God of all consolation,
You Who see nothing in us
but what You have given us,
I invoke Your help:
after this life has run its course,
knowledge of You, the first Truth,
and enjoyment of Your divine majesty.
In his prayer for the attainment of heaven, St. Thomas Aquinas requests that God console him at the end of his earthly life. He asks that he receive fulfillment and rest in final knowledge of the truth and majesty of the Consoler. Most good Catholics hope and pray for heavenly consolation after death. The modern world, however, presents a challenge to Catholics in active pursuit of eternal consolation. Aquinas’ simple prayer recognizes the proper attitude of the human person to the achievement of happiness. Aquinas teaches us to recognize God’s gifts to us, to search for His Truth, and to participate in the beauty of His creation. The simple beginning of Aquinas’ prayer, quoted above, is a foundation for the way in which Catholics should approach virtue, knowledge, and goods.
As a God of all consolation, the Lord sees each human person through the eyes of infinite love. He bestows gifts and graces upon His children, and He sees these goods when He looks upon us. Aquinas recognizes the difference between God’s expectations and the world’s demands. If we listen to the world, we will find that our good qualities are never enough to satisfy the demands of popularity and wealth. Aquinas teaches through this prayer that the world lies when it speaks of these material deficiencies. What a flood of consolation comes over the insecure individual when she realizes that God sees goodness in her, for He has only given her goodness. She must follow this realization with action, most of all with action out of gratitude for the gifts God has bestowed upon her.
In this context, Aquinas teaches us to invoke the help of this God of all consolation. With God’s help, we can grow in His gifts and become ever more like Him. We should gratefully come to know that everything good in us is from God. This is another realization Christians should reach in order to live a life aimed at ultimate consolation. Everything good in us is from God; without Him we can do nothing good and be nothing good. If we accept this, the world can no longer convince us to change who we are, to forsake the goodness of God’s gifts for material gain. The knowledge that God directs our acquisition of virtue should remove pride and egoism, allowing us to experience God’s consolation incompletely in this life and fully in the next.
The expulsion of pride is helpful in the next step toward consolation: attaining knowledge of God, the first Truth. Again, perfect knowledge of God is impossible to obtain in this world, but Aquinas teaches us that we can slowly acquire knowledge of Him until the realization of ultimate Truth in heaven. Much of modern society neglects the fact that Truth rests in God, Who does not change. If we relinquish our pride in our own conclusions and opinions, we can strive to let go of our tendency to set ourselves up as gods, our tendency to think that our own ideas are divine. In this way, we can strive to accept the truth that only One holds infinite knowledge, above and beyond any knowledge we will discover during our earthly lives.
To embrace humility also helps to release the pressure the world places on us to make a name for ourselves, to pursue self-interest at all times. Yes, I must continually strive for humility and seek truth, but in doing so I should acknowledge that I am not Truth, that all people are instead reliant on one Truth beyond all material goods. We should be consoled that we need not create or locate our own truth, but that Truth is infinite and can be found in God, Who is ever present and ever instructive.
The realization of truth comes hand in hand with the realization of God’s divine majesty. His majesty itself consoles in this life and in the next. Though much of the earth’s population is not in this position, the average comforts experienced by Americans often bring us to take for granted the immense gifts of the created world. Aquinas’ prayer reminds us that the consolation of heaven is foreshadowed by the beauty and gifts of this earth. We should recognize God’s majesty in nature, in the created order, and even in human invention. God has given man the gift of the ability to produce beauty and to join Him in creation of beauty through pursuits like art and music. We should not take these good gifts for granted and should recall that God’s hand is behind every good thing in life. The only way in which we can generate beauty ourselves is through reliance on God to bring beauty out of our imperfect attempts to glorify Him in every pursuit.
The truth and majesty of God present all comfort and thus confirm our Lord’s position as the only God of consolation. God remains above any pursuit of material gain through possessions and self-interest, and Aquinas’ prayer points us to the truth that God is the only Consoler, Whose goodness is reflected in us and in all creation. If we cultivate and live this lesson from St. Thomas Aquinas, we can overcome the material focus of this world through a higher aim, that of all consolation.