Consolation Beyond a Smile – What is Consolation?

June 4, 2023

What is Consolation?

A few weeks ago I was sitting on my bed folding a load of laundry as my children were finishing up their homework. After only a few minutes, my youngest son climbed onto the bed for a hug. When I told him to go play, he giggled and asked, “Mama, will you marry me?”  I smiled back and reminded him for the umpteenth time that kiddos can’t marry their Mamas, and then I told him to go play.

A few minutes later, the same giggling five-year-old came back, and the conversation was repeated. After the third or fourth time, I scooped him up and asked, “Why do you want to marry Mama so much?”

“Because I just love you a lot. I love you the most, Mama.”

I squeezed him close, and told him I loved him the most, as tears welled in my eyes. I got a quick Thank you, God out in my mind before he ran off to play with his brother.

I savored this moment as I continued folding clothes. I was able to have a quick moment in prayer thanking God for reminding me how loved I am. I thanked God for the bone-deep sense of joy I felt experiencing a closeness to God through my son. I thanked God for the gift of my children, even when the days seem full of chaos trying to juggle all the things this gift offers. I thanked God for this moment of consolation.  

We hear the words consolation and desolation often in Ignatian Spirituality. So, what is consolation? Consolation is an increase of faith, hope, or love. It’s a movement of the Spirit that brings us closer to God. Consolation is a moment that often brings a sense of bone-deep joy, a moment that often leaves me speechless and in awe of God’s love and presence in my life.

One may think of consolation as “good” and desolation as “bad”, but it isn’t always that cut and dried. You can experience a moment of consolation from the words of a friend or loved one when your heart is broken from loss. You can experience a moment of consolation from the kind actions of a colleague on a hard day at work. You can experience a moment of consolation in prayer, with your children, with your partner, your friends. You can experience a moment of consolation while enjoying time in God’s creation while sitting outside, while taking a walk, or while relaxing on the beach. We can experience consolation in big and small ways, in the extraordinary and ordinary moments of our lives.

In this next blog series, Consolation Beyond a Smile, our Into the Deep writers will share how they’ve experienced moments of consolation in their lives. As you read and reflect on these experiences of consolation over the next several weeks, I encourage you to notice when you have experienced a moment of consolation in your life. As you begin to reflect on and thank God for these moments, you may find yourself in awe of this bone-deep joy you experience in the happy and sad moments, in the hard and ordinary moments, in the big and small moments of our lives. Savor these feelings. Soak in the experience of God’s goodness and closeness in your life. Cherish these moments of consolation, these moments that bring us closer to God. Bask in the goodness of this gift from God as God whispers to us “Because I just love you a lot. I love you the most.”

Going Deeper

Read more about The Difference Between Consolation and Feeling Good in this excerpt from Margaret Silf’s Inner Compass.

Read more about consolation from Becky in Listening for God in Consolation.

Read about savoring consolation from Monique in Saving the Good Stuff for Later.

Photo by Sagar Kulkarni on Unsplash

With experience in youth ministry, campus ministry, faith formation, and as a high school theology teacher, Charlotte has worked in numerous parishes and schools along the Gulf Coast and in the Diocese of Rockford. She holds a B.A. in Theology and Master of Pastoral Studies from Spring Hill College. Charlotte and her husband live in New Orleans with their four young children, where she enjoys Ignatian Spirituality, reading, listening to live music, and bike riding with her family.

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