“Francis comes from a tradition — the Jesuit tradition — where the presence of the evil spirit or ‘the enemy of our human nature’ is mentioned frequently,” Father Blaszczak said.
In almost all his homilies, the Jesuit said, Pope Francis talks about “the battle” people face between following the crucified and risen Christ and “falling prey to negativity, cynicism, disappointment, sadness, lethargy” — and the temptation of the “dark joy” of gossiping or complaining about others.
In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits, and in his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, sowing pessimism and despair “is the M.O. of ‘the enemy,'” Father Blaszczak said.
St. Ignatius believed making progress in following Christ gives birth to a sense peace and harmony, even in the face of challenges, he said. The enemy doesn’t like that and tries to disrupt it, particularly by tempting Christians to focus all their attention on themselves and their problems — real or perceived — and to doubt whether they really are or even can be capable of following the Lord.
“In these many homilies that Pope Francis has given in which he’s warning people to avoid discouragement, to seize hope, to move on with courage and not to fall prey to negativity or cynicism, he’s drawing on this fundamental insight of St. Ignatius,” he said.
The Jesuit’s explanation of “the enemy” in Ignatian spirituality can be seen in several of the statements the pope has made about the devil, including:
- At his weekly general audience April 17, the pope spoke about Jesus being always near, ready to defend and forgive. “He defends us from the insidiousness of the devil, he defends us from ourselves, from our sins,” the pope said. “He always forgives us, he is our advocate. … We must never forget this.”
- At a meeting with cardinals March 15, the pope spoke about how the Holy Spirit unifies and harmonizes the church. “Let us never yield to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day,” the pope said. Rather, be certain that the Spirit gives the church “the courage to persevere.”
- In his homily on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis said: “A Christian can never be sad. Never give way to discouragement.” Christian joy comes from knowing Jesus is near, even in times of trial when problems seem insurmountable. “In this moment, the enemy — the devil — comes, often disguised as an angel and slyly speaks his word to us.”
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Father Blaszczak said the idea that the devil might disguise himself as an angel also fits with the teaching of St. Ignatius, who said “the enemy” often tries to corrupt generally positive inclinations and attractions — including the desires for love or accomplishment and an attraction to beauty — to create despair or “disordinate attachments” that destroy interior peace end up moving a person’s focus away from loving and serving God alone.
In Ignatius’ teaching, and in the teaching of Pope Francis, “there is an edginess,” a seriousness about “the campaign, the opposition of the evil one,” and about the strength and grace people need to resist and to make the right decisions, he said. People must discern where God is calling them, and following that call requires courage and “a willingness to accept suffering and rejection.”
Ignatius “never gets away from the cross, which means there is nothing fluffy about this. It will involve putting yourself in situations of difficulty and strain. There’s a continual call to align ourselves with the cause of Jesus, the cause of the kingdom,” the Jesuit said.
The founder of the Jesuits was convinced, he said, that “it would be the evil one who would try to dissuade us, who would say: ‘That’s silly. That can’t be done. You’re not good enough. You couldn’t be called to that. You don’t have what it takes. You don’t have the goods to make a difference in building the kingdom.'”
On the other hand, Father Blaszczak said, Pope Francis — like Ignatius — would say that what God tells people is: “Yes, you are weak. I know who you are and I call each one of you to lend your talents and energy, commitment, love and gifts to the cause of the kingdom.”
It’s not that Pope Francis has been focusing on the power of the devil, he said, but temptations are the realistic flip side to the heart of the pope’s message about “the world that is replete with the mercy and presence and fidelity of God.”
St. Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man Ignatius Loyola was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds.
But in 1521 Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.
Over the years, Ignatius became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book the Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as “contemplatives in action.” This also describes the many Christians who have been touched by Ignatian spirituality.
Biographies of St. Ignatius Loyola
St. Ignatius Loyola, SJ: Founder of the Jesuits
A short biography by Norman O’Neal, SJ.
The Life of St. Ignatius: A Prayerful Introduction (PDF)
By Fr. Mark Link, SJ
Nine brief meditations introducing the story of Ignatius.
Three Holy Jesuits (PDF)
David L. Fleming, SJ, explores the unique qualities of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Peter Faber.
Who Was St. Ignatius? (video)
A short video introduction to the life of St. Ignatius Loyola, produced by Marquette University.
Ignatius of Loyola Biography
A brief, well-written biography of Ignatius, in 11 parts.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556
By Amy Welborn
This story of Ignatius is written for children to understand.
Ignatius Loyola: The Story of the Pilgrim (video)
At 97 minutes and with a very dark visual palette, this adaptation of Michael Bellafiore, SJ’s one-man presentation on Ignatius is not for the faint of heart. The content, while didactic, is accurate and this is obviously a heart-felt tribute to St. Ignatius.
Jesuits On…Ignatius Loyola
An extract from a video about Ignatius Loyola from Loyola Productions’ “Jesuits On…” series. Features a commentary by Richard Leonard, SJ.
Life of Ignatius Loyola
An outline of the life of Ignatius, organized around important dates in his life. A rough translation from German.
St. Ignatius of Loyola Video
Video introduction to St. Ignatius Loyola, produced by the Apostleship of Prayer for his feast day.
What Does God Expect from Us? Lessons from Ignatius on the Road (PDF)
By Edward W. Schmidt, SJ
Schmidt describes Ignatius’ extraordinary experience at the chapel of La Storta.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Imitator of Christ, 1494–1555
By John Hungerford Pollen
A balanced and popular account of Ignatius’s life and conversion. Discusses the early years of the Society of Jesus and its contribution to world missions and the Council of Trent. Gives important highlights of the Constitutions. Book available online in several formats.
Works by St. Ignatius Loyola
Selected Letters of Ignatius
Ignatius’s letters are renowned for their insight and wisdom. Here are 50 of them.
Reflections on St. Ignatius Loyola
What Students Can Learn from St. Ignatius
Stephanie Russell, Executive Director of Marquette University’s Office of Mission and Identity, discusses the challenges faced by students today and how a Jesuit education can help.
How Ignatius Redefined Saintliness
By John W. O’Malley, SJ
Ignatius Loyola was unique among saints with his “worldly” qualities.
Will the Real Ignatius Please Stand Up?
By Ron Darwen, SJ
The different images of Ignatius through the ages: soldier, man of action, and mystic.
Brian Grogan, SJ, talks about St. Ignatius and the appeal of Ignatian spirituality in an interview for Vatican Radio. The full interview is about 13 minutes long, with the first two minutes being an introduction.
Ignatius of Loyola—Model for Lay Spirituality (PDF)
By Pat Carter
Past president of CLC-USA reviews Ignatius’s life and teaching as the foundation for lay spirituality. She notes that Ignatius guided others in the Spiritual Exercises first as a lay person. Especially helpful are her comments on Ignatius’ “Rules for Thinking with the Church,” which would better be translated as “Guidelines.” As guidelines they are a way of felt knowledge, a knowing with the heart, and a way of ongoing discernment.
The Mysticism of Ignatius of Loyola (PDF)
By Brian O’Leary, SJ
A survey of the development of Ignatius’s spiritual journey of growth in discerning God’s will for himself and how he could share those insights with others. The article discusses Cano’s critique of the relationship between contemplation and action in the Exercises. The author also notes Ignatius’s reticence in speaking of his personal mystical experiences in his later years.
How God Accompanied Ignatius: A Paradigm for Us in “Helping Souls” (PDF)
By Simon Decloux
Ignatius’s practice of accompanying others on their journey with God was based on his experience of how God first taught and guided him. Ignatius shared his interior readiness and openness to God every day and more specifically at those stages of his journey in which he let go of his personal desires to follow the direction in which God was leading him. As a spiritual companion he helped others to recognize how God was leading them in a similar way.
Ignatius and the Bible
By Fr. John Padberg, SJ
Ignatius does not show a comprehensive use of the Scriptures in his writings. However, Padberg shows how Ignatius found in the Scriptures he read the compelling drama of God’s continuing creation and God’s undying love, fully shown in Christ.
St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Stars
An icon of “Ignatius and the Stars” by Fr. William McNichols is paired with the poem “San Ignacio de Loyola” by Fr. James Janda.
Call and Response in St. Ignatius and St. Francis
By Brian Purfield
A comparison of the spiritual journeys of Francis of Assisi, as seen in the biography written by St. Bonaventure, and the journey of Ignatius, as outlined in the Spiritual Exercises.
Temptation and Spiritual Discernment in Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross (PDF)
By Segundo Galilea
Ignatian mysticism is oriented to apostolic service, while John of the Cross’s mysticism is oriented to communion with God and neighbor through faith, hope, and love. Both teach a discernment of spirits that permits the soul to adopt attitudes and decisions that lead toward a greater surrender to God through love. Both recognize the need to let go of disordered attachments and to seek competent counsel when discerning the direction of one’s spiritual life.
Ignatius of Loyola: Leader and Spiritual Master (PDF)
By Jaime Emilio Gonzalez Magana, SJ
Shows how Ignatius was able to develop a leadership style integrated with the reality of this world, while always keeping his focus on discerning to find, feel, and do God’s will.
Ignatius, an Ancient Sage with Eternal Wisdom (PDF)
By Paul Coutinho, SJ
Explores Ignatius’s experience of the Divine as the heart of his life. It is this experience that he seeks to share through the Spiritual Exercises. Coutinho compares Ignatius’s insights with central teachings from Eastern religions and shows how these teachings also seek to lead the believer into a deep experience of the Divine.
dotMagis Posts About Ignatius Loyola
From the category archives of the dotMagis blog.
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