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Discernment of Spirits: Rule 5

This week Dan and Melissa discuss Saint Ignatius’ Discernment of Spirits: Rule 5 – never change spiritual commitments while experiencing spiritual desolation.

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • Fifth Rule. “The fifth: In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in Discernment of Spirits: Rule 5the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad, with whose counsels we cannot take a course to decide rightly.”
  • Does spiritual consolation always precede spiritual desolation?
  • When in spiritual desolation one should never change the commitments he or she has made when in spiritual consolation.
  • Is there any reason why one could change his or her situation while in desolation?
  • Loving God despite the experience of spiritual desolation is a proof of love.


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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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  • Judy Silhan

    Excellent, excellent advice – Never change your commitment made, while in consolation, to your spiritual life, in times of desolation. I am so appreciative of your emphasis of this rule when I took your class, and welcomed hearing you again speak of its importance this morning. Because I consider myself very young in the stages of spiritual growth, I often feel like the evil one is constantly observing me, and just waiting to put obstacles in my path to following Christ. As you mentioned, many times I have, with the advice of a spiritual director, or even hearing you, Dan, speak of things to do to better our spiritual lives, started a new practice or discipline – getting up earlier to pray, attempting to make the Rosary a daily devotion, taking time out of busyness during the day to say thank you or do an examen, only to be hit, sometimes vehemently, by the evil one, in order to dissuade me from these things. At times like these, the advice about rule number five, never make changes, or stop these new practices while I am going through this battle with the evil one, is so very important, and yes, as you said also, I definitely do not hear God speaking to my heart while going through this, only the confusion, doubt, and chaos in my mind which Satan is attempting to create. The fifth rule can definitely be considered a life-line, a help to endure and persevere through the desolation, knowing that God is on the other side of this and is asking us to trust in Him as well as show our love for Him by this perseverance and not changing what we know will draw us closer to Christ. Thank you again, Melissa and Dan, for presenting and discussing such an important Rule in the Discernment of Spirits.

  • MariaGo

    Hi! I know it’s kind of late but I still wanted to comment. Its weird, I decided I wanted to be lawyer instead of a college prof in a moment of desolation. (Although I was in an adoration chapel that time) When I wasn’t accepted in the first law school I applied to, that is when I realized I was meant to enter law school and not the academe because I wanted it more. And I wanted serve and defend others as a human rights lawyer. (Maybe that wasn’t true desolation becuase I was growing closer to God? Not making it the first school opened my heart to Him) Throughout law school I was tempted to quit several times. Yet, God affirmed my decision to become a lawyer in consolation many times as well. He even assured me I would graduate even though I was struggling with my classes. I told my spiritual director about my previous consolations and he urged me to continue myblaw studies. And now I have only year of law school left and my path seems clearer than when I started! 🙂 God is so good! Thank You Lord!

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