"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Happy Birthday Pier Vittorio Tondelli



Pier Vittorio Tondelli was born sixty years ago on September 14, 1955.  

I think he is an important example for Catholics who struggle with same sex attraction and chastity. Tondelli repented and was reconciled to the Church not long before his death.
“Tondelli was fascinated with the works of Jewish mysticism, the Imitation of Christ, and the mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. “I love to look through them, to find and read stories, and the idea of holiness,” he wrote.
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In 1989, the Italian writer said, “Everyone that has been raised in the bosom of a religion has his own religiosity. I have always tried to seek out not so much a discussion about the Catholic faith, but rather to express my own religiosity—without a doubt in the bosom of Christianity—which seeks out or questions its own positions, especially in confrontation with other authors.”
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Speaking about chastity after his conversion, Tondelli called it “a mystic virtue for those who have chosen it and perhaps the most superhuman use of sexuality.”” - Catholic News Agency

Pier Vittorio Tondelli died December 16, 1991.

He's not a saint, nor is he a candidate for sainthood.  So I pray for the repose of his soul.

I like him as a model for gay Catholics.  He comes from an Italian Catholic background of course - and I suspect he always considered himself a Catholic.  Known as a controversial Italian homosexual writer, who died in 1991 due to complications of AIDS, Tondelli had been reconciled with the Church some time before he finally succumbed to the disease. He died a Catholic. I mention Tondelli today, as a sort of patron saint for those who struggle with the issues of homosexuality and Catholic teaching.

I also find it helpful to know that Pier Vittorio enjoyed reading the mystics before his conversion. Many saints read the lives and writings of the saints before their own conversions, - two that come to mind immediately, Ignatius of Loyola and Edith Stein - what they read led them to the truth.  He may have developed an idiosyncratic spirituality for himself, in and through his fascination with the saints, mysticism, and holiness.  He retained a Christian base or foundation in his spirituality, evidently avoiding New Age influences and so on.   

"In 1989, the Italian writer said, 'Everyone that has been raised in the bosom of a religion has his own religiosity. I have always tried to seek out not so much a discussion about the Catholic faith, but rather to express my own religiosity—without a doubt in the bosom of Christianity—which seeks out or questions its own positions, especially in confrontation with other authors.'”

Pier Vittorio Tondelli came to understand chastity as a “a mystic virtue for those who have chosen it and perhaps the most superhuman use of sexuality.”

It seems to me that celibacy is more a condition of single life for the layman. All are called to chastity - according to one's state in life. In contemporary understanding, chaste single life equals celibacy. Of course, religious life does too - yet ordinarily, religious do not make a vow to be celibate, but to be chaste. To love God with their entire being, otherwise vowed celibacy doesn't mean a great deal.  

Though a lay person is chaste and celibate, he may also have attachments, particular friendships, interests, and so on.  Though he is vigilant about sinful affections and unlawful attachments, he is not a religious or monastic whose vocation demands a deeper detachment from persons and secular interests.  Actual sins against chastity are sins for both the religious and the single layman, no doubt about that - yet the layman is not bound to an exclusive vow of chastity in the same manner a religious is.  A layman has a more extended, involved social role than a vowed religious, so to speak.  For instance, a single layman may have a concern about appearance, fashion, looking his best, and so on, whereas a monk is free of such concerns - or probably should be.

Nevertheless, just like love, chastity is misunderstood and 'not loved' in our culture. It's not a curse. Tondelli suggests it is chosen - on some level that is true, since we have free will - we can eat of the tree of forbidden fruit, or not. Yet more deeply, it is a grace, a gift, a valuable pearl, that one needs to sell everything to obtain. Like love, it requires sacrifice.

Some of the Catholic thinkers in the Spiritual Friendship movement may find in Tondelli a kindred spirit.  Other gay Catholics who strive to live a chaste, faithful life may as well.  The spiritual life is a journey - perseverance bears fruits of the spirit.  Sanctity is won slowly, by long labor.

“If a Christian wants to move forward on the road of Christian life he must fall, just as Jesus fell. It is the way of humility, yes, it also means he must take humiliation upon himself just as Jesus did”. - Pope Francis

Exaltation of the Cross

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I like what he said about writings not being able to save; only falling back into grace does.

    ReplyDelete


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