"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Consolation And Desolation In Tandem

Mirador Jesuit Villa Sunset View, October 4, 2022 by 8thworker.us

llow me to talk about desolation and consolation as my theme for the homily. I just came from my personal 8-day retreat and as I look back I can say that it was a consoling retreat. I ended with a grateful heart, why, because every fruit not only of a retreat but each prayer period no matter how prepared we are is a matter of gift from God. St Ignatius of Loyola always emphasizes that in each prayer period we always beg for the grace. The act of begging is important because we are always at the mercy of God. God decides through God's divine will. If God will not give it yet then we cannot force God to grant what we desire. How do we know if God has granted our desires? We will know by the fruits in the form of consolations and desolations. St Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises has one set of very important rules called the discernment of spirits. In the third rule he defines what is spiritual consolation. He calls it consolation when there is an interior movement or motion (since consolations are motions or movements "in the soul by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord." One determinant for consolation is when "one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be because of sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God." A consolation is a true consolation for St Ignatius when there is an "increase of faith, hope, and love... interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one's soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord" (SE 316).

For our second point, I would like to say that consolation is always in tandem with desolation. If one thing happens in tandem with another thing, the two things happen at the same time. Let us go back to the image of movement. When there is a movement it is always a movement to and fro. When we go on retreat we must be prepared not only to receive consolation but also desolation. That is why it is very important to have a spiritual guide who could mirror or who could serve as a sounding board of the movements of the spirits—with an "s." Not all spirits are good. That is why every step of the retreat journey we have to beg for God's light to look at ourselves as God looks at us. I drove all the way up to Baguio City to have my 8-day retreat last week, I can say that at least two of the eight days were periods of desolation. There was a point when disturbing movements came into my prayer. I experienced what St Ignatius has defined in the fourth Rule of the Discernment of Spirits, I quote, "I call desolation what is entirely the opposite of what is described in the third rule, as darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord. For just as consolation is the opposite of desolation, to the thoughts that spring from consolation are the opposite of those that spring from desolation" (SE 317). The experience is not even a typical spiritual dryness. No. It is an avalanche of fears and doubts which overwhelms. There is a temptation to leave the retreat house already and go home. Desolation is a movement too. It is not stagnancy. The movement is the opposite of consolation, away from God. That is why during desolations, what does St Ignatius advise, he says "stay" in prayer more. Do not make hasty decisions because the current, if it was water, is strong and it draws us deep into the sea or if it was air, one could easily be blown away. It is good to be mindful when desolation strikes because it does not mean God is absent though. No. We are only blinded and our spirit is clouded by fears and doubts which for me are the major currents of desolation. That is why the number one important disposition of a retreatant is courage and bravery.

For my third and last point. Our gospel for today speaks almost about desolation. The Lord is harshly rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees. Naturally they will feel hostile towards Jesus. They wanted to kill him too just like what happened to the prophets. Jesus said loaded accusations towards them. "Woe to you, scholars of the law!" Jesus says, "You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter" (Lk 11:47-54). Jesus did not come only as a consolation to all. Jesus also comes as a desolation, he reprimands, he counters movements that bring us away from entering into the Lord's presence. What were the moments when you had a reprimand from Jesus? But take note, his reprimand as long as it comes from the Lord, it is always gentle and tender. That is one good thing about going through desolation. God's gentle invitation to stay is heard. You can hear him say to you amidst your fears and doubts, "stay I am here." Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Replies
    1. My first time to see such a phenomenon too! A sunset that looks like a sunrise! That is the reason I chose this image to illustrate how sunset and sunrise also go in tendem like consolation and desolation. GBU!

    2. I see...I ask so I can say.....Vista Hermosa! Consoling beauty of God's presence and reminder of possible desolation in coming darkness. .. consolation + desolation brings wholeness....Deo gracias! Thank you!😇


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