Spiritual States of 'Consolation' and 'Desolation'
from The Catholic Encyclopedia
Consolation and Desolation may be said to be Phases of the
various 'Stages' or 'States' of the Spiritual Life, rather than distinct 'States' to themselves. The Character of Permanence does not
usually belong to them. They Succeed each other, as a Rule, and Devout Souls have to experience both
the One and the Other; but as they may have sometimes a Long
Period of Consolation or Desolation, the Term 'States' may be used in
a Wide Sense when treating of them. Speaking in a General Sense, the Sense of Consolation is that in which
the Soul enjoys a Spiritual Sense or Impression of Close Union and Intimate Converse with
God. The State of Desolation, on the Contrary, is that in which the
Soul feels itself as it were Abandoned by
God. Consolation and Desolation may be more easily understood
when considered in 'Opposition' to each other.
In the Spiritual Order, Consolation is of Three (3) kinds.
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
attacks the Soul through the Psychosomatic Powers
already weakened by Original Sin.
The First kind, which is known as "Sensible Consolation",
is that which has its Beginning and is felt Chiefly in the Senses or
Sensible Faculties. It consists in Sensible Devotion and a
Feeling of Fervor arising from the consideration of God's Goodness vividly-represented to
the Mind and Heart; or from the External Aids and Ceremonies of the
Church. It is not to be disregarded on this account because it leads us finally to
Good. Saint Alphonsus says, "Spiritual Consolations are Gifts
which are much more precious than all the Riches and Honors of the World. And if the Sensibility itself is aroused, this completes our
Devotion, for then our Whole Being is United to God and tastes God" (Love for Jesus, xvii).
The Second kind of Consolation, which is often the result of the
First, and usually remains with the Third, is characterized by
as Facility and even a Delight in the Exercise of the Virtues, especially the
Theological Virtues. Saint Ignatius says that any increase in Faith,
Hope, and Charity, may be called a
Consolation (Rule 3 for the Discernment of Spirits). By this kind of Consolation,
the Soul is raised above the Sensible Faculties; and in
the Absence of Sensible Consolation,
Truth is Perceived at a Glance, Faith alone Operating,
Enlightening, Directing and Sustaining
the Soul; and Fervor of the Will succeeds to
Sensible Fervor. We should be thankful to God for Consolations
of this kind and Pray for their Continuance, and it is these we ask for in the
Prayer "En ego" usually recited after Communion.
Prayer before a Crucifix (En Ego)
Behold, O kind and most sweet Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy Sight
with the most Fervent Desire of my Soul,
I pray and beseech Thee that Thou wouldst impress upon my Heart
Lively Sentiments of Faith, Hope and Charity,
with True Repentance for my Sins,
and a Firm Desire of Amendment,
whilst with Deep Affection and and Grief of Soul
I ponder within myself and mentally contemplate Thy Five Most Precious Wounds,
having before my eyes that which David, in Prophecy, made Thee say, sweet Jesus:
"They have pierced My Hands and My Feet; they have numbered all My Bones".
The Third kind of Consolation affects the Higher
Faculties of the Soul, namely the Intellect and the Will, and
in a more Perfect Way than the Second. It consists in Special Tranquility
and Peace of Soul, and is the result of the Firm Determination of the Will
to live for God with Entire Confidence in His Grace. It is present when,
as Saint Ignatius says, "the Soul burns with the Love of its Creator, and can no longer love any creature
except for His sake" (Rule 3 for the Discernment of Spirits). The Soul is conscious of
its Happiness even though the Inferior and
Sensible Faculties may be Depressed and Afflicted. This is the
Most Perfect Kind of all, and it is not often experienced except by the Perfect. As the
First kind is said to belong to Beginners in the Way of Perfection, the Second to those Making
Progress, so the Third is said to belong to the Perfect.
Spiritual Desolation means the Feeling of
Abandonment by God, and of the Absence of His Grace. This
Feeling of Estrangement may arise from Various Causes. It may be the
result of Natural Disposition or Temperament, or of External Circumstances; or it may come from the
Attacks of the Devil; or from God Himself when for our
Greater Good He withdraws-from-us, Spiritual Consolation. In
Contradistinction to Consolation, Spiritual Desolation may be of
Three (3) kinds.
The First is called Sensible Desolation
and is the Opposite of Sensible Consolation. It includes
Aridities, Dissipation of Mind,
Weariness, and Disgust in the Exercises of
Piety; and it is often experienced by Beginners in the Practice of Mental Prayer. It may co-exist
with Consolation of a Higher Order just as, in the Natural Order, we may Pain
of Body, and Joy of Soul at
One and the Same Time.
The Second kind of Desolation affects the
Intellect and Will, and consists in the Privation of the
Feeling of the Presence of the Supernatural Virtues as described by
Saint Teresa in her Life (ch. xxx). This Trial is Extremely
Severe, but if Generously Accepted, and Patiently Endured, it may be turned into Great Merit,
and many Fruits of Sanctity will be the result. (See Letter of Saint Francis of Sales to
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, 28 March, 1612).
The Third kind of Desolation is still more
Severe. It is a Darkening of the Mind and a
Feeling of Abandonment so Great that the Soul is
Tempted to Distrust concerning Salvation and is
Tormented by other Terrible Thoughts against Faith,
against Purity, and even by Blasphemous Thoughts -- the most
Painful Experience which a Holy Soul has to endure (see
Saint John of the Cross, op. cit., infra, bk. I, ch. xiv). It would be a Great Mistake to Imagine that Spiritual
Desolation Arrests Progress in Virtue or Enfeebles the Spirit of
Fervor. On the contrary, it affords Occasion of Heroic Virtue and of Absolute Detachment
from Sensible Pleasure, whether Natural or Supernatural. At the same time we may Hope and Wish
that these Interior Grief's may be Diminished or made to Disappear, and we may Pray
God to deliver us from them, but if all our Efforts are in Vain, and
God Permits the Desolation to continue, it only remains to Resign ourselves Generously to
His Divine Will.
Prayer of Saint Padre Pio
Lord Jesus, sometimes, when I am in the State of Spiritual Aridity, I don't even feel like
Praying, and I certainly do not feel Your Presence. I wonder how You, the Bread of Life, could ever Love me, a Miserable Sinner.
Help me to Accept my Weak Humanity, and to bow always Humbly before You and Accept the "Medicine" of Your Holy Spirit
Who longs to Heal my Heart and Soul.
Padre Pio was Graced by God with the Stigmata. His Shield depicts the Pelican,
a Symbol of Christ, who strikes her own breast to draw blood in order to feed her young chicks.