James Martin, S.J.: Understanding desire

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the kinds of experiences that can happen in prayer, which is often a source of confusion for even devout Christians. Many people wonder: What happens when I close my eyes? Or, what is supposed to happen? Well, one of the most common experiences is the revelation of desires. And I don’t mean mere surface desires and wants like “I want a new laptop” or “I want a new car” or “I want a new apartment.” No, I mean deeper desires, the longings that draw you closer to God, and help you become the person God means for you to be.

For example, you might be praying about a Gospel passage and suddenly feel an urge to follow Jesus more closely. That is, while praying you may experience a powerful attraction to the person of Jesus. You want to know more about him, read more about him, and spend more time praying about him. Where do these desires come from? From God. Now, not every desire that arises in prayer is from God. You have to discern, too, to see what makes sense and what fits in terms of what you know about God. But something like a desire to follow Christ is clearly coming from God. St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits would agree. After all, he sometimes asked people to pray an unusual prayer: a prayer to understand their deepest desires.

Mike Theman
5 days 19 hours ago

"You have to discern, too, to see what makes sense and what fits in terms of what you know about God." Would it not also be helpful to see what the Church teaches about a given desire? Maybe talk to a priest? Sometimes, e.g., the desire to steal is very compelling in a capitalist society, and it's easy to rationalize such behavior on the basis of what seems fair or not.

We see in the sex abuse scandal what happens when even Priests rely on just themselves to make decisions about desire without adhering to Church teaching.

Phillip Stone
1 day 12 hours ago

They will sometimes come across presbyters who are not only unhelpful, but downright dangerous.

A woman at the end of her childbearing age has agonising fatigue diagnosed by her doctor as suffering severe anaemia due to multiple uterine fibroids and who recommends hysterectomy.
Forbidden to do so on the grounds that it is self-mutilation and will make marital intercourse barren.

A woman suffering battering and abuse including broken bones, lost teeth forbidden freedom by a violent, paranoid jealous alcoholic husband is told to stay with him as the marriage vows say, til death do us part.

Just two of the many examples I am personally acquainted with professionally. Asking a couple of older widows seen to be devout and prayerful at weekday Eucharist is a much better option to aid discernment.

Jim Spangler
3 days 8 hours ago

Amen, we are becoming aware of our Hierarchy and Priest having homosexual desires that seem to be playing out! Same sex attraction without moral denial! The Church has been infiltrated by sexual abuse and we need to focus on the desire to rid the hierarchy of its inability to be trusted, in all matters of Church management. How can homosexual attraction and actions within the Church be justified with scripture which says that it is a mortal sin. My desire is that I want my Church back. One that I can trust, one that I can feel safe for Children, students, and seminarians. I want the lecherous old Cardinals, Bishops, Archbishops and Priest to be trusted again. I want them to be clear, confess their sins, and be removed from the Church! How can I trust that my Tithe is not being used by frivolous parties, beach houses, houses of homosexual parties, etc. Desire has many connotations. We need to clean house, but keep our eyes on the Crucifix where Jesus is weeping tears of blood. Keep faith in the scripture, because man has truly destroyed the Church. If it means less Priests, Bishops, Cardinals or Pope, so be it. The power structure needs to become transparent, and Cannon Laws need to be changed involving the Laity to help oversee the power structure so that it becomes more sound. A cry comes forth from the wilderness, make way for the Lord!

Elaine Boyle
1 day 15 hours ago

I clearly and whole-heartedly suggest people READ THE GOSPEL of CHRIST. In this way, they will get to know Christ who is Our Lord. In reading the words of Christ directly, one can then discern how the FakeJesuits' version of Jesus is a mere caricature created to push their homosexual, sinful Leftist politics on the trusting and unsuspecting.

James Martin is afraid to use the name "Christ" or "God" when referring to God Incarnate, because his "jesus" is a cartoon hippie version of what's really in the Gospel.

I shouldn't even have typed this, as it will give the clever satan information about how to tailor his evil message even more cleverly and deceitfully. Begone Martin!

Phillip Stone
1 day 11 hours ago

Elaine, James Martin is born of a woman an ordinary human boy baby and he is living his life according to the sufferings, privations, lights and temptations to which he is exposed and is quite likely to be as sensitive and vulnerable as you are, or myself
" ... poor banished children of Eve ... mourning and weeping in this valley of tears ... "

I get the idea that he is trying to make absolutely certain that although he has libidinal desires for men as if for a woman, he does not satisfy them and wishes us to acknowledge that he and persons similarly afflicted and self-controlled must be seen and treated as fellow human beings, sinful creatures all.

Do you have sure and certain knowledge that he acts out his condition sinfully?
I myself would prefer that somewhere it is recorded that he is celibate and has been for some time, the current ambiguity does seem to me to be an occasion of scandal to anyone outside the faith but this ought to be sorted out by his Provincial or the Pope if he remains a public face of faithful Christianity.

Philip Pia
1 day 14 hours ago

Thank you, Father Martin, for that helpful spiritual reflection. God is a beautiful, fulfilling, and unfathomable mystery!

As an aside, I wonder why America editors allow continued publication of comments and ad hominem attacks by self-righteous, homophobic, hateful, and alienated internet trolls? A suggestion: forward all such comments directly to the Church Militant site; misery loves company.

Phillip Stone
1 day 11 hours ago

while publishing your comments because you are only self-righteous, hateful and alienated yourself?

Phillip Stone
1 day 11 hours ago

If you have been introducing and recommending the Spiritual Exercises in your series of talks then I can but offer my congratulations and support.

If not, then the end of you talk is misleading and as such seems disingenuous.

I have three presentations which make the ancient exercises contemporary

Thomas Green, SJ : "A Vacation with the Lord" or
https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8765/the-spiritual-exercises-and-t… or
David M Stanley, SJ : "A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises"
(This latter published first in 1967 is excellent, however the immense burgeoning of scriptural scholarship was yet to happen and I would recommend using the New Jerusalem Bible and/or the version recommended by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops online at

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