(Vatican News) In his catechesis at the General Audience, Pope Francis continues his reflections on “discernment,” focusing this week on spiritual consolation.
Spiritual consolation is “a profound experience of interior joy, consisting in seeing God’s presence in everything,” Pope Francis said at Wednesday’s General Audience.
An interior movement that touches our depths
Continuing his catechetical series on “discernment,” the Holy Father explained that “consolation is an interior movement that touches our depths,” that those who experience consolation feel “enveloped in God’s presence in a way that always respects his or her own freedom.”
The Pope then recalled the experience of consolation in the lives of saints such as Augustine, Francis, Ignatius of Loyola, and Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). “Above all,” he said, “consolation concerns hope, and reaches out toward the future, puts us on a journey, allows us to take the initiative that had always been postponed or not even imagined, such as Baptism was for Edith Stein.”
A gift of the Holy Spirit
He added that consolation cannot be directed or programmed at will, but is instead a gift of the Holy Spirit that “allows a familiarity with God that seems to cancel distress.” He gave the example of the child-like audacity of St Therese of Lisieux, whose “splendid description of spiritual consolation” allows us to feel “a sense of tenderness toward God that makes us audacious in our desire to participate in His own life.”
“With this consolation, we do not give up in the face of difficulty.”
The danger of false consolations
However, Pope Francis also cautioned his listeners about the dangers of false consolations, flashier and noiser than the authentic consolations, leading us to close in on ourselves and to forget the Lord. Quoting St Bernard, the Pope said, “This is like seeking the consolations of God rather than the God of consolations.”
The Pope concluded his catechesis with the warning, “We too run the risk of living our relationship with God in a childish way, of reducing it to an object that we use and consume, losing the most beautiful gift, which is Himself.”