My parish priest – who is not a Jesuit, by the way -- this morning preached on St Ignatius of Loyola’s remarkable insight into the way the movements of the spirit produce feelings that are a sure guide to where God is calling people.
Consolation – the movement of God’s Spirit – produces warmth, satisfaction, joy. Desolation – the absence of that Spirit – produces dryness, frustration, irritation, and a feeling of emptiness. Visitors to this site know that, right?
But this morning was the first time I had ever heard this applied to sex.
"A couple having sex may find they do various things together that thrill each other, and that turn each other on,” said Fr Pat. “But the next morning they find they are more distant from each other, and have a feeling of emptiness and sadness.”
Rather than trying to do things which “turn each other on”, he said, couples may find that doing things that “turn them onto each other” produce the opposite feelings: the next morning they are more bonded, more loving, more united to each other.
Learning to listen to these feelings, he said, was a way of learning which way to go, and what to avoid.
Sex wasn’t the only example he gave: the way we drink and shop was also part of the same homily.
But it was his application of Ignatius’s spiritual discernment to the difference between good and bad lovemaking - sex that unites, sex that is self-gratification -- that held us enthralled. No pins dropped: we would have noticed. We all knew exactly what he meant.
Simply brilliant, the 80-year-old lady next to me whispered.
The next time anyone scornfully says celibate priests have no right to preach on such matters, I shall laugh.