Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dear Readers,

Thank you. For your prayers and your words of encouragement. For your always thoughtful, always civil discussion in my comboxes — holy mackerel, who knew “thoughtful,” “civil,” and “comboxes” could go together in the same sentence?

To you men and women with SSA — thank you for your courage, and your willingness to follow the light of the Church even when her light at first looks dark to our distempered eyes.1 For your hard questions and your refusal to take the easy way out. For your respectful disagreement and your enthusiastic affirmation.

To everybody else — thank you for your presence and your understanding, and your willingness to engage these questions even when they don’t touch you personally. There are more of you here than I expected, and it makes me very happy. Thank you for showing me how much we all have in common.

What a good year it’s been! Dear eighteen-year-old self, angry and lonely and frustrated and sunk into the pit of yourself, just wait, just wait till you see! You’re going to love it here. Like Jesus told you, he will not let you fall. He meant that.

Christmas comes into the year just like God comes into our lives: quietly, in the middle of the dark and cold, preparing the secret seeds of life and love even in the depths of the frozen ground. Be silent, be still, His love is always working.

I’m taking a few days off. I’ll see you in 2012. Oremus pro invicem.

Peace be with you
(and with your spirit!),
Steve Gershom

1 It gets brighter, I promise.

I was going to post this as a comment to the last post, but since this is MY BLOG and my thoughts are THE MOST IMPORTANT so I get CENTER STAGE and also I am THE SMARTEST, I am going to make a WHOLE POST out of it.

So.

A few have noted that it’s possible for a man with SSA to have deep relationships with other men without these being sinful. I definitely agree. I think such friendships are not only good but incredibly important, lest chastity become just plain loneliness.

A few have also compared this situation to a man (without SSA) having a chaste, but nevertheless deep, friendship with a woman. I think that’s a pretty good comparison — such friendships are certainly possible and certainly good.

The comparison isn’t perfect, though. It seems to me that as a friendship between a man and woman deepens, there is a natural tendency towards romance. I know this isn’t true in every case, but it still constitutes a tendency. On the other hand, in my experience, as friendship deepens between two men (even if one or both of them have SSA), the tendency isn’t towards romance, but just — deeper friendship.

I think we have a tendency to consider friendship and romance/eros as differing only in degree (that’s why people always say: “More than just a friend.” I don’t believe that’s the case. They differ in kind.

Speaking again from my own experience, when I initially make a solid connection with another man, there’s a period where romance rears its head, and where I’m tempted to think of him as THE ONE — that one perfect companion, soulmate, comforter, etc. that so many men with SSA long for. If the friendship survives this phase, the next phase isn’t romance at all; the romance part is usually due to me idolizing him, projecting onto him qualities he doesn’t have.

So, to sum up: I don’t look for romance with a man. The romance part is usually just what happens before I actually get to know and love him for real.

Last night I received this comment on an old post. Read it, friends, and weep.

God loves you fully for who you are – your sexuality is an expression of the love in your soul and heart and God does not require that you repress it unless you really want that (i.e. as a monk)…brother you are trying to be accepted by the church but the true acceptance comes from God – the church’s reasons to oppose gay love are history, fear, self-repression and bigotry–the church has got it wrong and in time will correct it – in the meantime
are rejected and treated as half people – please promise you will try to talk to somebody more open – perhaps Jesuits- please realize God made you as you are and loves you—
– another Gay Catholic who is a practicing Catholic and has a loving partner.

So much compassion, and so much confusion. The author appears to assume the following things:

  • - That I don’t believe God loves me, SSA and all.
  • - That all sexual feelings are expressions of love.
  • - That the only way to be celibate is through “repression”.
  • - That rejecting the behavior of gay people (or anyone else) implies a rejection of the people themselves.

So many Catholics have been tricked into believing that they can take the parts they love about Catholicism and leave the parts they don’t. This would be the case if the Church were a philosophy, or a political creed, or a theory. The Church is none of those things.

The Church is — among other things — the instrument by which God communicates His truth to the world. Like Christ, she is both human and divine. Her humanity means that she is full of knaves and imbeciles1 as well as saints, just like the rest of the world. It means that her members, who of all people should know better, have often done unspeakable and horrific things, and often done them in the name of Christ.

But she is also divine, and because of this, there is one thing she has never done: she has never erred in her official teachings on a matter of faith and morals, Nor has she ever changed one of these teachings. I challenge you to find one instance, just one, of such an error or such a change. (Citations required, please.)

This unchangeability is our salvation. As soon as we begin to sift through Catholic moral teaching and select the ones that please us, we have ceased to believe in the Church as she has always been understood, and have replaced her with something that is designed to suit us. We have changed her foundation from rock to sand.

We have, in short, set ourselves up as the ultimate authorities. I’ve lived with myself all my life, dear readers, and by this time I know very well that I’m not an ultimate anything. Thank God for the Church, my compass, my anchor, my North Star. However far I wander, she will always leads me back to sanity; because she does not move.

Please pray for this man and all those like him, who have been led so far into the wilderness that they no longer know they are lost.

1 q.v. Hilaire Belloc: “[The Church is] an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”

So, I’m not going to lie, I like being on the radio, but I think I am starting to get a fat head. I just finished recording a short-notice interview with Cy Kellett of Catholic Radio of San Diego.

You can listen live on the web tomorrow — that’s Wednesday, Dec. 14 — at 6pm PST (9pm for east-coasters), by going to catholicradioofsandiego.com and clicking on the “Listen live” button (duh). Looks like maybe there’ll be a podcast but forgot to ask.

Geez, pray for my humility. But maybe not in such a way that my pants fall down in front of a client or something. Pray carefully, that’s all.

I’ve never had much Marian devotion. Maybe it’s some lingering sola scriptura sentiment from my parents’ Evangelical days, maybe it’s the way the family Rosary always turned into an aggravation-fest — we’ve always loved each other in my family, but we haven’t always been good at being in the same room — or maybe I just don’t like women that much.

Flippancy aside, one reason I’ve always had trouble with Mary is that there’s so little about her in the Bible. That’s not a good reason, because Tradition is just as much of a source of revelation as Scripture is (who do you think compiled the Bible, for Pete’s sake?), but feelings are feelings and logic is logic and what can you do.

That’s one reason I’ve always liked Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a picture of her that she herself made, which means it contains the truth about her. No pious inventions, just straight from the source herself. You can look at that image forever. Sometimes it’s perfectly flat, other times there’s no bottom to it. Like prayer itself.

Just because I’ve never drawn close to her doesn’t mean she’s never drawn close to me. When I first set foot in Peru, something uncanny happened: her image, as OLG, settled in my mind and stayed there, for all three months. Just that, the image, no words: a simple presence. So now she is connected in my mind with that time, three months of equal parts paradise and purgatory among dear, holy people.

I rarely ask her for anything, but when I do, it’s something big, and she’s always come through. Since August I’ve been working on a project that scared me, my first big responsibility for the company, with a small fortune resting on the outcome. As the deadline came nearer I got more and more freaked out. Finally I asked her: whatever happens, please make sure this turns out well.

I wish I could say I kept my mind free of anxiety and rested in perfect trust, but uh-uh. I took the freakout down a notch or two, but that’s as much as I can say. I should have known better. I didn’t notice it at the time of the prayer — her feast days always sneak up on me — but guess when the deadline was?

Today. Feast day of Nuestra Señora herself. Needless to say, everything turned out well.

Lady, beautiful queen clothed with the sun, be gracious to us who are so ungracious. Ruega por nosotros.

“I was not in love as yet, but I was in love with love; and, from a hidden hunger, I hated myself for not feeling more intensely a sense of hunger. I was looking for something to love, for I was in love with loving, and I hated security and a smooth way, free from snares.”1

Not in love, but in love with loving! Not desiring, but desiring to desire! People are not simple.2

It’s been said that the only thing necessary to become a saint is to want to be one. But there’s the trick: how many people want to be saints? Wanting to be a saint is simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. And the little steps along the way to sainthood require desire, too. St. Augustine famously prayed: Lord, give me chastity — but not yet.

Do we want chastity, do we want sanctity, do we want God? Honestly: probably not.

We assume that we have no control over what we desire, only over what we do. Is this true? In any given moment, it is true. But of our lives as a whole, it is not.

How else could the church at Ephesus be chastised for “forsaking the love [they] had at first,” or the church at Laodicea for being lukewarm?3 They are not rebuked for what they have done or failed to do — “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance” — but, it seems, for what they have desired and not desired.

Desire is one of the things we most admire in others. Haven’t you ever met someone who seems filled with it — desire for joy, for experience, for life? Is there anything more beautiful? And is there anything sadder than someone who has lost all of his desires?

If desire is really beyond our control, then it makes no sense to admire someone who is a “man of desires”;4 it only makes sense to envy him, the way we envy someone who is born stronger or more beautiful than we are. And if it’s beyond our control, it makes no sense to blame ourselves if we experience a lack of desire.

But we do admire such men, and we do blame ourselves. And we are right to do so.

We are right to blame ourselves because, even though desire itself is beyond our control, the desire for desire is not. We may desire the wrong things, we may lack desire for the right things, but it is always in our power to desire to desire.5

Desire is a chain. The desire we feel consciously is only the very last link. The first link lies in the roots of our will. The first link is under our control; the rest follow from it.

Do you find desires in yourself that are beneath you, that are not worthy of you (you, the child of a King)? You may not have the strength to stop desiring them — but you can desire to stop desiring them, and bring this desire to God. Bring it repeatedly and earnestly; bring it to Confession and the Eucharist. God will dry up your evil desires like a poisoned well.

Or do you lack desire? Maybe you know with your mind that purity is good, but you can’t find anything in yourself that doesn’t want to go out and sin. Maybe you know that sainthood is your destiny, but every part of you wants only to serve yourself. Maybe you lament your lack of adventurousness, but can only find in yourself a desire for comfort.

Then, if you can’t desire these things, desire to desire them, and bring this lack to God. Bring it over and over again, bring it to the Mass, put it on the altar with the bread and chalice. He will fill you with his living water, which not only quenches thirst but awakes it. Whenever he gives us himself, we want more of him. Our desire grows with every drink.

Desire may be beyond our control, but the secret root of desire is always ours. It is our hand at that rudder — not the hand of chance, or passion, or chemistry, or fate. If our hand is not strong enough to turn that rudder, the Lord’s hand will cover ours, if we ask Him daily and persistently. And slowly, slowly, the ship will begin to turn.

Happy, happy Gaudete Sunday. May the Lord make us men and women of great desire. May we be forever restless, until we rest in Him.

1 The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 3, Chapter 1.
2 Litotes!
3 See Revelation 2:4 and 2:16, respectively.
4 See Daniel 10:11.
5 Not a typo. And while I am footnoting: To the reader whose email inspired this post, thank you! God bless you!

1: Deep Horse
Kung Fu! It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Every class day, I don’t want to go. I’m tired, or lazy, or scared. I go anyway, and the blessings just pour out. There’s the very natural blessing that comes from moving your muscles — you know, endorphins or something. But there’s everything else, too. The feeling of moving with increasing grace and strength. The camaraderie with the other students, aged approximately 12 to 50. There’s Sifu Gary himself, who supports and challenges in equal measure with all the instincts of a good father. Highly recommended!!

2: Pure Heart
Have I officially recommended Clean of Heart yet? It’s a program aimed at overcoming sexual sin. I started it about 30 days ago. It goes like this: each day you prayerfully read a meditation, about a page or two. There are morning and evening prayers. You pick a friend or mentor to be accountable to,1 talk to him every day,2 and if you slip up, you have to tell. Not only that, you have to start from the beginning. Being clean feels good — you start to realize that sexual sin affects not just one small part of your life, but puts its tendrils into just about every moment. The converse of that, of course, is that being clean makes you feel wonderful! You can tell how good I feel! Because I am using so many exclamation points that William Strunk is spinning in his grave!

3: Long Drive
I’ve also just started attending a support group for other Christian men who struggle with SSA. Like the Kung Fu and the Clean of Heart, it was something I’d been meaning to get around to — some time — some day — maybe next week. Anyway, I did it, and so far, so good! These are solid guys, seeking both to heal and be healed. I’m glad to be with them.

4: Nice Suit
The big company Christmas party is coming up. I decided not to go stag for once and got myself a date. Huh. Not a lot of sparks there or nothin’, but she is a great girl and I fully expect us to have a good time. And I hear the boss doesn’t skimp on the champagne.

5: Quick Chat
My interview with Roxane Salonen went great! Anyway I thought so. I have this thing where I think I’ll bore people if I talk too much, but it occurred to me that a radio interview means they want you to talk a lot. So I did. If you missed it — wouldn’t have been hard to do, between my forgetting to tell you about it and then telling you the wrong time besides — you can catch it again this Saturday at 2pm EST, by going to yourcatholicradiostation.com. If you can’t get the live listening to work, there will be a podcast — I’ll post a link when it’s up. Not only that, it looks like there will be a part two in January. Stay tuned!

6: Big One
As in “I — I want a BIG one!” I recently got to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. I can barely watch that movie, it’s TOO INTENSE. Luckily my fellow moviegoers felt similarly, and I wasn’t the only one who suddenly had sinus problems at the dénouement.

7: Immaculate Conception
I know I’m late, but HAPPY BIG DAY, MOM! Is it weird to wish your mother a Happy Conception Day? Yes, it is, but there’s Catholicism for you, always talking about wombs and blood and sundry other gruesome things. I’m not usually in tune with the liturgical season — I feel glum and heavy on Easter, but Lent makes me manic and chipper — but I started the morning right, with Mass, and felt nothing but blessed all day long.

Bang! That’s seven. It’s past bed time, as usual. Thanks to Jen for hosting. Wait, she’s on Advent break, is this quick takes thing even still happening? Sheesh, just when I get around to volume 2.

1 Props as usual to the indefatigable Father T.
2 Although I actually get away with once a week, so as not to overtax Fr. T’s indefatigability.