“Consolation is the happiness that carries pain with it. It springs from the very heart of grief”
– Archbishop Luis M. Martinez (theologian and poet)
Consolation springs from grief? What is this theologian trying to tell us? I thought it would spring from something good. It does. The Holy Spirit! When I first read this quotation, I did not understand it. I trust what this wise theologian, Luis M. Martinez (Archbishop of Mexico City from 1937–1956) has to say, and so I began to reflect on what it means to be consoled by another. To be consoled means you are initially in a place where you are not doing well, but then you receive comfort, solace, reprieve. Being in a painful situation creates the space for you to be to be consoled by another. The very act of consoling comes from someone who sees a need or some suffering, and desires to alleviate that pain, that suffering. Just like ice is used to alleviate the swelling of a rolled ankle or aloe cream for a painful sunburn.
The truth that consolation is a happiness that carries pain makes me think of a movie that represents this concept so well! A few years ago, an animated Disney movie came out called Inside Out. For those who haven’t seen it, it follows a 12-year-old girl, Riley, and her emotions. Her main five emotions are characters in the movie and their personalities and colors embody their emotions: Joy (yellow), Sadness (blue), Anger (red), Disgust (green), and Fear (purple). In the girl’s mind (where the characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear talk and live) her memories are created according to each emotion, a foundational memory of joy, or sadness or fear that all help make her personality unique.
Throughout the movie we see that she becomes frustrated because she is not the happy, go-lucky girl she always was, but experiences deep sadness, anger, pain, suffering and loneliness for the first time. Like Riley, we often can become frustrated and angry where we are no longer happy and joyful or peaceful because of this particular suffering in our life and we don’t know how to return to our “happy place”. But a beautiful thing is revealed in the movie! Sadness brings back a memory of Riley’s when she lost the championship hockey game for her team: obviously she was devastated and began to cry for having let her team down, but as the memory continues to play out, she remembers how her teammates ended up coming over to her house to cheer her up and comfort her despite the loss of the game. They were more concerned about her well-being than a trophy and it soon becomes a memory of joy! The memory is longer just one color of blue sadness, but strokes of joyful yellow enveloping the memory.
How often has this same thing happened us! A moment of sadness, or of suffering, that then becomes moments of deep friendship and intimacy because someone came to us when we were struggling and in need of love. Often, we only remember the joyful part of a sweet gesture of someone coming to comfort us, but we should remember when we were struggling beforehand, how the person came to encounter us where we were and draws us into a moment of joy and communion! This act of consoling, of bringing each one of us from sorrow into joy, is something the Holy Spirit would like to do! The Holy Spirit wants to be that comfort of love for us. He wants to foster this relationship in love and He desires grow in relationship and intimacy with us through these moments of difficulty.
The Holy Spirit is the divine life inside us that always accompanies us. To know that someone is there with us when we are in pain or struggling, changes how we navigate and live that pain. And who can do that even more perfectly than God? His is the Consoler par excellence. Why? Because God is Love. Archbishop L. Martinez shares his profound reflections on the Holy Spirit, in True Devotion to the Holy Spirit,
“…in human life, if we consider attentively, we shall understand that the only thing that can console us is love. Knowledge is precious, but it does not console; art delights us, but its object does not console. The only thing that consoles us is love.”
The Holy Spirit IS love. The Holy Spirit is the purest form of love because it is that love within the Trinity that overflows from the relationship between the Father and the Son. This love can overcome any barrier. In John 14:26, Jesus tells his apostles “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you”. What has Jesus told us (and shown us)? He has told us that He is love and that He is with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20). He wants to redeem us and heal all that is broken within. He has come to bring us new life, eternal life.
But how do I know it is Him? How do I recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, when I do not “feel” consoled? We know him by the traces, the seeds He leaves that become fruit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit help us to know His presence. The fruits are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. When these fruits are manifested in my life, I know that God and His grace are present in my heart. I personally recognize the Holy Spirit’s consolation through the fruit of peace. So many times, I have gone to my hour of Adoration, frustrated, angry, stressed, sad, hurting. I spend a good 45 minutes of that hour talking to Jesus, telling (and yes sometimes complaining!) to Him all that is bothering me. And somehow, I get to those last 10-15 minutes, and there is calmness in my heart that was not there before. An interior stillness and peace that did not come from me (all I did was share!). After that time of prayer, most likely whatever situation was affecting me has not physically changed — the problem still exists — but my heart has changed. The way that I approach and look at that situation has changed. I no longer am living it alone, but I am living it with the Lord. That peace that I received did not come from my own fabrication, but is a fruit of the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into my heart and into that very situation. It is a small consolation, but it is sweet and I have renewed strength and vigor to continue to confront whatever my suffering might be.
We might not always “feel” the Holy Spirit, but that is when we can make an offering of faith. When we can tell the Lord, “I don’t feel anything. I don’t know if anything is changed, but I trust that you are here and that you keep your promise that you are with me.” So let us not be afraid to call upon the Holy Spirit more often! Let us pray with great faith “Come Holy Spirit, come. Fill this weakened and weary heart. I am in your presence and your love. Make the pain sweet and let my struggle be a place of encounter with you and your love that gives me strength to face any fear.”
Join us in meditating even more on the Holy Spirit in our new series of meditations on the Holy Spirit beginning in January 2023!
- Make note of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that I receive at the end of the day; when did I feel peace or gentleness or self-control etc.?
- Write out an experience I had when I received consolation in a moment of suffering. Write about an experience with another person and then an experience of receiving the Holy Spirit’s consolation.
- When you live a moment of suffering throughout the day, simple pray “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Console my heart.”
This month’s meditation is by Kate Cropp, one of our AVI women in formation.