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Discernment of Spirits: Rule 4 “Spiritual Desolation”

Discernment of Spirits: Rule 4 Spiritual Desolation

On this week’s episode, Dan and Melissa explore the meaning of spiritual desolation and how to recognize it through the examen prayer.

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • DivineIntimacyRadioWithDan&MelissaRule 4 – “I call [spiritual] desolation all the contrary of the third rule, such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to low and earthly things, disquiet from various agitations and temptations, moving to lack of confidence, without hope, without love, finding oneself totally slothful, tepid, sad, and, as if separated from one’s Creator and Lord. For just as consolation is contrary to desolation in the same way the thoughts that come from consolation are contrary to the thoughts that come from desolation.”
  • Is distraction in prayer a type of desolation?
  • What is the difference between depression and spiritual desolation?
  • Spiritual desolation (Rule 4) as the opposite of spiritual consolation (Rule 3).
  • Tactics of the enemy to draw a soul away from God.
  • The importance of the examen prayer to recognize the spiraling effect of negative thoughts and overcome the desolation that follows.


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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Jeanette

    Whenever I discern that I am in spiritual desolation, for example when I seem to make ‘mountains out of mole hills’, or I wake up feeling spiritual desolation, I make a point of singing to bring my thoughts into control.
    My go-to hymn is: Sing to the Mountains:
    Refrain: “Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea, raise your voices, lift your hearts. This is the day the Lord has made, let all the earth rejoice!
    Vs 1: “I will give thanks to You my Lord. You have answered my plea. You have saved my soul from death. You are my strength and my song. etc.
    Singing God’s praises, in an upbeat way, has helped me tremendously change my thought processes to thankfulness and love.

    When spiritual desolation is deeper, I visit Jesus in the tabernacle or in Adoration and this practice brings me peace and consolation.

    If the spiritual desolation is persistent, I speak with my spiritual director. I have to admit that I tend not to do this until the spiritual desolation is well established and then I get a gentle admonition from my spiritual director that I should have called him earlier! My excuse is that I didn’t want to bother him…but I think we know where that thought comes from. His advice to me is to call him whenever I get into desolation…this helps me discern and dispel the darkness and brings me into the light once again.

    This is a spiritual battle we are in and we need to use all the weapons at our disposal! God bless!!!

    • LizEst

      Yes, the devil hates it when we turn his temptations or annoyances or disturbances to praise of God.

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