Saturday, January 10, 2015

St. Ignatius' Meaning of Interior Motions

[37] What Ignatius refers to by motions in the soul is the flux of thoughts (such as judgments about God, self, the world, plans, lines of reasoning, lines of association, or imaginings), and of affective acts (such as love, hate, desire, or fear), and of affective feelings (such as peace, warmth, coldness, sweetness, bitterness, buoyancy, or depression). Among all these motions Ignatius sees some to be of special interest for anyone who is trying to open himself to the Holy Spirit and to resist the influence of the evil spirit. These are motions which of themselves, and therefore in every instance, tend to build up or to tear down the Christ-life in us. Their unvarying thrust is toward having a beneficial or harmful influence on faith, hope, charity, prayer, personal relationships, apostolic work, decisions that give direction to our life as Christians, and the like. [...]

[38] [These motions] are such that, if they are accepted and allowed to work or are cooperated with, they will inevitably have such effects; but they do not necessarily, of themselves, have an actual constructive or destructive effect. Those which of themselves tend to a destructive effect can be resisted and become the occasion of actual spiritual growth. Those which of themselves tend to have a constructive effect can be ignored, resisted, or even misused, and so be the occasion for sin and regression in Christian life. What effect they actually have depends on what we do with them. No person who experiences them is worthy of praise or condemnation only for having had one or other of them. "I am not going to be saved," Ignatius writes elsewhere in reference to these motions, "because of the good works of the good angels"—that is, because of the good motions they prompt in me—"and I am not going to be condemned because of the evil thoughts and the weaknesses the bad angels, the flesh, and the world bring before my mind" (Letter of Sept. 11, 1536 to Sister Teresa Rejadell). [...]

[40] Understanding a motion comprises [41] at least three things. First, we recognize the characteristic features by which it is distinguished from other motions. Second, we see the direction in which it of itself points or leads us, its likely or actually effected consequences. Third, we know its origin. In a spiritual understanding, we recognize those features which distinguish spiritually significant motions from others; and among the former, we distinguish one sort from another. We see the good or evil consequences for a Christian life to which the motion of itself tends; and from these two elements of spiritual understanding, we infer the good or evil origin.


Source: Fr. Jules J. Toner, S.J., A Commentary on Saint Ignatius' Rules for the Discernment of Spirits: A Guide to the Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1982), 37–38, 40–41.

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