The Ignatian concepts of consolation and desolation

| Monday 8 of August 2022

St Ignatius' use of the concepts of consolation and desolation are critical to understanding and practising the examen.

Consolation is when something is deeply and genuinely good for us, good for our souls, leads us towards God and away from our selfish preoccupations.

Desolation is when something is not good for us, when we are wrapped up in ourselves, and careless of God's gifts and grace working in us, when we substitute other things in place of God.

Note that Ignatius means spiritual consolation/desolation. While these may be found in our thoughts and emotional responses, they are not the same as our feelings of delight and despair.

St Ignatius gives us a quick rule of thumb to 'test' whether something is truly consolation or truly desolation: by noticing the faith, hope and love in us. Something that is truly consolation will show itself in an increase in faith (i.e. self-confidence in myself, in my family, in my colleagues and pupils, in society in general and in God), an increase in hope (i.e. I am positive about things, always seeing the best, seizing the little opportunities that come my way, having a reason to get out of bed in the morning), and an increase in love (i.e. the loving and compassionate ways I treat those around me, especially those I find difficult to love).


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