Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who are you Lord and what am I?

Jacob wrestles with Angel
Jacob's dream of the
ladder of Divine Ascent.

The prayer of St. Francis.

I believe Br. Leo records that Francis repeated these words in ecstasy: 'Who are you Lord, and what am I?'  Similar perhaps, to what the psalmist prays, 'What is man that you should be mindful of him?' But not the same.  What did Francis mean?  If you have ever been touched by grace and lifted out of yourself, you might know something of that blessed confusion.  On the other hand, and perhaps even better, if you wrestle within the cell of self-knowledge, you have known how difficult it can be to accept what you are.  One reason why spiritual writers always urge that prayer, with confidence in the merciful love of God, must accompany us in this work, lest we become discouraged and give up.  It would be wonderful if we could always see ourselves in God's light, as God sees us - but we don't.  Ordinarily, we must wrestle, not unlike like Jacob wrestled with the Angel, in the darkest night, and like Jacob, we must not let him go until he shows us who he is... Then, even in that depth, we echo the prayer of the saint - making it our own, "Who are You... my God?  And... what, what am I?"

Where is this leading? 

I've been reading many things by Catholics who identify themselves as either same sex attracted, gay-chaste-Catholic/Christian, gay-Catholic, and so on.  I was confused by a lot of what I read.  Naively surprised that all Roman Catholics did not accept the program for sanctity which Courage offers.  A program I consider a good support and guide to men and women who have homosexual attractions and who desire to live a chaste life in fidelity to Roman Catholic teaching.  Instead, after six years of blogging about this stuff, I've encountered many different attitudes on the subject, and not all of them agree with the Courage model.  Of course, from the beginning, Courage was a hard sell, even to many bishops.  But that's another post.

What all seem to have in common however, aside from sexual orientation, is the very strong inclination that is summed up in the prayer of St. Francis I quoted, it seems to me, each in his own way asks, "My God, who are you?  And what am I?"

"Three ages of gay."

I realized this most clearly in my encounter with Melinda Selmys and her blog Sexual Authenticity.  Of course I've read Eve Tushnet, Joshua Gunnerman, Ron Belgau, as well as Thom of Faith In The 21st Century, CourageMan, and the popular guy, Steve Gershom, amongst others who have come and gone - especially in the com box.  I've read these people suspecting I'm a little bit more conservative than they are - and not nearly as well versed.  Nevertheless, their writing has forced me to see things differently - or at least to be more open minded as regards personality and spiritual experience.  In a sense, some of these folks who embrace their queerness, are not all that different from those we have come to regard as dissenters, Catholic gay activists - in my local are, the most well known would be Michael Bayly.  And yes, he is Catholic - a gay Catholic - he's written extensively on how he manages that.  Much like Melinda and the others I might add - differing only in what they accept in Catholic teaching as far as being gay and Catholic. 

To make a long post short, for now all I want to say is that I've come to see this matter as 'the three ways' or 'the three ages of gay Catholic life' as it were.  (Non religious gay is a world unto itself.)  I see it this way because of what amounts to as the new paradigm shift, or reality, wherein society is in process of accepting and recognizing homosexuality as a natural variant, especially as it gets closer to recognizing same sex marriage and same sex families with children.  It should go without saying, I'm against it.  I repeat it all of the time and I mean it.  I accept everything the Church teaches on sexuality and so on.  Likewise, I believe and accept that the Church cannot change her teaching, no matter what any one says or how they choose to live their life.

Having said that - no one person I know of in these three categories or ages of gay life have been excommunicated.  Some of the activist-dissenters have indeed been reprimanded, perhaps censured, maybe even had their views condemned, but to my knowledge, no one has been excommunicated or  placed under interdict.  Indeed, the faithful self-identifying LGBTQ group have pretty much been praised and encouraged by some Church officials.  Eve Tushnet is a popular speaker and writer, and she was accorded many compliments by the Bishop of Denver recently.  Likewise, Melinda Selmys addressed this years Courage Conference with good success, and has a popular book on her life.  Finally, there is the Courage-style SSA person - no queer-gay-monikers-for-me kind of men and women - not all of them may be in a Courage group, but they more of less live up to the same commitment.  Faithful to the core and on the narrow way of perfection.  Objectively speaking, all three categories remain Catholics in good standing, all three have access to the sacraments, and for all I know, all three consider themselves faithful Catholics.  I can judge the obvious - actions and words, but not another person's soul. 

My convictions remain the same.

Within each group are a variety of individual personalities, a variety of experience; and ironically, none of them are willing to be pigeon-holed - and yet they do it all of the time themselves.  Fiercely independent, with few exceptions, most individually struggle to understand, to know themselves - which is a very Catholic thing to do BTW.  Each in their own way wrestles with the same question every soul must wrestle with, "My God.  Who are You?  And what am I?"

I recognize that each person lives his or her life as best they can - I can't tell someone how to live their life.  I cannot know their soul, I cannot judge their conscience, I cannot change them, and I have no authority over their lives to do so.  Each person, like the philosopher and theologian, may speculate upon his existence, he may debate the problems associated with it, he may publish his convictions, but he cannot change Natural or Divine Law, nor Catholic teaching to suit himself.  Not even the Pope can change Catholic teaching on faith and morals. 

That said, I respect each persons right to know himself, even as he is known.

Going forward, maybe I'll add to these thoughts - maybe not.


  1. TERRY WRITES........" Finally, there is the Courage-style SSA person - no queer-gay-monikers-for-me kind of men and women - not all of them may be in a Courage group, but they more of less live up to the same commitment. Faithful to the core and on the narrow way of perfection."

    I would go so far as to say that this particular "way" is by far the surest and most secure path for those who embrace the cross of ssa. There is no short cut on the road to perfection but embracing one's cross and denying one's very self.

  2. The fundamental core of our primary vocation- lay, priest, religious, bishop, married, single- is to establish a living relationship with God to give a sense of completeness to our own existence.

  3. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Another reason to love this blog. Terry has his finger on the pulse of the Church. I too have noticed this phenomenon and deemed it a "third" way. I do think, however, it is fundamentally flawed in that it appears to embrace labels for the sake of "convenience." And yes, I have read all the major players here. The thing they have in common is their youth. I wonder where they will be twenty years from now? Oh, and I have commented here many times using google profile, but am doing so anonymously now for the sake of prudence.

    1. I'm not sure I have my finger on the pulse - but thanks for the thought.

      Would you please email me? My email is in the profile - I thought I had your email and wanted to contact you - but I can't find it now.


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