Francis emphasized the importance of action following consolation.
“Consolation is such peace, but not to sit there enjoying it, no, it gives you peace and draws you to the Lord and sets you on a path to do things, to do good things,” he said.
“In a time of consolation, when we are consoled, we get the desire to do so much good, always. Instead, when there is a time of desolation, we get the urge to close in on ourselves and do nothing. Consolation pushes you forward, in service to others, to society, to people.”
He recalled when St. Therese of the Child Jesus, at the age of 14, visited the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem in Rome.
The girl from Lisieux, France, “tried to touch the nail venerated there, one of the nails with which Jesus was crucified,” the pope said. “Therese understood her daring as a transport of love and confidence. Later, she wrote, ‘I truly was too audacious. But the Lord sees the depths of our hearts. He knows my intention was pure […] I acted with him as a child who believes everything is permissible and who considers the Father’s treasures their own.’”
This, Pope Francis said, is a “splendid description of spiritual consolation.”
“We can feel a sense of tenderness toward God that makes us audacious in our desire to participate in his own life, to do what is pleasing to him because we feel familiar with him, we feel that his house is our house, we feel welcome, loved, restored,” he added.
Consolation gives one the strength to continue in the face of difficulty, Francis said, pointing to St. Therese’s request to the pope to enter the Carmelite order even though she was too young.
According to the pope, St. Bernard teaches us about consolation and discernment, especially the pitfall of "false consolations.”
“If an authentic consolation is like a drop on a sponge, is soft and intimate, its imitations are noisier and flashier, like straw fires, lacking substance, leading us to close in on ourselves and not to take care of others,” Francis said. This is where discernment comes in.
“False consolation can become a danger if we seek it obsessively as an end in itself, forgetting the Lord,” he pointed out. “As St. Bernard would say, this is like seeking the consolations of God rather than the God of consolations.”
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There is a risk of treating our relationship with God in a childish way, he concluded, “of reducing it to an object that we use and consume, losing the most beautiful gift which is God himself.”
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.