SD5 – The Journey Through the Dark Night – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

The Journey Through the Dark Night – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy GallagherBA6 - "Refuse to Accept Discouragement" - Begin Again: The Spiritual Legacy of Ven. Bruno Lanteri with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Fr. Timothy Gallagher and Kris McGregor continue their discussion on spiritual desolation and introduce the concept of the “dark night”. They distinguish between the two, with desolation being a common experience and the dark night a specific phase in the spiritual journey.

Fr. Gallagher also addresses the role of doubt in the spiritual journey, pointing out that doubts can have various meanings and should be discerned individually. He stresses the need for fidelity to prayer and trust in God’s guidance.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Distinguishing Spiritual Desolation and the Dark Night: How does Father Gallagher differentiate between spiritual desolation and the dark night, emphasizing their distinct characteristics?
  2. Ignatius and the Initial Spiritual Journey: How does Ignatius’ early experiences reflect an initial step in the spiritual journey, moving beyond external heroism to a deeper understanding of spiritual life?
  3. Navigating Confusion and Doubt in the Spiritual Journey: How do confusion and doubt affect individuals on their spiritual journey, and what practical advice does Father Gallagher offer to navigate through these challenges?
  4. The Role of Doubt in Spiritual Experience: Father Gallagher discusses various forms of doubt and their implications, distinguishing between doubt in the existence of God and doubt within the context of one’s prayer life. How does he characterize these distinctions?
  5. Practical Wisdom for Discernment: What practical insights does Father Gallagher provide for navigating spiritual desolation and the dark night in the context of Ignatian spirituality? How does he emphasize the importance of discernment and spiritual direction?
  6. Timing and Generosity in the Dark Night: Father Gallagher shares insights on when a person might experience the dark night and suggests a general profile of individuals called to this phase. What role does generosity and dedication play in this process?
  7. Understanding Prayer as a Gift and Grace: How does Father Gallagher use Ignatius’ vocabulary to convey the idea that prayer is a gift and grace from God? What role does the human person play in this divine-human cooperation?
  8. St. Therese’s Analogy of Different Saints: How does St. Therese’s analogy of different flowers illustrate the diversity of saints and their unique journeys? What message does this convey about God’s work in individual souls?
  9. Trust in God’s Guidance in the Spiritual Journey: Summarize the key message regarding one’s role in the spiritual journey: fidelity to prayer, trust in God’s guidance, and acceptance of individual differences in the spiritual life.

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From  Setting the Captives Free: Personal Reflections on Ignatian Discernment of Spirits:

“The dark night, therefore, is an experience of infused contemplative prayer felt as painful because it is purifying; it prepares the person for greater union with God through higher states of infused contemplation. The difference between this purifying experience of prayer and the discouraging lies of spiritual desolation is evident. The first is a gift of God; the second is a trap of the enemy. By accepting the first, we grow; by rejecting the second, we grow.”

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:

For the other episodes in this series check out Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s “Discerning Hearts” page

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