During the general audience on Wednesday, November 23, Pope Francis addressed the theme of spiritual consolation, giving the example of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Doctor of the Church, she gives us a powerful lesson on this grace, which is obtained by forgetting oneself and seeking the Holy Spirit.
The word “consolation” is well known to the great saints. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, much loved by Pope Francis who cited him on November 23 during the general audience, uses him in his Spiritual Exercises. However, when we talk about consolation, we generally think of moral comfort, a refuge from sadness or helplessness. But did you know that there is a consolation much deeper than that of the emotions, that of the soul? It is precisely this that Thérèse of Lisieux sought throughout her short life, leaving us with a deeply inspiring teaching.
The true consolation of the Christian is in God alone
The work The Imitation of Jesus Christ defines consolation as follows:
“So, my soul, you can only find true relief and unalloyed joy in God, who consoles the poor and raises up the humble (…) No temporal good can satiate you. All human consolation is empty and lasts little.”
The consolation of the Christian is therefore found only in God and in God alone. The search for any earthly consolation, although natural, cannot satisfy what the soul needs. In reality, the consolation of the soul is often found when one is deprived of all human consolation. If this may seem harsh, it is nevertheless by forgetting oneself that our desire for Heaven grows, making us better desire eternal goods.
Although very demanding, this is the teaching given by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who only sought consolation in Christ, through prayer, accepting all the little daily humiliations and suffering. As a child, the saint had asked to be kept away from earthly consolations to find refuge only in the suffering Holy Face of Christ: “I had asked Jesus to change all earthly consolations into bitterness for me”.
Consolation is obtained by the perpetual quest for the Holy Spirit
The consolation corresponds in fact to the breath of God on our soul, inflating its sails to better advance the boat towards the fixed direction: Heaven. And we will only feel this breath correctly if the winds of the world are silent. This breath is manifested by the Holy Spirit. This is also why the Paraclete is often called a “comforter”. To obtain the consolation of the soul, it is therefore necessary to claim the Holy Spirit, to ask God for it. Then will come the fruits of consolation, this inner peace that the Pope himself defined on November 23 as being “an intimate movement which touches the depths of ourselves”, which allows the soul to feel “enveloped by the presence of God, in a way always respectful of one’s own freedom”.
We can then try, like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, to experience this peace even in suffering: “Let us suffer in peace… (..) Whoever says peace does not say joy, or at least felt joy… To suffer in peace, it is enough to want all that Jesus wants”.