The Pope: sadness should not be discarded but understood, it helps to improve life

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At the General Audience Francis continues with his reflections on the theme of discernment and in today’s catechesis he addresses an aspect that has to do with feelings, desolation, a common experience in everyone’s life: it can discourage those who want to follow the Gospel and do good, but no temptation is beyond our strength

Adriana Masotti – Vatican City

“God speaks to the heart”, so that discernment is not only a matter of the head, but also contains affective aspects such as the feeling of desolation to which the Pope dedicates this Wednesday’s catechesis. But, what is it about? To explain it, Francis cites what Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote about it:

“The darkness of the soul, the turmoil, the inclination towards low and earthly things, the restlessness due to various agitations and temptations: thus the soul inclines to distrust, is without hope or love, and finds itself lazy, lukewarm, sad and as separated from its Creator and Lord”.

Desolation, a common experience

I believe, continues Pope Francis, that we have all experienced desolation. But perhaps not all of us know how to read it “because it also has something important to tell us” and that is why it should not be lost.

No one would want to be desolate, sad: this is true. We would all like to have a life that is always cheerful, happy and full. However, this, in addition to not being possible -because it is not possible-, would not be good for us either. In fact, the change from a vice-oriented life can start from a situation of sadness, of remorse for what one has done.

Remorse can lead to change

Remorse “is the conscience that bites”, affirms the Pope and points out that it is important to learn to read sadness.

In our time, most of the time it is considered negatively, as an evil that must be avoided at all costs, and instead it can be an indispensable alarm signal for life, inviting us to explore landscapes richer and more fertile than ever before. fleetingness and evasion do not allow. Santo Tomás defines sadness as a pain of the soul: like the nerves of the body, it awakens our attention in the face of possible danger, or in the face of unattended good.

For those who want to do good, sadness is an obstacle

The situation is different for those who want to do good, in which case “sadness is an obstacle with which the tempter wants to discourage us.” Therefore, one should not go after it, but should “act exactly contrary to what is suggested, determined to continue what one had set out to do.”

Think of work, study, prayer, a commitment we have made: if we left them as soon as we felt bored or sad, we would never finish anything. This is also an experience common to the spiritual life: the path to good, the Gospel reminds us, is narrow and uphill, it requires a battle, a conquest of oneself. I start to pray, or dedicate myself to a good deed and, curiously, just at that moment I think of things to do urgently so as not to pray and not do good things. We all have this experience. It is important, for those who want to serve the Lord, not to be carried away by desolation.

Knowing how to go through desolation makes you grow

In a moment of sadness, the Pope continues, many decide to abandon a choice they have made, “without first stopping to read this state of mind”. And he remembers that “a wise rule says that you do not have to make changes when you are desolate”. An example is Jesus who, as we read in the Gospel, firmly rejects the temptations of the devil, which disappear before his determined attitude of doing the will of the Father. Francis states:

If we know how to go through loneliness and desolation with openness and awareness, we can emerge stronger on the human and spiritual plane. No test is beyond our reach; no test will be greater than what we can do. But we must not run away from trials: it is necessary to see what this trial means, the meaning that I am sad: why am I sad? What does it mean that at this moment I am desolate? What does it mean that I am desolate and cannot move forward?

Don’t give up for a moment of sadness

“Go forward”, this is the invitation of Pope Francis: if we cannot overcome temptation today, let us walk and “we will overcome it tomorrow”. And he concludes: “May the Lord bless you on this brave path of spiritual life, which is always walking.”


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