Sunday, September 20, 2020

Pope Francis and the change in attitude toward LGBTQ persons and their families.

Pope Francis arrives in the St. Damaso courtyard 
on the occasion of his weekly general audience at the Vatican, 
Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP.)

Facing reality.

Some people were upset that the Holy Father met with a group of Italian parents of gay/LGBTQ children.  Pope Francis assured them, “God loves your children as they are” and “the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God.”

Why would anyone be upset with that?  Because the encounter triggered memories of another encounter, when Pope Francis spoke privately with Juan Carlos Cruz, assuring him he is accepted just as he is, that God made him that way...

Juan Carlos Cruz, the man who said that Pope Francis told him during a recent private meeting that God made him gay and that God loves him the way he is, says that his meeting with the pope is a model of how church leaders should welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics, even if he believes church teaching on homosexuality should change. “He said, ‘Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,’” - America, 05/22/2018

That statement contradicted a lifetime of twisting and squirming on my part - trying to explain how I couldn't be born gay, while attempting to conform to rules regarding language and friendship.  Go over my blog archives, and you can read for yourself.  So why would the Pope say this - rather than reciting CDF rules and CCC teaching on the unknown genesis of homosexual inclination, while pointing out how disordered and sinful homosexual acts are?  Because these parents, along with gay  men like Juan Carlos Cruz, as well as Diego Neria Lejarraga, the Spanish transsexual man and his wife, who were received in a private audience with the Pope - have been regarded as outcasts, dissenters, heretics and therefore rejected and condemned - unless they repent. In an interview, the Holy Father - who is against gender ideology and teaching it in schools, explained the encounter with Lejarraga and his wife:

Diego "got married, he changed his civil identity, got married and wrote me a letter saying that for him it would be a consolation to come with his wife, he who was she, but him! I received them: they were happy and in the neighborhood where he lived there was an elderly priest in his 80s, an elderly pastor who left the parish and helped the sisters in the parish. And there was the new (priest). When the new one he would yell from the sidewalk: 'you'll go to hell!' When he (CNA suggests this refers to the new priest but CNS and NCR suggest it refers to the woman) came across the old one, he would say: 'How long has it been since you confessed? Come, come, let's to so that I can confess you and you can receive communion.' Understood? 
Life is life and things must be taken as they come. Sin is sin. And tendencies or hormonal imbalances have many problems and we must be careful not to say that everything is the same." - Source

The Holy Father accepts people where they are at, in the moment, in the reality they live.  At the end of his interview, discussing the encounter with Diego and his wife, Pope Francis assures the interviewer:

"Life is life and things must be taken as they come. Sin is sin. And tendencies or hormonal imbalances have many problems and we must be careful not to say that everything is the same. Let's go party. No, that no, but in every case I accept it, I accompany it, I study it, I discern it and I integrate it. This is what Jesus would do today! Please don't say: 'the Pope sanctifies transgenders.' Please, eh! Because I see the covers of the papers. Is there any doubt as to what I said? I want to be clear! It's moral problem. It's a human problem and it must be resolved always can be with the mercy of God. - Source

“The Church must always be like God, always going out."

I'm so grateful to the Holy Father, for making the Church more accessible, especially to those who have been told over and over, they aren't welcome.  Those who have been told by Catholics, that although we love the sinner, we hate the sin, and you can't be Catholic if you identify as this or that.  

Just today, 20 September, the Holy Father continued to speak on going out, to invite, to welcome the outsider, like the landowner in Today's Gospel (who represents God) "who calls everyone and calls always.”

“This means being open to horizons that offer hope to those stationed on the existential peripheries,” the Pope said, people “who have not yet experienced, or who have lost, the strength and light that comes with meeting Christ.” 
He added, “The Church must always be like God, always going out. And when the Church is not going out, she gets sick.” Pope Francis said it is better for the Church to be “going out” announcing the Gospel, despite the dangers, than to grow sick by remaining closed in on herself. “God always goes out, because He’s a Father Who loves – and the Church always needs to do the same thing, always going out.” - Pope at Angelus

This is what the Pope does.  "This way of acting, said Pope Francis, “is more than just, in the sense that it goes beyond justice and is manifested in Grace.”  Adding, "Those who rely on their own merits “find themselves last,” the Pope explained, while “those who humbly entrust themselves to the Father’s mercy, from being last, find themselves first.”"

The Holy Father is not changing Catholic teaching - rather, I think he is making it more accessible and understandable rather than forbidding and intimidating.

“For gay people, we’ve always told ourselves that when the AIDS epidemic was over we’d be fine. Then it was, when we can get married we’ll be fine. Now it’s, when the bullying stops we’ll be fine. We keep waiting for the moment when we feel like we’re not different from other people. But the fact is, we are different. It’s about time we accept that and work with it.” - The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness


 LGBTQ persons are different. 

Having said all of that, this post is too long.  I intended the above only as a preface to another point, discussing an article I came across, The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness, by Michael Hobbs.  It was an eyeopener. to read  Although not surprising, I found it very helpful as it applies to this discussion on the subject of 'born that way', or 'God made you that way.'  Personally, I can accept born that way better. God created us - yet after the fall, though redeemed by Christ, sons by adoption through Baptism, there remain defects - leading to the question of nature or nurture?  That can be discerned perhaps - when we understand the reality of our 'fallen nature and fallen nurture.'

Immediately, many raise objections to the thought of born this way, citing all the Church documents and so many scholarly and clinical studies pointing to how that can't be.  There is no gay gene, and so on.  Contrast that with the experience and self awareness of most of the gay people I have ever met.  I'm not here to solve that problem, I just want to point out that human beings are born with all sorts of conditions, physical and mental - so it isn't that far out to assume someone could be gay since birth - or at least have the disposition or temperament to develop same sex attraction.  So many people I've known said they can't remember a time when they didn't feel gay - albeit at such an early age they didn't know there was a term for it.  Admitting that doesn't mean one is seeking to change Catholic teaching or sanction/sanctify homosexual acts.

On the other hand, many people believe conversion therapy is the answer, to change an unwanted sexual attraction.   That may work for some who choose that route, if they are willing to put in the hard work, the psychological testing and so on.  Yet conversion therapy is pretty much there to tell the subject they  were not born this way.  Reparative therapy is there to convince people they can be straight, normal - heal that 'father wound' and all that good stuff.  Maybe for some?  Not for me.  (I have no problem with Catholic teaching - it works for me.)

"My grace is sufficient for you." 

That is what Christ told St. Paul.  He also told him, “Take courage."  I am convinced the Church and the sacraments are sufficient to heal, sanctify and save all who approach in humility and faith.  The monastic notion of repentance and conversion of manners is a great remedy.  Rather than relegating gay people to therapy to change their sexuality, or insisting they join this group or that group, to use this term or that term of identification, I think the sort of acceptance and love the Holy Father is talking about is more 'holistic' and healing, opening the door to Christ.  

I still would like to discuss 'The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness', especially since, despite all the gains and acceptance LGBTQ persons have experienced, many continue to feel that sense of being an 'outsider'.  Which suggests to me, that gay people may be born with 'something' which makes us feel so different.  Maybe I can discuss that in my writing - because writing helps me think.

“The defining feature of gay men used to be the loneliness of the closet. But now you’ve got millions of gay men who have come out of the closet and they still feel the same isolation.” - The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness


Sunday, September 13, 2020

On This Day In 1917


“From the pale but cloudless sky there came a shower of white petals, 
resembling snowflakes, but melting before they touched the ground, 
or the bodies of the astounded people.” - Marvels

"The hue of the atmosphere surrounding the place of the apparitions changed to a yellowish gold."

The description of the day at Fatima in 1917, made me think of how the skies on the West Coast are glowing because of the fires, so widespread at this time.  No, I'm not connecting the fires to the Fatima apparitions, or the message of Fatima.  Many photos and videos simply remind me of supernatural events.  For instance, the fire tornadoes remind me of the Book of Exodus and the pillar of fire.  Our minds are 'programmed' to see 'signs' which remind us of biblical phenomena.  I'm not sure if there is another name for it, but it is similar to pareidolia.

Pareidolia is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. - Google

 September 13, 1917

One month before the great miracle, Our Lady of the Rosary seemed to grant 'signal graces' to those who were at the Cova that day.
“The sun suddenly lost its splendor. The hue of the surrounding atmosphere changed to a yellowish gold. Then a delightful cry went up from the multitude: ‘She comes! Look! There!! There! How beautiful!’” 
“A small luminous global cloud was recognized immediately as the footstool of the invisible Lady. It moved in from the East toward the West slowly and majestically. Slowly it descended to rest, hovering above the holm oak, the tree of wonders.” 
Something similar happened on August 13 when the children were whisked off to jail while up to 18,000 people waited in the Cova for them. Learning the children were imprisoned, the crowd grew angry but were quickly calmed by heaven. Many described hearing what they thought was an explosion or thunder coming from the cloudless blue sky, and after it, a flash of brilliant light. Then the “sun paled,” the atmosphere turned “a yellowish gold, and a small cloud, most beautiful in its ethereal form, came and hovered over the forlorn looking holm oak…’Look! Look! It is a sign from Our Lady’” the August crowd shouted. Now they again saw the phenomenon. 
On September 13, present again, “The kneeling, ecstatic figures of the children were transfigured in a light that seemed to change the spot into a Holy of Holies, filled with the majesty of God.” 
Of course, only the three children saw Our Lady. - Joseph Pronechen

The September message:
Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolors [Sorrows] and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.” - OL of Fatima.  Read more here.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Reminiscences ...


Prince Friedrich Alfred of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen
Dom Marianus Marck, O. Cart.

Fr. Marianus Marck.

I first met Fr. Marinus when I stayed at the Charterhouse in Vermont for a month in the Spring of 1976.  I was there as an observer, hoping to enter.  I've mentioned before that the Prior Raphael Diamond explained to me that a certain tendency in my temperament would be unsuitable for the solitary life.  I was kindly told I couldn't enter.  Afterwards, I continued my pilgrimage and went to Rome, like my patron, St. Benedict Joseph Labre.  I wasn't exactly suited to the life of a mendicant either.

Those who read me know I had a relapse into an old way of life, and left Boston, thinking I would be safe from temptation back in Minneapolis.  Then I met my friend Darold.  Many know the story now, how I couldn't live in a sexual friendship and still receive the sacraments.  My friend Darold said he would rather live celibately - separate beds, no sex, etc., than live alone.  

I prayed to St. Joseph for a remedy, and things worked out.  That is not to say things were easy, and I kept thinking I could still leave and enter a monastery and Darold would be free.  The sadness my restlessness must have caused Darold had to have been painful, if not annoying, yet he never said very much.  He allowed me space - what he put up with though - the only thing he would tell me is not to lay my guilt on him, as well as pointing out there was nothing wrong with our friendship.  (He really helped me.)  

I mention this because I believed the Carthusians would accept me after I had 'successfully' lived two years, chaste and celibate, albeit with Darold.  (I was so clueless - after all, it was Darold's support and stability which allowed me to grow up, to live chastely and celibately, and return to the prayer and the sacraments.  Together we were able to help others.)  That said, I came upon the final rejection letter today while going through papers, which I'll post here, along with the Facebook piece I did in remembrance of Fr. Marianus.  (I was surprised to learn, only a week or so ago, that he had died, and even more surprised to find out he was a German Prince.)

Back to Fr. Marianus.

As I mentioned, my stay was in the mid-1970's. A few weeks ago I scheduled a set of Gregorian Masses to be celebrated by the Carthusians for Darold. Not long after that I received a box of booklets from the Prior. One contained the biography of Dom Raphael Diamond (RIP) who was Prior when I was there. Included in the book is a photo of Dom Marianus, the German priest who was Novice Master when I spent my month there. I was fortunate to be with him daily and receive spiritual direction from him. I also worked in his garden with him. The box of booklets was unexpected, since I had sent Mass requests with a donation, not expecting anything in return.
Anyway, I was surprised to find out that Dom Marianus Marck (RIP), before entering was Prince Friedrich Alfred of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, a high born aristocrat, who happened to be on the list of possible candidates to wed the British Princess Elizabeth - now reigning as queen. The only condition being he would have to become Protestant. He he refused, and entered the Carthusians. Isn't that amazing? His sister Regina Helene Elizabeth Margarete Prinzessin von Sachsen-Meiningen, was married to Otto von Habsburg, the son of Blessed Charles, the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor.

Friedrich Alfred von Sachsen-Meiningen (Erbprinz von Sachsen-Meiningen), Prinz
Also Known As: "Alfredo"
Birthdate: April 05, 1921
Birthplace: Jena, Thuringia, Germany
Death: September 18, 1997 (76)
Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, Mt. Equinox, Vermont, United States
Immediate Family:
Son of Georg III Af von Sachsen-Meiningen, Herzog and Klara-Marie Agnes Johanna Huberta Gabriele Josepha Elisabeth von Korff genannt Schmising-Kerssenbrock, Herzogin zu Sachsen-Meiningen
Brother of Anton-Ulrich von Sachsen-Meiningen, Prinz; Maria Gabriele von Sachsen-Meiningen, Prinzessin and Prinzessin Regina von Sachsen-Meiningen, Crown Princess of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated: May 23, 2018

Fr. Marianus, pray for us.


From time to time, around the feast of St. Bruno, I lament that I was not able to enter the Carthusians.  I would even try to blame 'them' for not admitting me.  I would try to fault them.  Over time, and more recently, I discerned that my criticism of monastics and monastic observance, as well as new groups attempting to establish a religious life, was the result of envy.  I was envious of those who were able to live a religious life.  A section from a letter of St. Bruno always caused me sorrow, little did I know - as I applied it to myself - that it fed the envy and resentment I tried to suppress.  I was in denial and went to extremes to justify the critical spirit I harbored when assessing the religious life of monastics.  I genuinely think Fr. Marianus' prayers have finally freed me from that vice - at least I hope so.

"Many wish to come into this port, and many make great efforts to do so, yet do not achieve it. Indeed many, after reaching it, have been thrust out, since it was not granted to them from above.

Therefore, my brothers, you should consider it certain and well established that whoever partakes of this desirable good, should he in any way lose it, will grieve to his death, if he has any concern for the salvation of his soul." -Letters of St. Bruno. Office of Readings.

Feast of the Holy Name of Mary and The Battle of Vienna


For those unfamiliar with Roman Catholic tradition and devotion...

A feast originally celebrated on the first Sunday after the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorating the triumph of the Holy Rosary over militant Islam.
Permission to celebrate the feast was given to various religious orders in a prudent manner as has been the custom throughout Church history regarding feast-days, their dates, offices, liturgical expression, etc. However, this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary would one day be joyfully extended to the Universal Church, and this on account of rather dramatic circumstances involving one of Poland's great military heroes, John Sobieski [1629-1696].
While acting as field-marshal under King John Casimir, Sobieski had raised a force of 8,000 men and enough provisions to withstand a siege of Cossacks and Tartars, who were forced to retire unsuccessfully and at a loss. In 1672, under the reign of Michael Wisniowiecki, Sobieski engaged and defeated the Turkish army, who lost 20,000 men at Chocim.
'When King Michael died, Sobieski, a beloved hero at that point, was crowned King of Poland. But, even before his coronation could take place, he would again engage and drive back the Turkish hordes in separate battles including the raising of the siege at Trembowla. Once crowned, he advanced to the Ruthenian provinces, where, having too few soldiers to attack the Turks, who outnumbered his men ten to one, he literally wore out the enemy, garrisoning his troops at Zurawno. Because of this heroic effort, he was able to regain, by treaty, a good portion of the Ukraine.
With both Turks and Poles weary from battle, peace reigned for a time . . . until the Turks set their sights on Austria, setting out through Hungary with an army of approximately 300,000 men. Fleeing from Austria, Emperor Leopold asked for Sobieski's assistance, a plea which was seconded by the Papal Nuncio. In July 1683, the Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha had reached Vienna and laid siege to the city, which was being defended by only 15,000 men. Sobieski set out for Vienna in August, his forces marching behind the banner of the Blessed Virgin. Passing by the Sanctuary of Mary in Czestochowa, they implored Our Lady's help and blessing. Writing centuries later to the bishops of Poland, Pope Pius XII recalled the supplications of Sobieski to Mary at the Sanctuary on Jasna Gora [i.e., "Bright Hill"], the site of the Shrine.
Battle was engaged before the walls of Vienna on September 12, 1683, with Sobieski seemingly put to flight by "the fierce Turkish forces. However, this retreat was a minor setback only. The Hussars renewed their assault and charged the Turks, this time sending the enemy into a retreat. The combat raged on, until Sobieski finally stormed the enemy camp. The Turkish forces were routed, Vienna was saved, and Sobieski sent the "Standard of the Prophet" to Pope Innocent XI along with the good news. In a letter to the Pontiff, Sobieski summed up his victory in these words: Veni, vidi, Deus vicit -----"I came, I saw, God conquered!" To commemorate this glorious victory, and render thanksgiving to God and honor to Our Lady for their solicitude in the struggle, Pope Innocent XI extended "The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary" to the Universal Church. Although the feast was originally celebrated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary, Pope St. Pius X [+1914] decreed that it be celebrated on September 12, in honor of the victory of the Catholic forces under John Sobieski.

The history of this feast reminds us in some ways of that of "Our Lady of the Rosary," which was instituted to celebrate and commemorate the victory of the Catholic forces over the Turkish navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571: "And thus Christ's faithful warriors, prepared to sacrifice their life and blood for the welfare of their Faith and their country, proceeded undauntedly to meet their foe near the Gulf of Corinth; while those who were unable to join them formed a band of pious supplicants, who called on Mary and, as one, saluted Her again and again in the words of the Rosary, imploring Her to grant victory to their companions engaged in battle. Our sovereign Lady did grant Her aid." [Pope Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus, 1883] - Source
Interestingly, Blessed Pope John Paul II restored the feast of the Holy Name of Mary one year after the events of 9/11 in 2002.  
Pray the Rosary every day ... Our Lady of Fatima

Monday, September 07, 2020

Our Lady's Eve


Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

You, O little Mary, Maria Bambina, are the Cause of our Joy! Your appearance in the arms of your mother announces that the Word of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, will soon appear in your arms. And you have but one desire, one joy: to give us your Son, to draw us to Him, that your joy might be ours and that our joy might be fulfilled. Amen

I am all thine, and all that I have is thine, O most loving Jesus,
through Mary Thy most holy and Immaculate Mother.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Commemoration of St. Michael Archangel and the Miracle at Chonae


In Phrygia, not far from the city of Hieropolis, 
in a place called Cheretopos, 
there was a church named for the Archangel Michael, 
built over a miraculous spring.

September 6: Archangel Michael's miracle at Chonae.

This is an Orthodox Commemoration - I have not seen it in the Roman Martyrology, which lists two feast day for St. Michael: 8 May, the apparition on Monte Gargano, and 29 September, dedication of the Church on Mt. Gargano.
I love the apparition at Colossae (Paul's letter to the Colossians helps locate the area. As does the Book of Revelation.) The miracle itself parallels - for me - an eschatological episode from Revelation, specifically Chapter 12:
When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle,* so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year.
The serpent,* however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current.
But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth.
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus." - USCCB


The iconography of the miracle at Chonae reminds me of that particular passage from Revelation, as does the literal narrative of the miracle. I'll reprint a section from the Orthodox Church in America site:
"In Phrygia, not far from the city of Hieropolis, in a place called Cheretopos, there was a church named for the Archangel Michael, built over a miraculous spring.
At this church of the holy Chief Commander Michael, a certain pious man by the name of Archippus served for sixty years as church custodian. By his preaching and by the example of his saintly life he brought many pagans to faith in Christ. With the general malice of that time towards Christians, and especially against Archippus, the pagans thought to destroy the church in order to prevent people from coming to that holy place of healing, and at the same time kill Archippus.
Toward this end they made a confluence of the Lykokaperos and Kufos Rivers and directed its combined flow against the church. Saint Archippus prayed fervently to the Chief Commander Michael to ward off the danger. Through his prayer the Archangel Michael appeared at the temple, and with a blow of his staff, opened a wide fissure in a rock and commanded the rushing torrents of water to flow into it. The temple remained unharmed. Seeing such an awesome miracle, the pagans fled in terror. Archippus and the Christians gathered in church glorified God and gave thanks to the holy Archangel Michael for the help. The place where the rivers plunged into the fissure received the name “Chonae”, which means “plunging.” - OCA


Devotion to St. Michael Archangel is very important for all Christians.

Tlaxcala, Mexico 

Another marvelous apparition, somewhat similar to the Apparition at Chonae, occurred in Mexico in 1631.

On April 25, 1631, St. Michael the Archangel appeared in Tlaxcala, Mexico to a 17-year-old named Diego Lázaro de San Francisco who was married to Francisca Castillian Xuchitl.  The apparition occurred as everyone was processing in celebration of a previous apparition of St. Michael to St. Gregory the Great (April 25, 590 A.D) during a great plague which St. Michael ended.  - Story here.

Prayer to St. Michael.

Oh, most noble Prince of the Angelic Hierarchies, valorous warrior of Almighty God, and zealous lover of His glory, terror of the rebellious angels, and love and delight of all the just, my beloved Archangel Saint Michael, desiring to be numbered among your devoted servants, I, today offer and consecrate myself to you, and place myself, my family, and all I possess under your most powerful protection.

I entreat you not to look at how little I, as your servant have to offer, being only a wretched sinner, but to gaze, rather, with favorable eye at the heartfelt affection with which this offering is made, and remember that if from this day onward I am under your patronage, you must during all my life assist me, and procure for me the pardon of my many grievous offenses and sins, the grace to love with all my heart my God, my dear Savior Jesus, and my Sweet Mother Mary, and to obtain for me all the help necessary to arrive to my crown of glory.

Defend me always from my spiritual enemies, particularly in the last moments of my life.

Come then, oh Glorious Prince and succor me in my last struggle, and with your powerful weapon cast far from me into the infernal abysses that prevaricator and proud angel that one day you prostrated in the celestial battle.

Accompany me then to the throne of God to sing with you, Archangel Saint Michael and all the angels, praise, honor and glory to the One who reigns for all eternity. AMEN. 


Monday, August 31, 2020

Helps and models in the darkness of faith.

 Remembering Corrie.

A friend of mine posted a story of how she was attracted back to the Church, in and through the example of Corrie ten Boom, the 'tramp for the Lord' as she referred to herself.  Corrie and Betsy ten Boom are special patron saints of mine, albeit they were not Catholic - they are united to the Church in and through a sort of “ecumenism of blood” - in my humble opinion.

After reading a couple of unsatisfactory books by Catholics, the author of the blog post  Inspired by Corrie ten Boom, shares how Corrie's book became for her an inspiration to deepen her faith as 'she returned to the Church'.  I'll let her tell it:

"I also came across the books of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who had been active in the resistance during World War II. She belonged to the Christian Reformed church but I was intrigued by the blurb on her book, The Hiding Place, as I was very interested in the experiences of those who had lived through the war, especially in Holland. 
I read the entire book by the former Catholic priest. I was not impressed with his story and his abandonment of his vows. I read part of the book by the other Catholic author, whose name I am purposely withholding. Even with my lack of Catholic knowledge and experience, I could recognize the falsehoods he was perpetrating. I was disgusted.

The book by Corrie ten Boom was the complete opposite. It completely captivated me in my search for truth. She wrote about Jesus like he was her personal friend, which he was. He led her in her daily decisions and how she treated people. The bible was not a list of optional suggestions and platitudes, it was her life. She lived and breathed the word of God. I could trust her. She kept her eyes on Jesus, I needed to do the same." - Read the rest here.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

How we are regarded by God.

How We Are Known

"The divine knowledge of a soul is always a merciful knowledge. We can never be in a true relationship with God until we discover that we are only known mercifully. Not just loved with intermittent mercy after sinning and repenting once again, but that we cannot be looked at, that we cannot be known by God or drawn to him except as a soul in need, poor and destitute, incapable of avoiding collapse and ruin without divine intervention.

A profound mercy, in other words, permeates God’s vision of our soul. On our part, faithfulness to this mercy is to keep an awareness of the divine gaze upon our soul. It is to know ourselves as known by God in mercy. The soul conscious of mercy enters into prayer in poverty and need, but it also knows God’s presence as a gaze of love upon its poverty. And its confidence in mercy becomes an implicit wonder and admiration directed toward God’s attraction for the poverty at the heart of our soul."

- Father Donald Haggerty

This is why, no matter our moral condition, we can always call out - with confidence - to God for mercy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Thou art all fair, O Mary, and the original stain is not in thee!

Sanchez Cotan

O Mary, by thy Holy and Immaculate Conception!

Many, many thanks to Our Lady today for the most extraordinary favors, she has truly shown herself as our Mother.  Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception.

V. As the lily among the thorns, 
R. So is my beloved among the daughters of Adam. 
V. O Lady, hear my prayer. 
R. And let my cry come unto thee. 
V. Let us bless the Lord. 
R. Thanks be to God. 
V. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 
R. Amen. - Little Office of the Immaculate Conception

Nothing is impossible for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Disenfranchised Grief


A disenfranchised life.

The loss of my friend remains an open wound.  It created a sort of void in my life, yet no words are available to me to explain that adequately.  Friends have said it's remarkable, that I have my faith to get me through.  Perhaps that is true, yet it can also be a torment.  Questions like, "Is my friend saved?"  strike a sort of terror within my soul.  Thus I fill my days with rosaries and chaplets for the repose of his soul, I request Masses to be said, and dear friends online have responded in kind.  Others, not so much.  The good side of all of this is my constant thought on the so-called 'last things'.  Praying for a holy death, preparing for death, praying for the dead, and so on.

I'm reminded of the great sadness experienced by St. Margaret of Cortona, when her dog led her to discover the corpse of her beloved.  I believe a certain terror struck her, she feared for his salvation, considered how uncertain salvation is, even for the just man, etc..  No words of comfort can assuage such grief, no sympathy can connect with it, no fire and brimstone logic can destroy it, nor can the pretense of solicitude expressed in sentimental terms, such as, 'he's in a better place', or 'he is free now,' can take away the pain.  For the most part, hope against hope seems to be the only support available.  Bolstered by faith of course, and charity - that charity which covers a multitude of sins.

"To love makes one solitary..." - Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Over the years, I adopted that sense, that I am a solitary, even though I lived with my friend and cats for 42 years.  It wasn't a lie.  Soon after moving in together, I realized I couldn't be Catholic, or more to the point, I couldn't receive the sacraments if I was living in an active sexual relationship.  I told my friend as much.  He asked if that meant I would leave, and I said I thought so.  He in turn said, well if it means that much to you, I want you to stay with me, and we will live as brothers then.  He meant it.  

I credit St. Joseph, because I had made a novena to him, asking for a way to tell him, as well as asking him to arrange matters for the good.  He arranged matters beyond my imagining.  It was important for me not to just up and leave in an attempt to live a life of penance, or something like it, as I'd often done in the past with trysts.  I took no notice of how the other person would adjust, what they would do, and so on.  Although, their salvation was as important as my own.  Thus, I didn't want him to be bitter towards the Catholic Church and Catholic teaching, therefore I couldn't cut it off like that.  Yet it wasn't a compromise.  Long story short, it turned out well, we remained best friends, we remained together - companions, and as very real supports to one another.  Like two cell-companions as in the desert fathers.*

That was in 1982, which turned out to be a year of transition.  We helped and supported one another, not simply in virtue, but we helped each others careers, supported one another through deaths in our families, and so on.  The most meaningful of which, was moving in with his mother after his father's death.  It was my very first experience of a stable family life,  Our schedules worked out so that his mom was never alone.  I was off during the week, and I was able to devote my time to his mom, taking care of the house, as well as painting.  On the weekends, Friday through Monday, I worked at the Cancer home - it was almost like religious life for me.  We cared for his mom as diabetes became worse, and her health failed.  It was the happiest period of my life, actually living for someone else, taking care of another.  After his mom died, it was the first time I experienced that sort of grief which results from deeply felt loss, which I couldn't express.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was a disenfranchised grief.

With my parents and my brother, when they died, it was another sort of grief.  Our relationships were deeply affected by dysfunctional family dynamics.   I was more or less disenfranchised by my family at various stages, and I disenfranchised myself, as well.  It was easier to cope and survive in life if I kept a distance.  I maintained privacy to avoid being hurt again, or shamed, I suppose.  This carried over professionally, and for the most part, in friendship - even close friendships.  Except for my friendship with Darold, of course.  He knew me through and through, you might say.  My friendship, our lives, were kept private.  I always said, lest people are scandalized - which he didn't understand.

If two men live together, they must be gay, and if they are gay, they must be sexually active.  That was a constant battle I encountered with church people.  They never understood, thus I likened myself to a solitary.  Never going out to dinner at friend's houses, never speaking about my private life, and so on.  Later, when acquaintances got to know me better, they often claimed I deceived them.  On the other hand, those who knew us both and were gay, called us closeted, not understanding the celibate character of our friendship.  Fortunately for me, I have always had supportive spiritual directors and confessors, one well known, the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who consoled me when he said that my friend and I formed a Courage group of our own.  (He likened it to how a civilly divorced and remarried couple could live as brother and sister while remaining together.)  Of course, there remain those who claim that can't happen.  But it did.

"And in his love for David, Jonathan renewed his oath to him, because he loved him as he loved himself." - 1 Samuel 20:17

Lately, I often think of Cardinal Newman, missing his close friend Ambrose St. John.  Their friendship developed into a model for myself and my friend.  Their friendship was chaste and caring.  Over the years many have wanted to 'label' it - but their friendship was based upon virtue.

In “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle offers students a refreshing alternative to the instrumentality of modern life: the pursuit of goodness. Goodness inspires honor, and mutual honor is the stuff of friendships of virtue. These are the friendships which yield the greatest happiness.
"Friendships of virtue depend, of course, on the mutual strength of character in the friends themselves; and friends must continually hold each other to high standards. The formation of moral virtue requires both an exemplar and a cultivated desire for and recognition of the good when one sees it. But the complete moral life which leads to full human flourishing, Aristotle claims, includes another dimension of virtue: intellectual. As rational animals, the life of the mind naturally plays a critical role in being human. And friendship based on contemplation of the good, the true, and the beautiful—though rare—is a friendship to be treasured most. " - The Goods of Friendship

It has always been my conviction, that by the grace of God, this is possible to same sex friends who agree to live in fidelity to Catholic teaching regarding marriage and sexuality.  In other words, they help one another to live a virtuous life, while endeavoring to practice good works, as 'faith without works is dead.'  Like Jonathan, who loved David as he loved himself, they support one another in fulfilling the "royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (James 2:8)

This was what inspired and encouraged me in the example of Cardinal Newman's friendship - never for an instant do I suggest he and St. John were gay.  I remember Newman's grief after St. John died, and I am consoled to know he mourned his friend in much the same way I mourn my friend's death.  Newman and St. John lived a 'communitarian life' for 32 years.

Another saint attempting to express his sorrow over the death of his (same-sex) best friend 15 centuries earlier, wrote:

"My eyes sought him everywhere, but they did not see him; and I hated all places because he was not in them, because they could not say to me, 'Look, he is coming,' as they did when he was alive and absent." - St. Augustine

I wanted to repost this last segment, since I believe it was misunderstood, thus the long prologue at the beginning to explain my circumstances.  I want this to be a sort of testimony of how noble my friend Darold was.  There is even more to his story, perhaps I can continue that some other time. 

Disenfranchised grief...

So what is it?  It's what I have been talking about.  If you ever read Isherwood's book, 'A Single Man', or watched Tom Ford's film with the same title, that is in part, what it's all about.  In George's case, he's not invited to the funeral of his friend by his family.  Tondelli's 'Separate Rooms' is about the same thing.  If you Google it, you will find Ken Doka's definition, “Grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned”.

It's real.  It's not something a person can just let go of, or snap out of it from.  Yes, you can 'let it be' - but you need to go through it, you need to embrace it.  One friend explained to me the reason why several friends haven't even acknowledged my friend's death, or the grief, is because of how private my life has been, and perhaps, they just don't know what to say.  Hence - disenfranchised.

Nothing to see here.

*I love to repeat the following anecdotes when speaking of chaste, same-sex friendship:

"... one must have friendships in life. [ . . .] Let yourself love. There is no danger so long as the spirit of prayer exists in you. And young priests have hours of loneliness that are very hard. They need affection and tenderness. If you don't give it to them, they will go looking for it just anywhere.

Also, at certain hours we need someone to show us affection: a mother, a sister, a brother. Otherwise, if the heart is not anchored, it goes anywhere at all, and is lost." - Fr. Mark, One must have friendships in life.

Mark asked Arsenius, 'It is right, isn't it, to have nothing unnecessary in one's cell? I saw a brother who had a few cabbages, and he was rooting them out.' Arsenius said, 'It is right, but each should do what is right for his own way of life. If he is not strong enough to endure without the cabbages, he will plant them again.' - Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Sunday, July 26, 2020

I was going to say something.

All of these years online, writing so many things, as if I had some sort of authority - it all comes to nothing.  I'm a little embarrassed, a bit ashamed, yet at peace that it all comes to nothing.  What an accounting I will have at the end.

There is only one way to salvation, and that is to make yourself responsible for all men’s sins. As soon as you make yourself responsible in all sincerity for everything and for everyone, you will see at once that this is really so, and that you are in fact to blame for everyone and for all things. ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov