Certain things in life seem common to all men. The physical things are the most obvious: we all need to eat and to sleep, and we all need shelter. But on perhaps even more important levels of psychology, emotion, and spirituality, we need peace, love, truth, and consolation. On one of the most basic levels of humanity, we need someone to put his or her hand on our shoulder and comfort us.
Wrong Places, Wrong Answers
Sadly, modern men, in their quest for consolation, often look in the wrong places for answers. Modern men seem to face a vicious circle. Many of them arrive at work at 9 A.M., desperately seeking to be consoled by money, fame, and prestige, only to find themselves unfulfilled or unsatisfied by these fleeting things a mere eight hours later. So they leave work and attempt to seek reliefs that range from slight imperfections (such as excessive entertainment) to serious sins (such as viewing pornography or drinking heavily). In the morning, they repeat the process. The things that they believed would comfort them the most become their greatest pains.
Years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas differentiated between true good and apparent good, instructing the faithful that apparent goods are those things that falsely seem good to us at the time, but are not true goods. Sin falls into the category of apparent good, while charity is categorized as a true good. In the same vein, as the lives of so many have demonstrated, it seems that there is true consolation and apparent consolation as well.
However we seek consolation, whether it be true or apparent, it is inescapable that the places, things, and persons in which—and in whom—we find consolation go to the heart of who we are. It follows that we need to look to God for consolation because a search apart from God is a conceited and hopeless pursuit. The saints recognized this.
As St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Reading this passage in the context of St. Augustine’s life makes one wonder if the English word “restless” conveys the full import of what he intended to convey. His feeling might be more accurately expressed as, “Our hearts and wills are disconsolate until they find consolation in Thee.”
Consolation in the Gifts
Perhaps in answer to St. Augustine’s observation, when I leave work everyday, I stop in the chapel and say a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Dear Holy Spirit, please come upon me. Please grant me the grace of Your consolation, and the consolation of Your grace.” It’s a simple prayer, and the recognition of a once-very-restless man that there is no consolation apart from God. It’s also a reminder of something else.
It follows that we can find consolation in the gifts God has given us, and in our families to whom He has entrusted us.
For fathers, we must find consolation in our children, and it is clear that God ordained it so. God could have chosen a multitude of ways to create the human person, but He chose an act that ideally is borne of true love, granting a singular privilege of fatherhood and motherhood to one man and one woman. God allowed us to share in the creative process. He allowed us to share in fatherhood. He wanted us men to experience the love, the joy, the pride, and the compassion of fatherhood. He wanted us to console, and be consoled by our children.
Children are evidence of the consolation of God.
Despite the fact that they sneak into my room and wet my bed, they spill Trix cereal on the floor, and they embarrassingly imitate and quote the Three Stooges publicly, my children are one of the great consolations of my life. And the fact that I’ve been able to spend more time with them in the homeschooling process adds to my solace. As your children get older, you begin to appreciate this fact a little more than when they are young.
As my oldest son nears his twentieth birthday and my oldest daughter becomes a legal adult in a matter of weeks, it’s time for me to look back on the consoling moments of my life. Though I know that over the years, it’s been my hand on the back of little shoulders saying that “It’s going to be OK,” I have a feeling that those once-tiny hands are soon going to be on the back of my shoulder, consoling me as a continuous reminder of how much God loves us all.
Header Image CC Sergiu Bacioiu