I asked a close friend to write about his experience with same-sex attraction. His life reflects a poem by William Blake:
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face.
—The Little Black Boy
Each of us has different set of beams of love to bear, so I’m sure that you’ll find his life an inspiration.—Padre Peregrino
I am a child of a God. I am a traditional Roman Catholic. I am a traditional Roman Catholic, a child of God who has same-sex attraction.
I have known that I was different since I was young. Ironically, while these confusing feelings were just entering my life, I had discovered the pearl of great price – I had discovered Jesus Christ. I wish I could say that, having discovered Christ, God has removed same-sex attraction and made me “normal.” He has not. This is neither a testimony about someone who experienced such profound healing that he struggles no more. But neither is it the story of the one who tried religion, failed, and rushed into the lifestyle. I am a child of God who has same-sex attraction and desires not necessarily healing but holiness. True and lasting healing will only come in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
True and lasting healing will come only in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
I have accepted the fact that this will be a struggle I have for the rest of my life. But this struggle for chastity is no different than the personal struggle that you may be dealing with in your life. The choice is before us every day – will I choose Christ and His love or will I choose that which is counterfeit? It is easy to make my struggle my primary identity, but I see it as only one aspect of my life. It does not define me.
My acceptance of my cross is not one that I embrace simply because it is a cross. A friend of mine recently said to me – I don’t know if it was an attempt to identify with my struggles – that she loved suffering. I recoiled from that statement. I did not ask for this cross. However, I embrace my cross because Christ calls me to pick up my cross and follow Him. I embrace my cross not out of self-pity but because I have experienced His love.
In Bishop Robert Barron’s new series, Catholicism: Pivotal Players, one learns that before St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, he prayed for two things – that he would experience the full passion and death of his Savior and, most importantly, that he would feel within himself the love that Christ had to do this major act of sacrifice. St. Francis did not morbidly ask for suffering alone; the joy in his suffering was only because of his union with Christ, and only because of Christ’s love.
A number of years ago, I had gone to a charismatic renewal conference. Although I had gone to Confession, I still beat myself up for the sins that I repented of but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I sincerely believed that God could not forgive me of such sins tied in with my struggles. After reception of Holy Communion, I calmly walked back to my seat and thoughts of past sins rushed through my mind. I cried out to the Lord, asking why, at this most sacred moment, my mind was reminding me of the worse things I had ever done. And He spoke in a still small voice. With each passing scene, I heard “And I loved you even then.” Tears welled up within me, and I truly believe I experienced the gift of tears. Christ loved me in the midst of my sin (Romans 5:8). I often think of Our Lord’s relationship with St. Peter, and how Jesus saw through the sin of Peter’s life to call Him time and again to the greatness to which he was called. Peter definitely did not change overnight, but he proved his love in the end.
For those who have same-sex attraction, there is an ever persistent fear that one will never experience love if one seeks to obey the Church’s teaching. Love in our much confused society is almost always identified with sexual expression, and yet even the Catechism says that sexuality is an expression of a person’s totality of love, including that of friendship. (CCC 2332 [footnote] “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.” [/footnote]). Human persons were not created for sex per se, but they were created for love and to love rightly. St. Augustine, that prodigal son who cried out that the Lord would grant Him chastity but just not yet, also said: “Set love in order in me.” (City of God XV.22) Those who authentically embrace chastity do so because they have experienced true love, and are encouraged to love others rightly.
As the years have passed, I have become more open about my struggles with same-sex attraction with close friends, most of whom are actively involved in the Faith. Whereas before the very mention of my struggle would cause me to tear up, it instead has provided an opportunity for my friends to show me authentic love. In truth, it was revelation of my struggles to Padre that has eventually led to writing this article. And, perhaps with a touch of divine humor and irony, I find myself often talking about same-sex attraction and helping others, without necessarily revealing my own struggles with this cross.
A good friend of mine who came out of the lifestyle and is now living a full and chaste life told me that the beginning of his conversion was when someone else he knew was gay told him it was possible to be chaste. That brief witness would eventually lead to his conversion back to the Catholic Church. He is a now a young man in his 20s living for Christ.
Please know that if you are someone who has same-sex attraction, I am praying for you – not that we necessarily be “healed” (though God is certainly capable of this) but that we would encounter authentic and transformative Love in Jesus Christ, and through His Church strive to live holiness in chastity. All I ask is that you would pray for me as well. God loves us so much, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at.