The Joy of Heavenly Things: The 3rd Rule of St. Ignatius

July 30, 2020


Third Rule.  The third is of spiritual consolation.  I call it consolation when some interior movement is caused in the soul, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and consequently, when it can love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of them all.  Likewise when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorry for one's sins or for the passion of Christ our Lord or because of other things directly ordered to his service and praise.  Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all the interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one's soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.  - The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits

What is Spiritual Consolation?


In The Discernment of Spirits, Fr. Gallagher explains that St. Ignatius thought of consolation as a happy, uplifting feeling that leads to a sense of peace.  To me, consolation implies something that comes at a time of trouble or disquiet but this is not necessarily the case for St. Ignatius.  And when I look at the synonyms for consolation I can see why.

According to Merriam Webster comfort, reassurance and solace are all synonyms for consolation.  And when, you think about, these are things that are welcomed by most of us pretty anytime. 

Especially if the comforter is God.

And that is the key part.  Spiritual consolation per Fr. Gallagher impacts our life of faith.  Ordinary consolation, as found in a friend's greeting or beautiful sunset does not, at least not necessarily, influence our walk with God.

A Five Part Rule


When I first read the third rule of St. Ignatius I felt completely overwhelmed.  Not just by the length or by the language but by the standard I felt it set in describing a love of God so profound that the soul who experiences it "can love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of them all."

I didn't feel that I could say that I loved only through God or that I even really understood what that meant.  Luckily, however, there are four parts to the third rule.  Loving no created thing in and of itself is one of five.

And I do mostly get the other four.

1. The Consolation of Loving God 

I call it consolation when some interior movement is caused in the soul, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord...  - The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits

Many of us, I think, have felt our soul burn for God on at least one occasion.  At times, it may burn so brightly that it illuminates other created things.  To me, this is grace.  The kind of grace that makes it possible to help and care for people who are not lovable on the surface.

2.  The Consolation of Loving Through God 

I call it consolation ... when it [the soul] can love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of them all.  - The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits
This was the part the third rule I found very hard to understand.  Not only was it hard to understand but I felt that even if I did understand it, it was setting the bar impossibly high.

And that bar reminded me of the bar set here:
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:26 NRSVCE
Yes, that is Jesus talking and, yes, I always kind of hated that verse.  But I do understand it.  We move forward in our walk of faith, no matter what.  No matter who is with us.  No matter who is not.

We stay the course because we love God.  But does our love for God ever burn so brightly, as St. Ignatius implies in the third rule, that it makes no other illumination possible?

Personally, speaking only for myself, it does not.  And it's entirely possible it never will.

While, I appreciated Fr. Gallagher's example of a young seminarian whose love for God completely overwhelmed his attachment for the life he had left behind, I know that isn't me.

And to be honest, I think that's okay.  One of the things I love about being Catholic, in fact, is knowing that we are on a spiritual path as opposed to having reached our destination.  We are blessed to walk that path in the company of saints like Ignatius.  But we are not them.

For me, this is the chasing part of Chasing the Saints, I know I'm not going to catch up or even necessarily keep the pace.  But I'm happy to be headed in the right direction.

3.  The Consolation of Tears

Likewise when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorry for one's sins or for the passion of Christ our Lord or because of other things directly ordered to his service and praise.  The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits

The spirit moves me to tears often during prayer.  Sometimes during the Rosary, which has a power that NEVER dims.  Sometimes when I pray for others.  Sometimes when I confess my sins.

Those tears are different then other tears because they are tears of spiritual consolation but they are not tears of spiritual consolation just because I'm praying but because they affect my life of faith.

Sometimes, we understand that affect clearly because of a special insight we are given.  Sometimes the impact is a little harder to define, but it impacts us all the same.

4.  The Consolation of Hope, Faith and Charity

Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity... - The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits
Hope is, for me, a hallmark of God's leading but it can be tricky to divide what we think is hope from the sense of relief we sometimes get after making a difficult decision.  Sometimes too desperation can look a bit like hope.  So with hope (and faith and charity) I think it's important to allow yourself time to be with whatever it is your feeling and to turn to God in prayer.

5.  The Consolation of Joy and Peace

...and all the interior joy that calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one's soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.  - The Rules St. Ignatius as translated by Fr. Timothy Gallagher in The Discernment of Spirits
The consolation of joy and peace came into play for me this week in a big way.  I had been struggling with decision about a new project.  On one hand were all the things on my plate - my family, my garden, my still not completely renovated house plus my other creative projects.

And those projects were many.  They included this blog, my BarbaraGraver.com creativity and faith website and my new Catholic printables etsy shop that is still very much in process.  Adding another project on did not make sense, except that I thought maybe it could IF I used the podcasts I recorded as content on my creativity and faith site.

But it wasn't the reasoning (which always feels very much like rationalizing to me) that convinced me.  It was the happy enthusiasm I felt for the project.  Not just enthusiasm,  a light upward pull of excitement and anticipation accompanied by a sense of peace around my decision.  Maybe if I hadn't been studying the Third Rule at that particular point in time I would have missed it.

Attracting Heavenly Things


But I didn't miss it.

I felt happy about the project.  I noticed that I was getting a lot of different inspired ideas for various podcast episodes.  I kept running into information about podcasting and other people who love podcasting.  I thought about what St. Ignatius said about a joy that attracts heavenly things.   I talked to God.  And when I still felt the same happy upward pull I decided to go for it.

So now there's another iron in the fire.  It's called the Creativity and Faith Podcast and it is already a lot of work.  But the podcast website is done (CreativityAndFaith.com) and there is a podcast page on my website (BarbaraGraver.com) and the first episode, such as it is, is up there.

There is still a LOT more to do, but isn't there always?  And really, isn't that just how life works? Or as my grandmother used to say, I'll rest when I'm dead.  Because right now, I'm having fun.

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