Tag Archives: discernment

Consolation and Desolation

Light and Shadow together

Light and Shadow together

Consolation and Desolation… two words that I came across during a Spirituality Day recently held in college. In relation to Ignatian Spirituality they are used to help us discern which direction our life is taking us – is it toward God (consolation) or away from him (desolation).

Consolation also brings us closer to people, so that we are aware of their joys and sorrows and shows us where God is active, both in our life and theirs. It charges us with energy, so that we become more creative and our focus is away from ourselves. Whereas desolation, cuts us off from people, so that we turn in on ourselves. We are bombarded by negative feelings and become withdrawn, totally drained of energy and unable to sustain an interest in those things that previously had meaning for us.

It’s deeper than just being aware of the things that make us happy and trying to do more of them and avoiding the things that make us sad.  It’s more about having an understanding that there will be both moments of consolation and desolation in our lives; but that in wishing to draw closer to God, even if negative doubts seem overwhelming, God’s will for us ensures that our hearts, both God’s and our own, continue to beat in harmony.

It is also possible that these moments will occur simultaneously. This fact was brought home to me as we listened to a piece of music. The choir were singing a psalm and the different voices oscillated between the clear high notes of the trebles and resonant, low tones of the baritones and basses as they exchanged verses. Yet even as the one range sang, the other did not remain silent, but was still audible if muted

As this thought occurred my eye was also caught by one of the trees outside, its leaves filling the frame of the window, as the wind shook them and light and shadow danced together. On a sunlit day this produced a feeling of warmth and happiness as the large leaves absorbed and reflected the light, but I could also imagine on a wet, winter day, the dark bare branches would be oppressive and shadowy. Yet in both scenarios neither light nor dark was completely absent

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it
John 1:5

My mind then raced to think of other examples where the presence of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ might not only be present, but might be necessary for us to appreciate the need for both to exist concurrently. Things such as batteries, where positive and negative terminals have to be present in order for power to flow through it. Or when racing a car on a track, where the exhilaration of driving at high speeds needs to be tempered by a fear of the consequences of crashing and so teaches us to develop braking and manoeuvring skills. Of maybe even a margarita cocktail where the combination of saltiness and sourness adds to the whole experience!

The thrills of racing

The thrills of racing tempered by the need for safety

We only need to think of the disciples at Easter. Theirs was utter desolation as they abandoned Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and had to deal with their fear and response to what they had done; yet just like Peter, they kept their focus on God,  so that their and our consolation came through the cross.

Yet even as we acknowledge that there will be consolation and desolation in our own lives, if we continue to maintain our focus on looking toward God then our consolation should never remain self-centred – there are many other directions in which God is trying to catch our eye!

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul

Make Me A Channel of Your Peace – Temple
© Copyright 1967 OCP Publications

Stepping out on a new journey

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Every life is a journey. We start it the moment we are conceived to the moment we die. Each person’s journey is unique – which is what makes each of us unique. Some days we get to run ahead, others we are sat indoors with our noses pressed to the window pane. On good days we feel totally in control on others we sense we are being swept along hoping that someone will be there on the river bank to throw us a lifeline. All the while we get to make choices – that is our humanity.

Yet spiritually we shouldn’t worry if we have true faith in God. The psalmist tells us that God is there with us on our journey, from beginning to eternity,

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.                             Psalm 139:16

The wonderful mystery is that we don’t get to see what that journey will entail, because I certainly wouldn’t have imagined that my journey would bring me to this particular point in my life.

In a few weeks time I will be starting my training as an Ordinand, having been through a rigorous process of discernment. I am excited and fearful. Yet I know that whatever happens in the future will be because that’s where God wants me to be.

You are welcome to join me on that journey from time to time, because maybe that’s the point where our paths are destined to come together and we walk side by side for a while. I look forward to your companionship along the way

In the meantime may God bless you wherever you are on life’s journey