Blessed Egidius of Assisi observes: “We bear our trials so badly because we do not know how to seek spiritual consolation. He who works faithfully in himself, above himself, and for himself, is able to bear everything joyfully.” Thus, he exclaims: “Blessed are they who have always before their eyes their own sins and the benefits of God, and who bear with patience every sorrow and affliction; they will draw therefrom much consolation.”
Bl. Egidius sees a spiritual danger in seeking spiritual consolations: “If you wish to save your soul,” he says, “direct all your efforts and your care to separate yourself from all the consolation and honour you can receive from creatures.” And again: “If you desire salvation, seek not for consolation from any creature on earth. Falls arising from these consolations are more serious and more frequent than those which happen through afflictions.”
St. Francis of Assisi has this to say of a soul that approaches the summit of spiritual perfection in this life: “The soul that has been purified by God ardently desires to be led by the path of suffering, looking upon all other ways and consolations as earthly food which perishes, but on this as the only medicine of salvation, whose taste is bitter, but whose fruit is most sweet.”
Tribulations, which we naturally fear, are the opposite of consolations, which we naturally desire. But, St. Bernardine of Siena makes this astounding and insightful assertion: “Tribulation is the guardian of the heart. It puts man out of the way of many a fall, it urges him to fight for truth, to flee from dangerous occasions, to ask the divine assistance.”
Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).