The Discernment of Spirits: Setting the Captives Free with Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV

Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V. was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community which specializes in spiritual formation and retreats based on the exercises and writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Fr. Gallagher received his doctorate from Gregorian University in 1983, and in addition to having taught for a number of years, and written a number of books on the Ingatian Way, he is also a frequent guest on EWTN.

Some of Fr. Gallagher’s books include the following:

Quite by accident, a few months ago I stumbled onto Fr. Tim’s podcast, “The Discerning of Spirits with Father Timothy Gallagher”, a sixteen episode podcast available on Youtube in which Fr. Gallagher discusses the fourteen rules of discernment (by St. Ignatius of Loyola) in a dialogue format.

Introductory video of the podcast series:

But first, who is St. Ignatius of Loyola and what are his rules of discernment?

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order). His spiritual exercises reflect timeless principles of faith and testing, the seasons of dryness and flourishing common to all believers in their faith journeys. These exercises were formulated during a period where St. Ignatius was practising asceticism. 

Over the past few months, I have been studying some of the writings of St. Ignatius (as summarized by various authors), who is also known for his examen, which I blogged about in January. There are two sets of rules, the first of which is covered in Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s audio series, on learning to discern the movements of the spirit in one’s life. The text of these rules can be found here, or as a PDF from EWTN.

Back to the Audio Series

The series itself runs for sixteen episodes, all roughly half an hour in length and available on YouTube, so, it’s about an eight-hour commitment of time and zero investment of dollars (don’t you just love free resources?), unless you’d like to purchase the companion book. And I might, because this is an awesome, awesome series.

Fr. Gallagher leads a dialogue in a Q&A format discussing each of the rules (each rule taking a little over one episode usually) and he doesn’t just give yes/no answers. He has a soft, pleasant to listen to voice that speaks with authority, reverence, and respect for the challenges and struggles of Christians in the scenarios he presents (both manufactured and stories of real people with changed names), firmly anchoring these 16th century rules in a 21st century context. 

In one example, he compares looking ahead to the crests and troughs of one’s faith as an observant public transit user holding onto the ceiling rail and being aware of the sharp turn ahead. Little details like these make these fourteen ways of recognizing the movements of the spirit come alive.

The rules themselves cover both how the Enemy is at work to seduce, to distract, to enslave, and the Holy Spirit counters to disturb, to convict, to refreshen (to name a few methods of each). In these rules, St. Ingatius of Loyola counsels us to be alert to the seasons and times when God seems close, and those periods of withdrawal, or even the long “dark nights of the soul” as St. John of the Cross would say, that come to saints.

The LOUD, consumerist voice of this present age tells me to buy “new, consume, discard, and repeat and pay no heed to the voices of the past. They’re unapproachable, difficult to understand, and irrelevant besides being outdated”. 

But there’s a quiet Voice that whispers, “Come and see what has been set before you, the wisdom of these saints. Come, taste and see”. For those readers wishing to listen to that second voice, perhaps you may wish to give this series a try for yourselves. It has enriched my life, and I believe it will do the same for yours.

For additional reading on this topic, see Fr. Gallagher’s book, The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living.

7/16/19: Edited to correct acronym for EWTN (Global Catholic Television Network), and a couple of other typos I noticed. Sorry about that!