Having dealt with the theme of desolation, let us now look at the other great pillar of the discernment of spirits proposed in the Spiritual Exercises (SE): consolation. While certainly more attractive than its sister, desolation, it is not without pitfalls and dangers for those who, as exercitants, seek God’s will. This is because there are also consolations that are good only in appearance and can deceive with ease (cf. SE 329-336). Coping with them requires maturity (not to be dazzled by what seemingly glitters), capacity for critical evaluation, and above all inner freedom.
Ignatius presents spiritual consolation in these terms: “Consolation is understood to occur when an interior stimulus is produced, whereby the soul is inflamed with love for its Creator and Lord, and thus cannot love any of the realities of this world for itself, but only for the Creator of all; likewise when one sheds tears that bring one to the love of the Lord, whether from the pain of one’s own sins, or from the passion of Christ our Lord, or from other motives directly ordered to his service and praise. Finally, consolation is understood to mean every increase in hope, faith and charity, and every inner joy that stimulates and attracts to the heavenly realities and salvation of the soul, giving it tranquility and peace in its Creator and Lord” (SE 316).