Rules for Discernment of Spirits: Storing Up the Graces of Consolation
In the spiritual life, we naturally have moments of both consolation and desolation. We need to discern which is present because we deal with them differently. In times of consolation and desolation, Ignatius offers practical advice:
‘One who is in consolation should consider how he or she will act in future desolation, and store up new strength for that time.
In contrast, one who is in desolation should reflect that with the sufficient grace already available he or she can do much to resist all hostile forces, by drawing strength from our Creator and Lord.’
In other words, store up consolations so that when desolation comes, you were less likely to become mired in doubt, confusion, or discouragement. You will remember that God is faithful and has not left you alone. In the absence of the good feelings that often accompany consolation, choose to think about and remember the consolation of the past and anticipate with hope the consolation that is surely to come again, if you were open to it.
Consolation is a gift. Thus, Ignatius advises in the Rules, ‘One who is in consolation ought to be humble.’ Grace is God’s doing, not ours. We cannot force grace or fake it. So in times of consolation, we thank God for the gift of God’s presence and encouragement (O’Brien, 2011).