Fr. Timothy Gallagher discussed the 14 rules of St. Ignatius at a two-day retreat in Toronto. Photo by Beverley O’Leary

Finding God at work in our everyday lives

By  Beverley O'Leary, Catholic Register Special
  • March 29, 2012

At some point who among us hasn’t wondered what God wants of us? Sometimes we may sense His calling but how do we know for sure?

Fr. Timothy Gallagher has dedicated many years to helping people who are seeking answers to these difficult questions. Through his ministry of retreats, the American priest provides spiritual direction by using the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola as a saintly roadmap to guide spiritual discernment and renewal.

At the invitation of the Sisters of Life, Gallagher directed a two-day discernment of spirits retreat on Mar. 17-18 at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Toronto that was attended by about 225 people.

The author of six books, Gallagher explained how integrating the 14 rules of St. Ignatius into contemporary activities can help us understand God’s interaction in our daily lives. Discernment of spirits, he explained, can be found through Ignatian spiritual exercises that aid us in our journey towards God.

The 14 rules are not easy reading. But Gallagher’s forte is an ability to make complex issues easily understood. He explained the rules in a soothing, clear voice and then provided examples to help retreatants understand the rules and recognize how they are applicable to daily life.

The objective, he said, was to first become aware of what was going on in our lives because only then could we come to understand if we are being directed by a good spirit or a bad spirit — by the will of God or the call of evil spirits. Discerning that fundamental question was essential to understanding if we should accept or reject the guidance being received in our prayer life.

Providing in-depth explanations of all 14 rules in two days was impossible. Instead, Gallagher explained that the first rule applied only to persons who are moving away from God towards serious sin, while the next 13 rules were for those moving away from serious sin towards God. Among those 13, he zeroed in on Rules No. 5 and 13.

The fifth rule is about spiritual desolation and the importance of recognizing it in our lives. Gallagher described spiritual desolation as a heavy movement of the heart in our relationship with God. It is the biggest obstacle in moving away from serious sin towards God. Recognizing spiritual desolation, Gallagher said, “will be for you a light when all other lights go out.”

When in a state of spiritual desolation, Gallagher said, the key is to never alter your spiritual routine. As an example, he cited a bed-time routine in which someone has two bedside tables. One has a prayer book, the other a channel changer. In times of spiritual weakness, the channel changer and TV beckons the person to alter their routine of reading. In such times, Gallagher said, a person should seek strength in their spiritual routine or, as St. Ingatius wrote, “be firm and constant.” Rule 13 goes further. It talks about the inclination to keep evil actions, thoughts or intentions secret. But in times of spiritual distress, “when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul,” and tempts a person to keep secret their evil intentions or deeds, Gallagher emphasised the need to seek out a good confessor or spiritual advisor.  

The opposite of spiritual desolation, Gallagher said, is spiritual consolation — “when some interior movement is caused in the soul, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and, consequently when it can love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of them all.”

By recognizing spiritual desolation it is easier to move to a state of spiritual consolation, and that is the foundation of true spiritual growth.

To learn more, or to purchase Gallagher’s books or DVDs, visit

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