An experience of True Consolation: The stillness within

An experience of True Consolation: The stillness within

Caroline Coggins, Spiritual Director and Retreat giver at JISA Canisius NSW, shares a reflection on her longstanding friendship with Fr Michael Mullins. At this time of his passing, Caroline reflects on a man, in whose presence, one could experienced, the sacredness of  ‘genuine consolation’.

A dear friend of mine died last week. It was unexpected, we were in the midst of a ten-year

conversation. I loved this man. I felt he loved me.

Michael Mullins was a Marist priest for almost 60 years. I met him properly when I was Chair of the parish council at St Canice’s. As a community we were on tender ground. Our parish priest had just left after 15 years. The parish had been frightened, threatened that we may no longer remain a Jesuit parish.

We were living in the middle of the findings of the inquiry into the institutional response

to child sexual abuse. Grief, pain, uncertainty of our identity – it was all in the mix and where were we going?

It was a great pastoral parish team, we were stretching into being a community led,

praying parish. Michael Mullins was a clinical psychologist, a facilitator of processes for groups and organisations.

Being with Michael was to taste consolation. His way of working with us was honest and

straightforward. He observed closely, listened well and asked questions that opened each of

us. He could read the currents in us as a group, the separations and disquiet and give the

voices room. We grew, enlarged and became more confident. He was the binder, and because we felt free to be honest, we began to think properly.

To do is often the easier option rather than waiting in the fallow ground faithfully. Michael was not a fan of the ’sprouter’. He knew the power of self-awareness and the crippling effect of self-consciousness. He empowered us to open the doors to the self as God created us to be.

What was his gift, what happened in these conversations? I have come to think it was his

own consolation, his faith and his freedom of mind and heart that we were in the presence of. He was not frightened by conflict or difference. He enabled by his own example that inner alignment to our own god and a fearlessness about what that might mean.

Vale Michael Mullins sm 25 November, 1940 – 10 July, 2023

With thanks to Caroline Coggins, a Giver of the Spiritual Exercises and an Ignatian Spiritual Director from the north coast of New South Wales, for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series.