We sat across from each other at the coffee house. He raised his head. He looked into my eyes and began to speak from memory, “My mission is to love when others have failed to love and notice when others have failed to notice. I will love with the tenderness and compassion of God.” As he spoke, tears fell. My friend had discovered his purpose, the meaning that would animate and bring wholeness to his life.
My friend was severely neglected as a child. His father was in jail. His mother suffered from bipolar disorder. He grew up in a household of poverty and addiction. He was bullied in school. He suffered from a rare genetic disorder called, Trimethylaminuria (TMAU), which causes a person’s sweat, urine, and breath to give off a strong almost unbearable fishy/body odor. He was now homeless, couch surfing with his sister.
At the urging of his cousin, he came to the young adult group I facilitated. We were studying an 8-week series called, “Healing the Purpose of Your Life.” based on a book by Dennis, Sheila, and Mathew Linn of the same name. The book used Ignatius’ spiritual exercises. It was through this experience that my friend found healing and purpose.
The Spiritual Exercises grew out of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s experience of feeling lost and finding his way. Ignatius had been a soldier who lived a wild life. He often daydreamed about the gallant deeds he would perform and the worldly glory he would obtain. Then on the battlefield of Pamplona, a cannonball shattered his leg. During his recovery, Ignatius read a life of Christ and a book of the lives of the saints. As Ignatius meditated on what he read, he experienced consolation and he remained “cheerful and satisfied.” As he meditated on the dreams of worldly glory that he previously enchanted him, he experienced desolation and felt “weary, dry, and dissatisfied.” As he pondered these two different movements of consolation and desolation, he discovered his personal vocation.
Discerning Your Vocation:
While discerning your personal vocation to love God and neighbor, it is important that you become aware of these two movements of consolation and desolation within your life. You will need to put on and practice the “habits” of the friars in order to discover if it brings you consolation or desolation. These two movements will help reveal your personal vocation.
As you reflect on your experiences with the friars and those they serve you will ask yourself, “Did I experience desolation? Did I feel weary, dry, and dissatisfied? Did I feel consolation? Did I feel cheerful and satisfied? Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful spirit?” These two movements can help you discern your vocation, but only if you try on the “habits” of friar life.
Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
Download the Article: Consolation and Desolation
What are you most grateful for today? What are you least grateful for today? If you were to ask yourself these questions every day, what pattern would you see? How could these questions help reveal the movement of consolation and desolation within your personal discernment?