Recently I turned on the TV and happened to catch the last few minutes of a retreat being given by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. I had stumbled upon episode three of a ten-part series called Living the Discerning Life: The Spiritual Teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I have two of Fr. Gallagher’s books (The Discernment of Spirits and Meditation and Contemplation), which I’ve only begun reading, and some free mp3’s of some conversations he had with Kris McGregor of the blog, Discerning Hearts, which I’ve been listening to in the car. The DVD set and CD’s look really good, too, but I have more than enough to absorb for now. (Description of the Discernment series continues below.)
Series description in the EWTN Religious Catalogue: St. Ignatius Loyola designed the Spiritual Exercises over 450 years ago, to help retreatants discern those influences arousing discouragement and deception in their spiritual lives. Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V. devotes this 10-part series to those same 14 rules, more relevant today than ever before. As they facilitate our drawing closer to God, they awaken new hope in those who practice them; as a result, Living the Discerning Life is one of the the most- requested titles. 5 discs. 10 hrs. (Documents referenced in series are included on a seperate CD in case) — Quoted from the product page in the catalogue.
Fr. Tim’s* way of presenting the teachings of Saint Ignatius is full of practical examples drawn from everyday experience. It’s not dumbed-down, not over-my-head technical, or abstract, but also not syrupy sweet or that putrid, vapid empty-headed “positive thinking” and “self-help” nonsense I’ve come to loathe so much. He shows you the difference between spiritual and non-spiritual things (thoughts, feelings, inner promptings) and helps you distinguish between the two in your own life.** He helps you to develop discernment so that you can tell when you are receiving promptings from God or from someone else (either our ancient enemy or our own selves). He shows you the difference between non-spiritual and spiritual desolation and the connection between the two; what to do after discerning the difference (ie, to accept the promptings from God and reject the ones from that other guy). And much, much more.
Episode 1 – The Discernment of Spirits: The Teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Fr. Timothy Gallagher begins this retreat on the 14 rules of St. Ignatius of Loyola by introducing us to St. Ignatius. Fr. Gallagher shows how the great saint converted from a life steeped in the secular culture of the time to one of deep love for our Creator. The priest also shows how we can discern whether events in our own lives are of God or the Enemy and how the choices we make can affect our immortal souls.
Episode 2 – The Enemy Hinders Those Seeking God: The Path of St. Augustine
Just as God tries to draw us near, Satan tries to pull us from God. Fr. Timothy Gallagher explains the 14 rules of St. Ignatius using the example of St. Augustine. He shows how we can easily fall into sin and have the inclination then to stay there instead of repenting and following God’s path for us.
Episode 3 – Spiritual Consolation and Desolation: The Third and Fourth Rules of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Fr. Timothy Gallagher shows us how the Good Spirit uses spiritual consolation to help us rise closer to the Creator. These consolations range from a simple hug from a child, smile from a co-worker or a full infusion of grace showing God’s actions in our lives. However, we may also feel periods of loneliness, but with God’s grace this to can be overcome.
Episode 4 – Spiritual Desolation: The Pull Towards Low and Earthly Things
Spiritual desolation is employed by the enemy to bring us down and draw us away from God. Fr. Timothy Gallagher shows that if we learn to live the discerning life, we can recognize the source of spiritual desolation and reject it, thus using it to enrich instead of harm our spiritual health.
Episode 5 – How Do We Handle Spiritual Desolation: Rejecting Downward Movement
We all experience times where we feel abandoned by God. Fr. Timothy Gallagher reminds us that God never leaves us, and we can combat spiritual desolation through prayer, meditation, and acts of penance.
Episode 6 – Spiritual Desolation: Why God Allows Hardships
The question is often asked “Why would a good and loving God allow us to suffer spiritual desolation?” Fr. Timothy Gallagher uses the teachings of St. Ignatius to show that because God is a good and loving God is the precise reason why we undergo desolation.
Episode 7 – Growing in Times of Desolation: Consolation from Desolation
God may seem far from us in times of desolation. Fr. Timothy Gallagher shows us why God is closer than ever during these times and how we can actually prepare for times of desolation when we are in consolation, reducing the hardship of the desolation and instead making it a learning experience.
Episode 8 – Moving Beyond Desolation: Fighting Temptation
Temptations abound when we are in times of desolation. Fr. Timothy Gallagher shows that we are always faced with temptations and the best way to resist is to stay close to God who will provide the strength to overcome all temptations.
Episode 9 – Breaking the Spiritual Silence: Speaking with the Proper Spiritual Person
We give in to temptation many times by holding it interiorly and fabricating accompanying scenarios for the temptation. Fr. Timothy Gallagher uses Ignatian Spirituality to show how if we share our concerns with a competent person, we realize our concerns are often not real, giving us the ammunition we need to fight the enemy.
Episode 10 – The Journey’s End: Concluding Our Ignatian Retreat
Retreats offer us time to renew and refresh our spirituality. Fr. Timothy Gallagher concludes the Ignatian retreat by summing up the saint’s 14 rules and answering participants questions.
I’ll be reading these books, listening to the audio, and watching the series (on the DVR until I can afford the DVD’s — and a DVD player!) for some time yet and I plan to blog about what I’m learning. Oh, and I should point out that neither the TV series, the DVD set, nor the MP3’s you can download are audiobooks. They’re not the Discernment of Spirits being read; they’re actual recordings of Fr. Tim’s conferences. When you hear these, it’s like sitting in a room with him while he teaches this Ignatian way to you and the others in the class. I don’t know about the CD sets yet.
Oh, and why the Setting Captives Free in the post title? It refers to Fr. Tim’s original title for the book. His editor thought the title, The Discernment of Spirits would be better. (I think I agree with the editor, though Setting the Captives Free — as he worded it — would have been fine as a sub-title.)
*”Fr. Tim” is the way he introduces himself, so I’ll follow his lead.
**It can be less than obvious which is which. I’ve had people who are, they tell me, “very spiritual”, indicate that they want to talk with me about “spiritual matters” and then proceed to regale me with ribald talk about subjects most sensual and physical, to the point of vulgarity. And not once has anyone ever told me how “spiritual” he or she is, but “not religious at all”, without following this up with the most un-spiritual revelations imaginable. How did our thinking become so twisted, inside out and upside down? (Hint: It has to do with the fall. And not the season. The Fall, with a capital T and a capital F.)