisions made during a time of consolations when one is experiencing a time of desolation.
“The good spirit guides and counsels more during times of consolation. In time of desolation it is the evil spirit who speaks more frequently to our conscience. The only thing that should change is our insistence on prayer, meditation, self-examination, and suitable penance, which should intensify during desolation”.
In other words, Ignatius encourages us not to deviate from our commitments, especially if they have been made under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Rather we should resort to prayer and, as Jesus said, with some form of penance as we deal with attacks from spiritual powers attempting to take us away from doing God’s will in our life.