The origin of our desiring

Daily Reading for August 2

At the heart of the Spiritual Exercises is learning how to discern the origin of our desiring. Each of us knows the pull and tug of various urges, some for our well-being and some for our downfall. These pulls, tugs, urges, and desires are movements that come from different sources. One of these sources is God and the other is not-God or, as Ignatius calls it, “the enemy of our human nature.” We can tell where a movement is coming from if we can tell where it is leading, says Ignatius. If we can play out in our imagination where a particular desire will lead us—closer to God or farther away from divine love—we can be sure which spirit is behind that urge.

Ignatius calls those movements toward God and toward the deepest truth of ourselves “consolation,” and he calls those movements away from faith, hope, and love and into self-centeredness “desolation.” Harking back to his recuperation time in Loyola, Ignatius recognizes the movements of the spirits in his own life and wants the retreatant to know the same. Thus we can choose to follow the movements of grace and avoid falling into the temptations of the enemy of our human nature. We come to recognize the patterns of temptation in our lives as well as the gentle pull of divine grace. As we come to understand the value system of the Gospel more clearly and in greater detail, through contemplation of Jesus, and as we grow in our understanding of the value system of the world, we are equipped to make better choices in our lives.

From “How Ignatius Would Tend the Holy: Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction” by Marian Cowan, CSJ, in Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across Traditions edited by Norvene Vest. Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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