Consolation and Desolation Whiplash

I used to think that desolation was a state one entered for a long period of time, like Mother Teresa experiencing years of dry prayer. Lately, though, and perhaps because I’m using the Examen more faithfully, I’ve learned that a single day can hold both consolation and desolation like a zig-zag line or a roller coaster. I’m pushed and pulled simultaneously by various forces, quickly passing from things that increase faith, hope, and love to […]

The Greatest Union

I’ve recently returned from my annual weeklong silent retreat. Often it is the highlight of my year, a place to reconnect more deeply with God and to get my priorities straight for the next year. This year, I arrived at retreat with the intent to grieve. I was grieving the recent death of my stepdad. I was grieving the loss of a friend who had dropped out of my life without explanation, then briefly reappeared […]

Praying When in Consolation

Don’t you love praying when it’s easy to show up to prayer? Or when you feel God’s presence during your prayer? During a season of consolation, it is easy to name the graces given to us by God. St. Ignatius offers us wisdom on what to do when we are in this season of prayer. Relish the graces. “For it is not much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and […]

Consolation and Desolation

During Lent, we reflect upon our spiritual state and on our interior movement. Are we moving toward more doubt, fear, and anger? Or are we moving toward greater faith, hope, and love? The Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation can help us. A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the […]

The Long Ride

I do some of my best thinking and praying while running or biking. This morning I considered how biking hills is not a bad analogy to the discernment of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. Here’s the idea. Coming to the beginning of a long upward climb can be a daunting experience. You see it looming, and you see that it will be hard and tiring. There is a temptation to quit or turn around. This is […]

Consolation in Everyday Life

Consolation begins deep in the self that is grateful to God in all things. As G. K. Chesterton once explained, gratitude is happiness magnified by wonder. Jesus’ act at Cana shows how practical gratitude is: in the first place, Jesus intended his friends to be happy and have a good time. He and his mother came to this wedding party to enjoy it. When that enjoyment was threatened, Jesus felt impelled (with a little help […]

Marking God’s Goodness

Before making the big decision to move from the East Coast to the West Coast, my wife Sarah and I prayed with the story of Abraham and Sarah’s journey. Each place they travelled, they built an altar to honor God. They were responding to God’s call to depart from their homeland and journey to a new, unknown land. What they left behind in each place they went was a symbol of their relationship with God. […]

Is God at Work?

How are we to interpret the alternately serendipitous and disappointing, unexpected and unpredictable, courses of our lives? What is happening when death or financial disaster force us to reconsider what we want from life, when teachers or mentors find and nurture talent we didn’t know we had, when we succeed beyond our wildest imaginings, when managers steer our careers in fortuitous directions, when we aren’t offered the job we wanted so badly, when friends point […]

Advent Consolation

There’s something about Advent and Christmas that stirs my heart. As my semester as a grad student winds down, I anticipate the time to relax into the season. Typically, my interior is not filled with holiday anxiety, but with consolation. Each year Advent stirs up the memory of past Advents—those graces of hopeful anticipation, family time, and even the comfort of purple and pink candles lit on a dark winter evening. St. Ignatius says we […]

Consolation Isn’t Easy

Ever have a gut-wrenching day? Not just a hard day, but a day when you felt like there was nothing left inside of you but ache? Maybe it was the day your teenager screamed at you for the umpteenth time and slammed the door in your face. Maybe it was the day you had to put your beloved pet to sleep, or the day you had to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. I had […]

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