In the ninth general audience dedicated to the theme of discernment, Francis explained that consolation, an “experience of interior joy”, allows “familiarity with God”, gives peace and hope and helps to see the Father even in pain, but must be distinguished of the false consolations that “lead one to withdraw in oneself”.
Pope Francis, continuing with his catechesis on discernment, the ninth in this series, reflected this morning on spiritual consolation, an “experience of interior joy” that allows one to see the presence of God in all things. It is, the Pope explained, “an intimate movement that touches the depths of ourselves”: the person feels enveloped in the presence of God, and “does not give up in the face of difficulties, because he experiences a peace that is stronger than the proof”.
Examples of it are, among others, the experience of Saint Augustine, when he spoke with Mother Monica about the beauty of eternal life; or the perfect leticia of San Francisco, associated with situations that are very difficult to bear. Also that of so many saints who have known how to do great things, “not because they considered themselves good and capable, but because they were conquered by the pacifying sweetness of God’s love.” To be consoled – said the Holy Father – is to be at peace with God, to feel that everything is arranged and at peace, everything is harmonious within us.
Consolation has to do above all with hope: it looks to the future, it sets out, it consents to taking initiatives that until now have always been postponed or not even imagined, like the Baptism for Edith Stein.
A familiarity with God that cancels out distances
Consolation “gives peace and attracts to the Lord, and sets us on the path to do great things, good things.” It is not “to sit around enjoying it, no…”. “Push forward”, at the service of others and of society. In addition, on the other hand, “spiritual consolation cannot be ‘controlled'”, it is not “programmable at will”, it cannot be said “that now consolation will come”… no, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that ” it allows a familiarity with God that seems to annul distances”. It is “spontaneous”, as Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus testifies, who, visiting the Basilica of Santa Cruz in Jerusalem at the age of fourteen in Rome, tries to touch the nail venerated there, one of those with which Jesus was crucified.
Teresa feels this audacity of his as an outburst of love and trust. And she later she writes: «I was really too bold. But the Lord sees the bottom of hearts, he knows that my intention was pure […]. She acted with him like a girl who believes everything is allowed and considers the Father’s treasures as her own »
One notices, the Pope continued, “a sense of tenderness towards God, which makes us bold in the desire to participate in his very life, to do what pleases him, because we feel familiar with him, we feel that his house is ours.” home, we feel welcomed, loved, rested”.
With this consolation we do not give up in the face of difficulties. […] Consolation makes us bold: when we are in moments of darkness, of desolation, and we think: “I am not capable of doing this, no…” It brings down desolation. All is darkness… “No, I can’t do… I won’t.” On the other hand, in a time of consolation, faced with the same things… “No, I continue, I do it”. “But are you sure?” “I feel the strength of God and I keep going.”
Distinguishing God’s consolations from passing enthusiasm
However, as the Pope went on to say, “it is necessary to distinguish well between the consolation that is from God and the false consolation”, the authentic consolation of his “imitations”:
If authentic consolation is like a drop in a sponge, it is soft and intimate, its imitations are louder and more striking, they are pure enthusiasm, they are straw fire, without consistency, they lead to folding in on oneself, and not caring for others .
For this reason, when one feels comforted, discernment must be made, because false comfort can become a danger if we seek it as an end in itself, obsessively, and forgetting about the Lord. Thus, there is the risk of living the relationship with God “in a childish way”, of “reducing him to an object for our use and consumption”.
As Saint Bernard would say, the consolations of God are sought and the God of consolations is not sought.
It is therefore necessary to know how to distinguish when it is a consolation from God, which gives you peace to the bottom of your soul, from when it is a passing enthusiasm that is not bad, but is not the consolation of God.