So many claims from people throughout the world of having apparitions and/or locutions, gives reasons to stop and take stock before accepting at face value such a claim. We print the following rules taken from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. These rules may be applied also in our discernment of spirits relating to some of the disturbing prophecies and messages allegedly coming from supernatural sources. Devout souls are urged to begin all discernments with the Scriptural advice offered by St. John: "My dear friends, not every spirit is to be trusted, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets are at large in the world." (1 John 4:1)
Never were these words as true as today. The intent is not to condemn or commend present claims, regardless of their popularity. It is simply a cautionary note to assist us in the following of the ways of Jesus.
Here are the rules of St. Ignatius:
1. Only God and his angels can give genuine spiritual joy, removing all sadness and fear caused by the enemy. For the enemy's nature is to fight against this kind of joy and spiritual consolation, suggesting innumerable false reasons and errors.
2. Only our Lord God can bring direct consolation to the soul. It is the prerogative of the Creator alone to go in and out of the soul and to make it come alive and draw in completely to his divine love. God does this solely according to his divine will and not because of anything the soul may have achieved.
3. When a soul is stimulated the consolation may come either from the good angel or from the evil angel. They have opposing intentions. The good angel seeks to be helpful to the soul, enabling it to increase and ascend from good to better. But the evil angel seeks to draw the soul into his own wicked and malicious trap.
4. The evil angel can transform himself into an angel of light and enter into the devout soul and then
leave the soul. He can suggest good and holy thoughts in line with the will of the devout soul. Later, little by little he contrives to achieve his own wishes and draws the soul to his secret deceits and perverse intentions.
5. We should watch carefully the direction of such thoughts. If they are good from start to finish it is a sign of the work of a good angel. If some of the thoughts are good and some are bad, and if they cause the soul to be weakened or upset and lose its peace of mind then it is a clear sign that they come from the evil spirit, who is the enemy of our spiritual progress and eternal salvation.
6. When the enemy of our human nature has been perceived and recognized by his serpent's tail, and by the bad end to which he leads, it is helpful for him who has been thus tempted to examine the direction of the good thoughts suggested to him, from the moment the enemy made him fall away from his spiritual delight up to the point when he has been completely trapped. Then, from this experience he will be able to be on his guard against these deceitful attacks in the future.
7. As for those who are making progress from good to better the good angel touches their souls very gently, just like a drop of water going into a sponge. But the evil angel touches the soul very abruptly and causes noise and upset, like a drop of water which falls on to a rock. When the soul has the same disposition as the angel, the angel will enter easily and quietly, but when the spirit has a different disposition from the angel, then the angel enters with a great deal of commotion and upset.
8. When a person receives a consolation unexpectedly, although we know that this means that it comes directly from our Lord God, he should be very vigilant and take great care to distinguish the actual consolation from the feeling of well-being that remains in his soul after the consolation has been received. Often, this feeling of well-being can be self-induced. It can come from one's own mind or it can be a suggestion from the good or the evil spirit. Its various resolutions may not be directly inspired by our Lord God. Hence these consolations should be very carefully examined before they receive entire credit and are carried into effect.
(*even Satan disguises himself as an angel of of light"
-2 Corinthians 11:14)