The Catholic media have recently picked up on a theme that Pope Francis has mentioned on several occasions. It is about the devil. This has been rightly attributed to Francis' upbringing as a Jesuit: in the Spiritual Exercises (SE), St. Ignatius of Loyola refers to it as “the evil spirit”, “the evil one”, “the enemy”, or “the enemy of our human nature”. It would be quite impossible to discuss this spiritual teaching of St. Ignatius in detail in a short blog entry; nevertheless, I shall try to highlight several main ideas.
As some of you are aware, the SE are divided up into four stages, or “weeks” as St. Ignatius calls them. There is one major section in the SE where he discusses the evil spirit in some detail, and it is called “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits”, which is divided up into rules that are suitable for “the First Week” (SE 313–327) and “the Second Week” (SE 328–336), respectively. Here, I shall focus on his discussion on the evil spirit from the Rules for the First Week. While discussing these Rules, spiritual consolation and desolation will inevitably come up, and I would recommend you to my brother Jesuit's excellent blog entry on this very topic.