At the general audience, Francis continues with his reflections on the topic of discernment and in today’s catechesis he talks about the aspect related to feelings, desolation, common experience in everyone’s life: it can discourage those who want to follow the Gospel and do good, but no temptation is beyond our strength
Adriana Masotti – Vatican City
“God speaks to the heart”, so that discernment is not only a matter of the head, but also contains affective aspects such as the feeling of desolation to which the Pope is dedicating this Wednesday’s catechesis. But what is it about? To explain this, Francis cites what St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote about it:
“Darkness of the soul, restlessness, inclination towards low and earthly things, restlessness due to various disturbances and temptations: thus the soul inclines to mistrust, is without hope and without love, finds itself lazy, lukewarm, sad and as if separated from its Creator and Lord”.
Wasteland, a common experience
I believe, continues Pope Francis, that we have all experienced desolation. But maybe not all of us know how to read it “because it also has something important to tell us” and that’s why it shouldn’t be lost.
No one would like to be desperate, sad: that’s the truth. We would all like to have a life that is always cheerful, happy and fulfilled. However, apart from being impossible – because it is not possible – it would not be good for us either. In fact, the change from a life focused on vices can begin from a situation of sadness, remorse for what we have done.
Repentance can lead to change
Remorse is a “gnawing conscience”, affirms the Pope and points out that it is important to learn to read grief.
In our time, it is most often perceived negatively, as an evil to be avoided at all costs, and instead it can be an indispensable alarm for life, inviting us to explore landscapes richer and more fertile than ever before. and they do not allow evasion. Santo Tomás defines grief as the pain of the soul: like the nerves of the body, it awakens our attention to a possible danger or to an overlooked good.
For those who want to do good, sadness is an obstacle
The situation is different for those who want to do good, in that case “sorrow is an obstacle with which the tempter wants to discourage us”. Therefore, one should not go after it, but should “act exactly the opposite of what is suggested, determined to continue what one has set out to do.”
Think about work, study, prayer, an obligation we have undertaken: if we abandoned them as soon as we were bored or sad, we would never finish anything. This is also an experience common to spiritual life: the path to good, the Gospel reminds us, is narrow and uphill, it requires a battle, the conquest of oneself. I start to pray, or devote myself to some good deed and, strangely enough, right at that moment I think of what to do urgently so that I don’t pray and do good deeds. We all have this experience. It is important, for those who want to serve the Lord, not to be swept away by desolation.
Knowing how to walk through the desolation makes you grow
In a moment of sadness, the Pope continues, many decide to abandon the choice they have made “without first stopping to read this state of mind”. And remember that “a wise rule says don’t make changes when you’re lonely.” An example is Jesus who, as we read in the Gospel, firmly rejects the devil’s attacks, which disappear before his determined attitude of doing the Father’s will. Francis states:
If we know how to go through loneliness and desolation openly and consciously, we can come out stronger on a human and spiritual level. No test is beyond our reach; no test will be greater than what we can do. But we must not run away from trials: it is necessary to see what this trial means, what it means I am sad: why am I sad? What does it mean that I am desolate at the moment? What does it mean that I am desolate and cannot move forward?
Don’t give up even for a moment of sadness
“Go forward”, that is the call of Pope Francis: if today we cannot overcome temptation, let us walk and “tomorrow we will overcome it”. And he concludes: “May the Lord bless you on this path – brave – of spiritual life, which is always a walk”.