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What do spiritual consolations look like? They don’t have to be big. Even a small burst in faith, a surge of hope, or an experience of greater love is a consolation. God draws me closer through myriad experiences, such as through these recent examples of consolations in my life.
- A rose. I visited my sister’s convent to celebrate my birthday and was able to stay the night in a guest room. Someone provided a vase with a bud from the convent garden—a variegated pink—that caused me to marvel. I felt joy in its unfolding beauty and grateful to its Creator. I suddenly thought of my patron and heroine, St. Thérèse the Little Flower, who promised “upon my death I will let fall a shower of roses.” Coincidence? Not to me.
- A loved one. When she said goodnight, my sister handed me a memory book about our mother, who died some 20 years ago. When I saw Mother’s handwriting and read familiar but forgotten stories, Mom came alive. Among the pages was Mom’s listing of all the people baptized in the now over-100-year-old family baptismal gown. I felt the presence of the Communion of Saints. A sense of love uplifted me.
- A quote. I went to bed reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. One line knocked my socks off: “Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement…” The passage hit home. It’s a “debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish.” The consolation here wasn’t easy, because I heard God inviting me to conversion. I felt hope thanks to this quote and the belief that I can grow in freedom.
- A journal. I copied the quote mentioned above in my journal, and this action reminded me to pray again about its meaning. I also keep a gratitude journal, which is a source of consolation. Each night, I make sure to write three things for which I’m grateful. When I page through it, I always smile. God loves. I give thanks.
- A discovery. The quote, the journal, and prayer led to a new consolation in the form of self-knowledge: I’m an accomplishment junkie. And evil has been twisting that against me, saying, “I know how to getcha: I’ll suggest you do too much—a mountain of things—all good—that you never, ever, could accomplish. Then, when you do something good, I’ll say, ‘Just look at what you didn’t do!’ And then you will feel bad, and beat yourself up.” God would never treat me that way. God is gentle. Time isn’t an enemy; it’s God’s gift. God’s task list is an easy yoke, a light burden: love.
- The sea. Not long after my visit to my sister, we drove six hours to visit our grandchildren, who live a mile from the beach. What is it about the ocean that makes me feel so loved, so insignificant in the scope of creation, yet important, valued, and cherished? I took the opportunity to accomplish nothing.
- A child. My husband and I watched our granddaughters, 8 and 10, dance on the sand. The next day we witnessed our granddaughter’s First Communion, during which she wore the veil I wore, that her mother wore, and that 20 other relatives wore. My granddaughter sang the “Gloria” with passion. I felt a surge of love and continuity of faith. Roses outside the parish hall prompted memories of my dad, who loved gardening.
- Memories. When I was three, I fell into a rose bush in our yard and was scraped badly. Dad tore out every rose in our yard and only replanted them to honor my wedding day. Whenever I remember this, I’m enlivened with love. And here I was, watching my grandchild celebrating First Communion among roses at her parish.