|St. Micheal the Archangel defeating Satan|
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises is, basically, a guide for retreat directors. It outlines a series of meditation topics, methods of prayer, and principles to help in the process of “the discernment of spirits.” The first set of principles for discernment deal with interpreting the experience of spiritual consolation and spiritual desolation. He goes into great detail defining those terms and describing what he means by them. He does this in order to help retreatants and retreat directors learn to identify and process what is going on inside the soul as a person seeks to follow God more closely. In the first two rules for the discernment of spirits, he makes two critical observations. First, he points out that two “spirits” are interested in influencing our souls: The good spirit (God, and God’s messengers, like the angels), and the evil spirit (the devil and his minions). God wants to lead and guide and draw each one of us closer to himself; the devil wants to obstruct our progress towards God, and, if possible, turn us away from God entirely. But both “spirits” have to work within the confines of human nature, influencing us from within our souls, where we experience feelings, attractions, repugnance's, thoughts, memories, desires… In reflecting on and interpreting those interior experiences, we exercise our freedom and make decisions, and our decisions either bring us closer to God or distance us from him.
This is why St. Ignatius considers it so important to be able to identify the source of those interior experiences; we need to know whether they are being stirred up by the enemy of our soul in an effort to thwart our spiritual progress, or whether they are nudgings and whisperings from our Lord.
Second, he distinguishes two basic states in which particular individuals can find themselves. On the one hand, a person can be on the path of sin, living life by seeking happiness in any number of idols instead of in a relationship of obedience and love towards God. On the other hand, a person can be on the path of holiness, seeking to grow in friendship with God and to purify their souls from inordinate attachments that impair that friendship.
Link (here) to read the full post by Fr. John Bartunic at the blog entitled, Catholic Spiritual Direction