henri nouwen: giving and receiving consolation

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means “to be” (con-) “with the lonely one” (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care. Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the mother who lost her child, the young person with AIDS, the family whose house burned down, the soldier who was wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive.

To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, “You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don’t be afraid. I am here.” That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.

daily reflection: getting the “spiritual angle”

How often do we sit in AA meetings and hear the speaker declare, “But I haven’t yet got the spiritual angle.” Prior to this statement, he had described a miracle of transformation which had occurred in him—not only his release from alcohol but a complete change in his whole attitude toward life and the living of it. It is apparent to nearly everyone else present that he has received a great gift; “. . . except that he doesn’t seem to know it yet!” We well know that this questioning individual will tell us six months or a year hence that he has found faith in God.

— THE LANGUAGE OF THE HEART, p. 275

A spiritual experience can be the realization that a life which once seemed empty and devoid of meaning is now joyous and full. In my life today, daily prayer and meditation, coupled with living the Twelve Steps, has brought about an inner peace and feeling of belonging which was missing when I was drinking.