Consolation and desolation are the ups and downs in spiritual life. We should focus on God and be rooted in Him at all times, so that both consolation and desolation can become opportunities for our sanctification.
St. Francis de Sales gave these special rules regarding spiritual consolation:
1. True devotion does not consist of spiritual consolation.
2. “Tender warm emotions are sometimes good and useful, for they kindle the spiritual appetite, cheer the mind, and infuse a holy gladness into the devout life, which embellishes all we do even externally.”
3. “If our spiritual tenderness and sweetness and consolation make us more humble, patient, forbearing, charitable, and kindly towards our neighbours, more earnest in mortifying our own evil inclinations and lusts, more diligent in our duties, more docile and submissive to those who have a claim to our obedience, more simple in our whole manner of life, then doubtless, my child, they come from God.
“But if this sweetness and tenderness is sweet only to ourselves, if we are fanciful, bitter, punctilious, impatient, obstinate, proud, presumptuous, harsh towards our neighbour, while reckoning ourselves as half-made saints, not docile to correction or guidance, then we may be assured our consolations are spurious and hurtful. A good tree will bring forth none save good fruit.”
4. “If we are favoured with any such sweetness, we must humble ourselves deeply before God, and beware of being led to cry out, ‘How good I am!’ No indeed, such gifts do not make us any better, for, as I have already said, devotion does not consist of such things; rather let us say, ‘How good God is to those who hope in Him, and to the souls that seek Him!’
“If a man has sugar in his mouth, he cannot call his mouth sweet, but the sugar; and so although our spiritual sweetness is admirable, and God Who imparts it is all good, it by no means follows that he who receives it is good.”
Desolation of soul
When we experience desolation of soul or spiritual dryness, we should examine if we ourselves are the cause of it. St. Francis de Sales pointed out: “A mother refuses sugar to her sickly child, and so God deprives us of consolations when they do but feed self-complacency or presumption.”
“If we neglect to gather up and use the treasures of God’s love in due time, He withdraws them as a punishment for our sloth.”
Steeping one’s heart in worldly gratifications and the lack of frankness in confession or in spiritual direction can also be the causes of spiritual dryness.
If, after careful examination of conscience, we discover the root of spiritual dryness to be in ourselves, we should thank God for the discovery, for the evil is half cured when we have ascertained the cause. However, if the cause cannot be found, St. Francis advised the following:
1. “Humble yourself profoundly before God, acknowledging your nothingness and misery.”
2. “Call upon God, and ask for His gladness.”
3. “Go to your confessor, open your heart thoroughly, let him see every corner of your soul, and take all his advice with the utmost simplicity and humility.”
4. Avoid being overly eager for deliverance from dryness, but place yourself at the entire disposal of God’s Providence.
5. Do not omit any devotional exercise, and, if possible, increase your good works.
Regarding spiritual dryness, St. Francis said, “In this respect we should work all the more to prove our trust, for one act performed in dryness is worth many performed with pleasure. Though less agreeable, the love which prompts it is far more profound.”
靈修生活會有起跌 —— 慰藉與孤寂的時刻，所以，我們應當專注於天主，並常植根於祂內，好讓無論靈修生活上的感覺如何，都是聖化我們的機會。