Ignatian Insights from Julian Butler SJ, Australian Jesuit Scholastic
Jesus lived at the beginning of a period later described as the Pax Romana. Though not described as such until 55CE, the notion of a peace held by force was likely to have been part of the Roman occupier’s self-justification in the towns and cities through which Jesus travelled. Peace by force. Peace for the gain of some and not others. Peace without justice.
We can find peace in our own prayer life founded on such shaky ground. St Ignatius of Loyola developed a way of discerning what to do based on the discernment of spirits. We should make choices, St Ignatius suggested, when in consolation because such a state is of the good spirit, and so from God.
Usually, consolation is experienced in feeling good, desolation in feeling bad. But not always. Those states of consolation and desolation are not totally analogous to feeling good or bad. There are times, for instance, where we will feel good, at peace with a situation and yet this will be a movement of the bad spirit, drawing us away from God. This is an experience of ‘false consolation’.
How so? Well, if I have engaged in some behaviour that is wrong, but I’ve managed to convince myself there’s some justification for that behaviour my feeling of peace is inappropriate. If it forms the basis for allowing me to justify continuing a behaviour, making a practice of something that damages self, others, or my relationship with God, then my feeling of peace is actually destructive. In the same way, we can feel bad about something, and be in consolation. Grief or righteous anger might be the appropriate feelings in response to loss or injustice.