Monday, July 29, 2019


Over the last few days I've heard a couple of people talk of feeling utterly defeated by the way the government is pursuing a 'hard' Brexit. They seem to have become exhausted and disoriented in an existential way.

What they describe is close to 'desolation', which St. Ignatius Loyola described as the consequence of 'evil spirits'. Sadly, that term has become associated with fundamentalists, but the loss of such an insight into the way we are influenced - for good and ill - by the movements of spiritual forces beyond our control means we can easily become affected - subjected - by those which are not life-giving. I hope we might reclaim the term, but at least don't let it put us off.

Unfortunately I'm also aware of the way the church is increasingly ignoring the spiritual dimension of life. Rather than being advised and encouraged to give priority to their spiritual development, clergy are often encouraged to consider 'well-being' divorced from any religious or spiritual teaching and which ignores their relationship with God. But if clergy are not being told to give this priority in their lives, if courses neglect this essential dimension, no amount of secular 'well-being' courses can touch or address our deepest needs. In spite of the way I pleaded in 'Enfolded in Christ' for the church to take seriously and give priority to the spiritual life of priests, I keep hearing that this is ignored as diocese's grasp for secular answers to what are, at heart, spiritual needs.

No wonder, then, that at a time when we are faced with such an existential malaise ordinary Christians don't look at the spiritual roots of such desolation. Unless priests are relearning the basics of being rooted in Christ it's likely they won't be helping the laity in this vital task.

There's a spiritual warfare going on which is easily ignored or denied, which no amount of well-meaning therapy can address. That warfare requires us (as it always has) to embrace faith in the power of the Incarnate, crucified and Transcendent Christ. We need faith that those dark forces have ultimately been overcome. And then to face life with the compassionate love of God - with faith and hope and love. To deepen our prayer, meditate on the scriptures and realise the need for regular Retreat. To find a spiritual director, believe in the grace of the Sacraments, and practice spiritual warfare.

That's why I developed the Spiritual Association of the Compassionate Hearts of Jesus and Mary - to try and offer some on-line resources to address desolation. And why I have started offering retreats for clergy. Now is the time for the Church of England to remember the importance of the spiritual tools that are turning rusty and to reclaim its spiritual heritage.

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