"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

A Letter From St. Ignatius Of Loyola: For Challenging Times

In this post, I would like to share a very important letter that shows the precision of St Ignatius in guiding the soul of a nun of the Santa Clara Benedictine convent in Barcelona.

On 18 June 1536, Ignatius wrote from Venice to one Teresa Rejadell. Ignatius's letter in reply is important because of two reasons. Firstly, the Spiritual Exercises before its publication had gone through a long pre-history and we find in this letter a sizable commentary by Ignatius himself on the Rules for Discernment (SE 314-327). Secondly, the 1536 letter contains nuances of Ignatius's own thoughts and quite different from what we might know already about the 14 Rules.

Both retreat givers of the Spiritual Exercises and retreatants alike could benefit a lot by keeping tab of this letter for it was addressed to a real person undergoing a real spiritual battle with the enemy. This also means that spiritual concerns almost 500 years ago are still the same today and the wisdom St Ignatius immortalised in this letter could serve as a perfect guide especially during challenging times.

An Excerpt of the Letter of St. Ignatius to Sr. Teresa Rejadell (June 18, 1536, Venice)

May the grace and love of Christ our Lord be our never-failing protection...

I will call your attention briefly to two lessons which our Lord usually gives, or permits. The one of them He gives, the other He permits. The first is an interior consolation which casts out all uneasiness and draws one to a complete love of our Lord.... When this divine consolation is present all trials are pleasant and all weariness rest.... The consolation points out and opens up the way we are to follow and points out the way we are to avoid....

But when this consolation is absent the other lesson comes to light. Our ancient enemy sets up all possible obstacles to turn us aside from the way on which we have entered. He makes use of everything to vex us, and everything in the first lesson is reversed. We find ourselves sad without knowing why. We cannot pray with devotion, or contemplate, nor even speak or hear of the things of God with any interior taste or relish. Not only this, but if he sees that we are weak and much humbled by these harmful thoughts, he goes on to suggest that we are entirely forgotten by God our Lord, and leads us to think that we are quite separated from Him and that all that we have done and all that we desire to do is entirely worthless. He thus endeavors to bring us to a state of general discouragement. We can thus see what causes our fear and weakness: it is a too-prolonged gaze at such times on our miseries. We allow ourselves to be laid low by his misleading suggestions. For this reason it is necessary for us to be aware of our opponent. If we are in consolation, we should abase and humble ourselves and reflect that soon the trial of temptation will come. And when temptation, darkness, or sadness comes upon us, we must go contrary to it without permitting ourselves to pay any attention to the unpleasant impressions caused in us, and hope patiently for the consolation of our Lord, which will cast out all our uneasiness and scatter all the clouds....

Source: Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Selected and Translated by William J. Young, SJ, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1959, pp. 18-22.