“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” (Helen Keller).

“Feelings are God’s means of knocking on the door and asking for a conversation.”


1. To highlight that feelings are normal, and morally neutral, and that our response to them is within our control.

2. To encourage reflection on feelings as essential for reflective living and for human and spiritual development.

3. To encourage participants to give feelings due attention and to be grateful for them.

Our Intentions: Participants will . . .

  • Reflect on one strong feeling experienced in the past week: how they felt about it, what may have triggered it, and how they responded to it – in their gut, mind and reality.

  • Become increasingly aware that our response to our feelings is under our control.

  • Identify when feelings have been helpful and/or unhelpful.

  • Become aware of the danger of suppressed feelings.

  • Begin to identify with Jesus regarding feelings.

  • Recognise the moral neutrality of feelings.

  • Reflect on and learn from feelings experienced in prayer and in life in general.


Welcome and Stilling

Reflection Groups (Imaginative Contemplation)


  • Naming our feelings

  • Jesus and Feelings
    Groups and plenary with question:

What does the fact that Jesus and we share the same feelings say about Jesus and about ourselves?

  • Some Thoughts on Feelings


Individual Prayer (Luke 10: 38 -42) Martha and Mary

  • Individual Prayer

  • Plenary

Closure: Led review . . . Home-time . . . Closing ‘moment’

Name one or two Gospel scenes which show Jesus experiencing ordinary feelings/emotions.

Name the emotions.

List them.

Think back over the past week or so and try to identify one strong feeling that you experienced. Using your journal,

  • Name the feeling.

  • What do you think lay beneath it?

  • How did you respond to the feeling? Did it lead to action? If so, what?

  • What were the consequences of your response on yourself and/or on others?

  • How would you evaluate those consequences?

  • Looking back, how would you evaluate your action?

Anxious Ecstatic Innocent Regretful
Apologetic Enraged Interested Relieved
Arrogant Envious Jealous Sad
Bashful Exasperated Judgemental Satisfied
Blissful Exhausted
Bored Frightened Love-struck Shocked
Cautious Frustrated Meditative Smug
Cold Grief stricken Mischievous Surly
Confident Guilty Miserable Surprised
Curious Happy Negative Suspicious
Determined Horrified Obstinate Sympathetic
Disappointed Hot Optimistic Thoughtful
Disapproving Hurt Pained Undecided
Disbelieving Hysterical Paranoid Withdrawn
Disgusted Idiotic Perplexed
  1. The words feelings, emotions, moods, temperament are loosely used. Each is (more or less) a more prolonged state of the one before.

  2. Feelings can be directly physical (hunger, pain); emotional (feeling hurt, unwanted, lonely).

  3. Feelings and emotions are always with us, even though we don’t give much thought to many of them. They are accompanied by physical changes : when strong – heartbeat, flushing, butterflies in stomach etc.

  4. Feelings provide us with immediate information about our world, the environment we’re in, what is happening. They are an immediate evaluation of a situation, not subject to thought. So they are crucial regulators of our actions.

  5. Feelings are not the whole answer and need to be modified, controlled, assisted or opposed by thought, by further information, by other factors, by conscience, by faith etc.

  6. The importance of feelings in the spiritual life is paramount. They often regulate motivation, for example.

  7. Being aware of our feelings is important and suppressing them can be harmful. Such awareness helps in our psychological and spiritual balance. ‘Rationalisation’ is often the result of a lack of this awareness of our feelings.

  8. Expression of feeling is part of prayer, especially in Lectio Divina and imaginative contemplation. Feelings can be expressed to God and such expression is part of our honesty before God. The Psalms are good examples of this.

  9. Reliving of previous feelings and emotions can be an aid to the healing of memories.

  10. Discernment is based largely on the awareness of feelings and emotions, since it is the sorting out of feeling and motivations in order to free ourselves of shackles which prevent good decisions and deeper commitment. Thus we gain self-knowledge in order to move to self awareness, and then, with God’s grace, to a deeper relationship with God.

Fintan Creaven, SJ

If we take the humanity of Jesus seriously, as we must if we believe in the incarnation, then we also take seriously that Jesus had human feelings like us. He was not emotionless, and the Gospels bear witness to this fact.


  • Mt 4:2 – Jesus feels hungry in the desert

  • Mt 9:36 – Jesus felt sorry for the crowds

  • Mt 14:14 – Jesus took pity on the crowds


  • Lk 7:13 – Jesus feels sorry for the widow of Nain

  • Lk 7:9 – Jesus is astonished at the centurion’s faith

  • Lk 14:34 – Jesus longs to gather the children of Jerusalem

  • Lk 19:41 – Jesus sheds tears over Jerusalem

  • Lk 22:15 – Jesus says that he longed to eat the Passover

  • Lk 22:44 – The anguish of Jesus in Gethsemane


  • Jn 2:13 – Cleansing of the Temple – anger

  • Jn 4:6 – Jesus is tired and sits down by a well

  • Jn 4:7 – Jesus is thirsty

  • Jn 11:5 – Jesus loved Martha and Mary

  • Jn 11:33 – Jesus is greatly distressed at Mary’s tears

  • Jn 11:36 – Jews acknowledge Jesus’ love for Lazarus

  • Jn 12:27 – Jesus’ soul is troubled

  • Jn 13:1 – Jesus loves his friends to the end

  • Jn 13:17 – Jesus loves his disciples


  • Being misunderstood by

Family Lk 2:41-52; Mk 3: 13-35

Friends Mk 8: 13-39; Lk 22: 14-38

Outsiders Lk 4: 14-30; Mt 13: 53-58; Mk 3: 1-6

  • Being deserted Jn 6: 63-66; Mt 26: 55, 56

  • Death of friend Mt 14: 1-14; Jn 11: 1-44

  • Rejected love Lk 14: 1-6, 16-24; Mt 23: 37-39

  • Watching pain Mt 14: 1-14; Jn 9: 30-41

  • Disbelief Mk 5: 35-43; Lk 22: 54-62

  • Lack of support Lk 22: 39-46; Mt 9: 36, 37

  • Betrayal Lk 22: 47, 48; Lk 23: 13-25

  • Terminal Illness Mt 16: 21-23; Mt 26: 6-13

  • The inevitable Mt 26: 52-54; Mk 14: 32-42

  • Insults Mt 27: 39-44

  • Being demeaned Mt 26: 27-31

A few points to note:

  • The feelings above are both physical and emotional.

  • In themselves they are neutral, though they can lead to action.

  • Most are directly attributed to Jesus, while a few are indirectly attributed to him.

  • Some are caused by his observation of the sufferings of others, and they lead to engagement with these people.

  • Some arise from his understanding of his mission/ministry, and these also lead to action.

  • A few are evoked by people’s response/non-response to him.

  • A few are evoked by the prospect of imminent suffering.

Pause for Thought:

  • What happens when two people meet and discover that they share experiences of human suffering?

  • Can you identify anyone whose similar experience to your own has led to mutual understanding and some kind of bond?

Name one or two Gospel scenes which show Jesus experiencing ordinary feelings/emotions. Name the emotions. List them.

Being sensitive to the feelings of Jesus and to our own feelings from life’s experiences – being aware of our common experiences – can be instrumental in developing an intimate relationship with Jesus, a sense of common identity.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet without sin.” (Heb 4:14, 15)

Perhaps there’s something of that behind Paul’s expressed desire:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death”. (Philippians 3:10)

As soon as you wake they come blundering in

Like puppies or importunate children;

What was a landscape emerging from mist

Becomes at once a disordered garden.

And the mess they trail with them! Embarrassments,

Anger, lust, fear – in fact, the whole pig-pen;

And who’ll clean it up? No hope for sleep now –

Just heave yourself out, make the tea and give in.

Now as they went on their way , he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home .

She had a sister named Mary , who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

But Martha was distracted by her many tasks ; so she came to him and asked

“Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself ? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her,

“ Martha , Martha you are worried and distracted by many things : there is need of only one thing . Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her “

Luke 17:11-19 – Ten Men Healed

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 When he saw them, he told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were cleansed.

15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.

17 Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”

Pray this passage, using journal contemplation, conscious of the feelings and of what lay beneath them.

1. Complete any unfinished parts from the session, and then read the above and ponder where you feel drawn.

2. Try to find time to pray the story of the 10 lepers, using imaginative contemplation and your journal.

3. Read the Article, Feelings and the Spiritual Life by J Laurent
LINK: Article – J Laurent Feelings and the Spiritual Life

4. Spend a few moments at the end of some days with the following:

  • What feelings did I experience in the course of the day?

  • With reference to one that stands out : consider what evoked the feeling, what lay beneath it, how you responded to it and the consequence of your response for yourself and others.