The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics (Episode VIII) — ‘Spiritual Desolation’ with Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ



Episode VIII of Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM’s Ignatian Year lecture series, “The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics”, aired last Friday evening, August 27, covering Spiritual Desolation.

Streamed live via the Ateneo de Manila University campus radio’s Facebook and YouTube pages, Fr. Ramon Bautista tackled Spiritual Desolation’s nature and essence; the role of attachments; key biblical examples; the ‘Domino Effect’; and the loss of truthful perspective and sentir.

“For Ignatius, being a product of his time, believing in personal demons, he assumed desolation experiences came from the evil one. Desolation can come to us, often in the form of bad, unpleasant feelings- sadness, confusion, heaviness of heart,” mentioned Fr. Bautista in his online class’s opening.

“Eventually, desolations have to do with the actual orientation of our lives, given our choices. When our lives are moving away from God and His spirit, thus making us less loving, forgiving, and Christlike, then we are in Spiritual Desolation.”

Explaining how behind every desolation experience are exaggerated attachments, Fr. Bautista shared the inspiring story of Blessed Chiara Badano- whose joyful attitude and positive outlook shone brightly despite passing away at the tender age of 18 due to bone cancer. Detached from her physical pain and illness, the cheerful youth chose to offer her sufferings to Christ instead, and make a difference in the lives of those around her-making her completely free from anything that could desolate her.

Continuing with examples from Sacred Scripture, Fr. Bautista showed how characters like the Rich Young Man (M 10:17ff.), Herod (Mk.6: 17ff.), and Judas (Jn 13:21ff.) all struggled with attachments to riches, power, and a glorious Messianic figure- thus registering through their experiences of sadness, distress, and despair respectively.

Illustrating how the ‘Domino Effect’ of desolation traps an individual in a downward spiral, Fr. Bautista referred to the fall of King David (2 Sam 7), whose infatuation with Bathsheba led to adultery and the eventual murder of Uriah.

“One desolate feeling leads to another, resulting in a cluster of feelings bringing about in us a state of confusion and affliction. Slowly, these feelings may produce in us a sense of weariness and burdensomeness, draining much of our vitality. Soon, these feelings may touch that domain of our being, most central to any serious Christian- mainly our faith life and relationship with God,” he described.

Defining the ‘loss of truthful perspective’ as spiritual blindness that clouds one’s objectivity, Fr. Bautista cited the case of 19th-century conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte- whose lofty ambition consumed him and led to his downfall.

“When desolation dominates, the first thing we lose is our truthful perspective and vantage point. We become so blinded by our unfreedoms, our attachments like self-centeredness, pride and power. Our false, less-authentic self with prejudices, comes to the fore,” cautioned the Tertian Master of the Society of Jesus’ Philippine Province.

Before concluding his hour-long talk with a prayer from Santa Teresa de Jesus, Fr. Bautista reminded that our intimate, ‘felt-knowledge’ of the Lord may be lost when deep into desolation.

“For Ignatius, the heart, the interiority, the soul, also can know. Sentir as a form of knowing, brings together the twin faculties of heart and mind, the emotions and intellect,” he emphasized.

“Such affective, interior knowledge arises only from prolonged contact and first-hand experiential encounter with the beloved. This is ‘felt-knowledge’. This is Ignatian sentir.”

“The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics” airs on Fridays of July, August, and September at 8 pm.

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