Ender and Ignatius

In Christianity on June 1, 2009 at 8:53 am

Good fiction illuminates life—showing us reality from a vantage point outside ourselves. Some years ago a friend suggested Orson Scott Card’s science fiction work, Ender’s Game. I don’t often read science fiction, but respect for my friend encouraged me to take a look.

The protagonist of the book is a boy named Ender Wiggin, who is being trained to lead the human race in battle against an invasion of insect-like creatures. Ender’s training is accomplished through what appear to be a series of games, albeit increasingly difficult, very demanding games. But don’t be put off by the plot summary, which makes the book sound like “the synopsis for a grade-Z, made for television” movie, as a reviewer for the New York Times wrote.

The novel can be interpreted in various ways, and has been. But the overwhelmingly clear point—even reading the book as a simple narrative—is Ender’s utter exhaustion. At each level, the difficulty of the game increases and there is no one to whom Ender can turn for help.  He is opposed by other boys and driven endlessly by the battle school commander.

Exhaustion. Every task gets harder and there is no one who can help. Have you had those feelings? Most of us have, despite the fact we serve a loving God; despite our Savior telling us we should cast all our worries upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7); despite the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is called the Comforter, Helper, or Advocate, depending on which English translation one reads.

What does this have to do with Ignatius?  The chapters on spiritual desolation, in Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living, perfectly describe Ender’s exhaustion, as well as circumstances in which many of us find ourselves. Marked by “disquietude and discouragement,” we feel “totally slothful, tepid,” overcome by a “heaviness that instills sadness and depletes energy for living.”¹ Gallagher, a skilled retreat leader, points out that even if these feelings have a physical or psychological (i.e., nonspiritual) cause, “nonspiritual desolation is frequently a springboard for spiritual desolation.”²

This brief post can’t include all the wonderful helps to overcoming spiritual desolation that Fr. Gallagher draws from Ignatius’ “Rules,” but two points are important:  first, God gives spiritual consolation; the enemy imposes spiritual desolation.  Second, “thoughts that arise from spiritual consolation are to be accepted; those that come from spiritual desolation are to be rejected.”³

Today I woke up feeling like Ender. Graced guidance from St. Ignatius and Fr. Gallagher’s book changed my day. If you are struggling, remember that you are not alone! There is Someone to help. God loves you; Fr. Gallagher’s book can help you.

St. Ignatius, pray for us. Trinitarian love, descend upon us in the power of the Holy Spirit. Community of saints, embrace us. Christianity Richly!

¹ Gallagher, p. 60
² p. 61
³ p. 70

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