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How can I be centered on God while I live in an obsessed society?

I don't think I've ever agonized over anything in my life as I have over writing this piece. I chose to do it because by not sharing the story of my nascent journey toward acceptance, both by myself and others, I deprive myself and those who struggle to understand an opportunity for growth.

At 31, I had achieved all the goals I had set for myself: professional success, financial stability, a few good friends, an adult relationship with my parents and a girlfriend who was beautiful, intelligent and kind and who adored me. I had it all, so why wasn't I at peace? I knew the answer, but could I admit I was gay?

It has been only in the last two years that I have come to accept my homosexuality and to understand that my sexual orientation is a gift from God.

This conscious coming-to-terms with my "true" self has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with God, my Catholic tradition and popular Christian thinking. I have always believed that God is unconditional love. That hasn't changed; what has changed is my relationship with God.

The old relationship was like one a child has with a "security blanket." Just knowing that a loving power bigger than I existed was good enough. It required little personal investment and yielded a sense of control over life. God is no longer a security blanket. God is more like a strong mentor now, engendering more questions than answers: "How do I respond to the call to do justice and show mercy?"; "AIDS, why?"; "If you can accept my wholeness, why can't my church?"; and "How do I stay God-centered in a society obsessed with power and wealth and bent on separating and categorizing people?"

My new relationship with God, while liberating, is not always comfortable and definitely not easy. Searching for answers to questions like those leaves me with a deeper and more profound spirituality.

I am one of six children from a very traditional Catholic family. Short of death, we went to Mass every Sunday and holy day. I didn't necessarily always enjoy church, but it fulfilled a need in me.

In college I was the "good Catholic," attending Mass weekly and active in Catholic campus ministry -- I was, in fact, the student campus minister.

When most of my friends and siblings left the church for their "pre-kids" sabbatical, I stayed. I'm now active (lector, RCIA sponsor, HIV/AIDS ministry) in a parish that challenges me as a Christian and spiritual person and matches my political and social justice leanings. The parish is as diverse as the large metropolitan area in which I live. Most of all, I struggle with where I, as a gay man, fit in with this Catholic church.

I considered leaving but couldn't abandon the faith tradition and the rituals and pageantry that, over the years, have become the cornerstone of my spiritual identity. I remember finally saying to myself, "This is my church, damn it, and no one is going to take it away from me!" Besides, where would I go? I'll stay and work from the inside to effect change. While the church can label a relationship immoral based on sexual activity, I believe a relationship is immoral only when it is not based on love, respect, human dignity and mutuality. Pastorally, the church will help me separate my soul from my body. No thank you. My soul is not superior to my body, nor can it be separated from it. If I am to achieve wholeness and be fully alive, living a chaste and celibate life is not an option for me.

Wholeness is holiness. To be whole and live a spiritually healthy life I have to identify which is "truth" for me. That means I have to consciously come to terms with the fact that there always will be conflicting forces within my life.

Through prayer, liturgy, (especially the Eucharist) and community, I receive the grace and fortitude to work through the conflicts. I expect this will be a life-long process of conversion -- little resurrections. I don't measure my spiritual journey against others'. It's not a cookie-cutter process; each is unique to his or her situation. What I do have to find in common with those who also seek the truth is a love of God and a love of neighbor.

I very much want to sign my name to this essay, but I can't. I am not yet "out" to my family and it would be unfair and hurtful to them to discover this about me in the pages of NCR.

Keeping this from them is a source of pain and guilt, but I cannot come out to them until I resolve a few more issues for myself. I'll never have all the answers, but I soon expect to be at a place where I'm prepared to help them through the process of dealing with what it means to have a gay son and brother.

Until then, I stay closeted.

I acknowledge that if we are to achieve the goal of full communion and respect for all God's family, a human face must be given to this issue -- just as the Names Project, the AIDS quilt, has given a human face to AIDS. I know we gays and lesbians need to risk showing who we are, but the church needs to risk looking past the sexual stereotypes to see God in all of us.

See you in church on Sunday.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: Gay Men and Lesbians Describe Spiritual Journeys
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 2, 1994
Words:917
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