Parsing the Counsels of St. John of the Cross III: Consolation


In this counsel we hear the echo of the great St. Francis of Assisi:

Strive always to prefer. . . Not that which is consolation, but rather that which is disconsolateness

Always keep in mind that introductory phrase of the counsels--it is critically important. "Strive always to prefer" is an explicit injunction to habit of mind, training in thinking, feeling, and doing. In this case it is not a command to go out and make yourself miserable. As in all things, when we have a choice of spending time with those who are mourning and grieving, who are hurt and wounded, or those who are "making merry," we should prefer to spend time with those who are hurt. When we have a choice between hard work and leisure, we should prefer the hard work. When we have a choice of working with great emotional satisfaction and having our work constantly criticized and demeaned, we should choose the latter. Why? Again the refrain--because it is a discipline that teaches us to value our work for what it really is. It teaches us to let go of anything connected with us and let it rise to praise God. When we are enormously attached to our work we can only do as well as we can do. When we let go of it, we let it rise to God in splendor and He perfects the work--perhaps even unto the salvation of souls.

Why disconsolateness? Because the lack of emotional reward and even emotional hardship causes us to lean more heavily upon Him who bears our burdens and carries us over the difficult track. When we take great satisfaction and contentment in our work and our lives we are less inclined to look at Him. When we are downcast and not focused on ourselves we look at the Face of Glory and in it have some great respite from our Earthly trials.

Prefer always to serve without notice, to serve those who are unappreciative, to serve without emotional reward, to seek out those who grieve and mourn, those whom we find less pleasant company, and like St. Thérèse bestow upon them a small benediction--a smile, a handshake, a hearty good morning, some sense of that person being welcomed. Do not seek to rest in pleasant and easy emotions, but seek to work through rough periods and to put everything into God's hands. In not seeking consolation we attain the very greatest consolation there is--God Himself.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 17, 2003 7:53 AM.

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