Spiritual Combat & External Attraction

July 9, 2020


Spiritual Combat by Dom LorenzoSpiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo was first published in 1589.  It is said that St. Francis de Sales read from it and often recommended it to those under his spiritual direction.

I've had Dom Lorenzo's book on kindle for some time but have never gotten around to reading it.  Then, on Tuesday, the day after I wrote my second post on the rules of St. Ignatius, I watched a video on YouTube that included a reading of the first chapter of Spiritual Combat.

I decided to read along on my kindle.  About halfway into the first chapter, the following passage jumped out at me.

The situation is much different with those who ignorantly place their devotion in external acts...  They are so attached to these acts that they utterly neglect to watch the inner movements of their hearts...  It is then that this destroyer... not only encourages them to go on their way, but fills their imagination with empty ideas, making them believe that they already taste the joys of Paradise... - Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo

This passage reminded me of the rules of St. Ignatius.  Because I had just written about St. Ignatius and the discernment of spirits the day before, the material was fresh in my mind.

Why I Paid Special Attention to the Passage


I paid special attention to the passage about people who are focused on exterior devotions because it reminded me of what I'd recently read about the rules of St. Ignatius.  This is the first of two passages from the rules that I found similar to what I read in Spiritual Combat.
Rules for becoming aware and understanding to some extent the different movements which are caused in the soul, the good, to receive them, and the bad to reject them. - Title to the Rules of St. Ignatius (Fr. Gallagher's own translation)
While Dom Lorenzo says heart (and Ignatius says soul) it seems obvious to me that they're talking about the same thing - and seeing a similar result:

The first rule: in persons who are going from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is ordinarily accustomed to propose apparent pleasures to them, leading them to imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins.  - The First Rule of St. Ignatius (Fr. Gallagher's own translation)

Here, St. Ignatius talks about Satan working through the imagination, as does Dom Lorenzo.  Where St. Ignatius tell us that the enemy leads people, Dom Lorenzo says the destroyer encourages them on their way.

The Significance


In my book on the rules of St. Ignatius, Fr. Timothy Gallagher, says that those who are working on spiritual formation through the rules are unlikely to be in the first category as mentioned in the first rule (people going from mortal sin to mortal sin).

And while I'm not going from mortal sin to sin, I do struggle a LOT.  Because of this, and the coincidence of these two passages, I wonder if I might not fall somewhere in the gray zone between the first and second rule.  Or, if I'm not, maybe it was no coincidence that my attention was drawn to that particular passage.

Certainly, when I was in the new age, I WAS one of those people Dom Lorenzo is talking about when he describes people who allow the enemy to fill "their imagination with empty ideas, making them believe that they already taste the joys of Paradise."

The question is, why is my attention being drawn to this information now?  Is it something I need to include in my ebook?  Is it just a place I used to be or a place I'm in danger of returning to?

And what about my focus?

How outward focused am I?  Am I focusing on the outward trappings of religion?  Or of life?  Am I too outward focused to be aware of the good spirit moving in my heart?  What needs to change?

All good questions.  I don't have the answers now, but I'm starting to pay attention.

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