Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. B-Down Gobo Light Show – Memories. A Wordpress Production

The Man at the Well

Before I begin my reflection I would like to share with you the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, from the Gospel of John.

John 4: 1-30
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

I welcome you in the name of the one who sent me. We shall be speaking about a multitude of topics today. We might consider taking a moment to center ourselves and to pray that we are open to the whispering of God as he may move amongst us.

 

I will open this discussion with the telling a two stories that will give you some sense of where I come from, and how I walked a spiritual journey which brings me to the writing of this paper. I ask you to listen with your ears and also with your hearts, for once I was a man in need of ministering. Today I am a man who can offer ministry to others. So here we go – let us begin.

 

1.0 – Life and the living of that life

 

God comes to those who wait upon him. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we are God is still faithful to us. To begin this seminar I would like to tell you a story about myself and God. It began long ago and has brought me to where I am today.

 

As a young child I have fond memories of old churches and polished pews and candles flickering in dark corners of the building, statues of saintly persons who looked out over the congregational spaces and the dark corner grottos making sure we knew that they were watching over us and praying in tandem with the many who came to find peace, solace and faith within those walls.

 

I remember that day that my Memere took me to that grand church all alone, just her and I and God. It was an afternoon event; she brought me here for mass on a regular basis. These were the days of the old missal books and rosaries, women wearing lace over their faces, it was an ethnic parish church attended by many from ethnic communities all around.

 

On that day she took me to the church, she had a purpose. I remember this as if it was yesterday because, in my minds eye, this was very important to her. We went to light some candles and leave our offering in that little tin box attached to the candle display, we sat in quiet supplication and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and we lingered to hear the voice of God speak to us. I am sure that Memere and God had brokered an agreement over me.

 

After a while she got up from her place and she gathered me to herself and we walked to the edge of the banister that protected the main altar from people walking up on the dais. The banister was open, as if to welcome us to step up there – so with great pride Memere walked me ahead of her until I was standing on the dais before God. I must admit there were no words that were spoken to me; this is where the agreement must have been made. Memere looked up that the altar, then at her favorite statue and then beckoned God to look down upon us and take us into His arms and protect us.

In that moment I believe I had been “consecrated” to Christ and to God and the Blessed Mother, not to mention Marguerite D’ Youville. (This will be explained later in the timeline)Memere had a “tight” relationship with God. Her homes were shrines to the family that had gone before us, to the saints who protected us, and the God who gave us life. I always felt naked before God in her house. As if God sat with us daily and saw us for whom we really were simple God fearing folk. I never for one moment feared God. There was nothing I could not say to Him nor ask of Him, but I also knew that there were things one just did not ask of God, because greed and excess were not part of Memere’s lexicon.

I learned to pray the rosary as a young boy, we went to mass frequently. I don’t know if my mother and father were aware that I had so much “sacred time” in my early life. I am sure she knew that if I was with Memere that I would go where she went and I would love her for taking me and I would love the adventure of going to see God all the time.

 

The church of old is not the church of now, unless of course you live in Montreal and have living “great” relatives who live in a convent not far from home.

 

Being the first of two children in a family firmly grounded in the late 1960’s brought a lot of opportunities to me as that first child. I had three years on my brother. Three years are a big deal. I had the adoration of the matriarch’s of the family; I had three years of unadulterated wisdom taught to me over time. My time was my own; there was no one to deflect that attention away from me, which endeared me to the hearts of the women of the family. But secrets existed, secrets that would one day turn my life upside down.

 

My father was an abusive man; he came back from Viet Nam with major issues. I was born out of the man who came back from war, damaged and lost. He took a wife of Canadian blood, gave her an ultimatum and got her pregnant. I was there at the wedding, my mother carrying me in her womb, walked down the aisle that day and agreed to bear his children and live by his rules and regulations. My father, the racist, bigot that he was wanted to force a continental divide to rise from the ground to separate that which made my mother who she was and force her to become the woman he required.

 

That divide never rose, and my father’s resentment of the maternal “nursery” that I entered as a child began. I guess this is why I am so maternal, because all the men in the family were war shaken and damaged. They worked all the time in business, in the fields and in factories. It was up to the women to rear the children into the people we were to become. My father’s resentment of my presence was well known. Later in my life I would be told of the fact that my father wanted to kill me, that I was a mistake and should never have been born. He tried many times to snuff my light out as quick as he could. The one thing that he did not expect was the backlash that came in the form of vociferous rebukes by the matriarch’s of the family, hence my “consecration to God.” If I was consecrated to the Almighty, then my father’s plan for ending my life would never come to fruition.

 

I remember being chased through houses by drunk men in my life, I remember my grandmothers standing in doorways between me huddling beneath a bed, hiding for my life, and my drunk and angry father fighting with them to let him “do it already!” He wanted nothing more than to wipe me off the face of the earth. The women of my family tell me that he fought often with them to abuse me and to hurt me and eventually to kill me.

They were not going to let that happen, my mother was powerless to try and stop him, why, they had an agreement, and she was his bitch, and she did what he said without argument! That was his way unto this very day.

When I was born he gave me my name. I was given to the earth as the man he loved from the war, who died in the war, so every time he looked at me or said my name or heard my name called, the memory of “one dead soldier” would rise to the fore. What kind of man places that kind of sadistic torture on himself? Was he hoping to exorcise that memory from his brain by personal reprogramming? I think there was more to this story than met the eye. Yes, there was, it took me decades to divine the truth from those who knew, and in hindsight I was able to complete the puzzle.

At age 30 I changed that name and exorcised it from my life, it was the final conflict that separated me from my parents. Being gay – HIV Positive and changing my name was three strikes, I was now damned to live without parents. He made damn sure of that.

 

Needless to say, faith was a priority; God would protect and save me. My grandmothers agreement with God was non negotiable with any one else. Not that my father knew she had this deal on the table. Women are tricky characters you know! When Memere beckoned upon those she regarded as spiritually powerful, hell hath no fury like the wrath of an angry saint and my grandmother generating the turbine of retribution with her dedicated prayers.

Who was God? And why should I care? Because it was beaten into me that I was a mistake and should never have been born, for 18 years my father made it his life’s work to destroy me mentally and emotionally. Later on in my 30’s the revelation of my sexual abuse at my father’s hands would rise from my sobering mind. And you think HE had issues? I went to church, as a young boy. I would complete all my sacraments in the order of succession. I would be in communion with the church I would pray my rosary and my novenas.

God was present in my daily life. I was always naked when I was sacred. There was nothing I held back from God, because my relationship with God was between him and me. To stand before God is to be naked in his sight. How much more sacred could it be?

My parent’s went to church off and on. After my brother was born in 1970, my mother found out she was RH positive and a tubiligation was ordered by her OB because she might not live through another pregnancy, and so it was done. This act of “birth control” forced an issue that divides the church and her people to this day. A woman’s right to decide proper birth control and the church’s position that if one impedes the ability of a woman to conceive then you are outside the rule of mother church.

My parents were dealt a swift blow by the parish priest where they were married. That priest, by order of Holy MotherChurch, was bound to defend the party line of those times; he excommunicated them both from the church – which meant that they could no longer receive the sacraments. I have to assume my mother was crushed and my father couldn’t give a damn.

 

Years would pass, life would go on, God still existed in my life, and we, as a family went to church, I remember that much. It came to pass in my years as a pre-teen that we moved to the third home of transition, when I was in grade six. This afforded my parents entry into suburbia. It was a very big step up from where we had been socially and economically. We had made it into the “big time.” My father was proud of this accomplishment. I remember the day we saw the house, we all loved it, and it was sacred. It was in the right place, for the right money and had just the right charm to allow my parents to afford it.

 

St. Richard’s parish was less than a mile away; schools were “in the neighborhood” and all was well. My father’s drinking began in earnest so did his abuse, not only of me, but my brother and mother. My mother sought out the parish priest whom would play a large part in my later seminary formation at a later date. They began the process of becoming redeemed in the church; this process took almost 4 years, after decades of living in sin.

My father’s parents were cursed in the years when I was in grade seven and eight. The curse first took my grandmother with a stroke; I was taken from school at age thirteen and flown 1500 miles to her bedside where my father expected that I would be the one to bring her back across the divide. Since I was his first born son, and had the connection I did with her that seeing me would ignite the fire that went out in her brain. I failed to re-ignite the flame. I don’t think my father ever forgave me for my failure to heal his mother. A year later my grandfather was hit with a stroke one year to the day of my grandmother, but he was no favorite of mine, and I did nothing to help him. He abused us all, and for that abuse, death was right punishment.

At age 15, I entered High School. This was a very important period for me. I met a circle of friends that would impact the rest of my life. St. Louis Parish was one block from the High School which I was attending. The youth minister on duty at that time used to open his office at lunch and that is where people would gather to pray, to meet and talk and to learn about God. Who knew it would lead me where it did.

 

It was in my grade ten year that I would make my confirmation. In order to make that confirmation, my parent’s needed to step up their game in attaining absolution from the church for their “faux pas” with the church over birth control. The Pastor of the parish spoke to them, and gave them counsel and I remember that day he told those, in his Irish Brogue, “the hell with that priest and his excommunication.” I remember my mother doing the happy dance the day that God re-entered our home. He never left, I mean he was in my room, I wasn’t quite sure of any other room in the house up until that point, but for my parents that was the biggest coup of their lives.

 

When I was home alone on many an occasion, I prayed and I listened to music and in my sacred space within my room I would become naked and sacred. I believed that God was with me, and he protected me, because I really needed it. My father had once again stepped up his attacks, and they were getting even more brutal. My friends all came from broken homes, parent’s divorced, splitting up or on the way there… I was a misfit like all of them. These were the years I spent more time out of my own house than in it. I just could not cope with the ritual mental, emotional and physical abuse.

 

Where was God when it hurt?

High school was hit and misses, God was here and he was not. I followed him and I cursed him through both sides of my mouth. I was becoming addicted to alcohol; I was starting to slip in school. My relationship with my parents was strained and the priests and ministers of the church had to do something lest they loose me to the statistics of teen tragedy.

I was given chores at church. Any free time was spent working on cleaning the church and keeping the sacristy in tip top shape. I had access to areas of “church” that not many had. In those years the rectory was on site and I spent a lot of time in that rectory doing chores and loving every moment of that time.

 

Those priests kept me from self destruction. My consecration to God had begun once again. I guess once you are given to God, you don’t have to ask again. Hindsight shows me that I was being groomed for greater things. What my father “beat” out of me, the church replaced in me. What my father on earth took – my heavenly father gave back ten fold. I was in the right place at the right time, when the priests of the parish began to entertain me with seminary speak, serving the church and the greater good. Was I good enough to wear a robe to preach to the masses, to herd a flock?

 

From the age of ten through out my later life, I was aware of my sexuality. In that I mean I knew how it worked. I knew the finer details of sex and sexual variations. My parents lived a double life, which I was privy to. Knowing the secret sex lives of my parents was an addiction. I couldn’t get enough. Why was I like this? Where did this all begin? I can’t say, and I really don’t want to know when it all began.

I had had relationships in my teen years with others, WHAT I was – was not an issue at any time during my formative years, although I heard the word queer and faggot come out of my parent’s mouths frequently. Our family had been introduced to “homosexuals” when we made that third and final move by friends my parent had and we blessed to have.

 

I did not identify myself in any “other” term than heterosexual well through my high school years. I dated girls, I had relationships, and I went to prom. I never questioned who I was openly, but between God and myself there was a lot of discussion and praying.

Masturbation became a sacred activity, because it happened when God and I were alone. I wanted that sacred experience – to feel that divine communion with the God of my understanding, I wanted to feel sublime love in sacred terms. I’ve never had sex with a woman; I never had sexual inclinations towards the girls I dated in school. I was chaste in that way, but I was profane when left to my own devices.

 

After completing high school I attended one year of junior college and I failed miserably. I had no tools; I had no knowledge about the “world at large.” My parents never taught me about “transition.” This is the KEY moment in a young person’s life. I know that now, and I teach that to my boys and my fellows. That was when the priests of our parish suggested that I consider the seminary. It was a possible and real option. I got the necessary letters of recommendation and filed my application with the diocese. I was put through my paces and psychological testing, and I passed the boards with a clean sweep.

 

At this point of my life, my grandparents were getting old. My father’s parents did not know who they were cursed by strokes, Memere was living in a retirement home 1500 miles away, but she saw me enter seminary. When Memere consecrated me to God on that day many years ago in that church came full circle the day I moved into my room at the seminary. All her prayers and novenas were now fulfilled. I was safe for eternity.

 

I loved God with all my heart and all my soul and all my being. It was unlike any feeling I had every felt before. I remember moving in that day and walking with my parents around the grounds. My mother was so proud, my father had no choice, and he was hell bent on my destruction, my mother on my survival. The battle of the wills was raging on in front of my very eyes. God would win that days cavalry charge. We said goodbye and my mother cried as I walked them to their car and they drove off.

 

It took a few days to get used to being in the seminary. I sought quiet spaces to commune with God. I went to the chapel whenever I could. There were chapels located on the upper floors of the residence hall where we could pray and have mass said for us. It was the closest to the sacred nakedness I longed for, that I would get that year. God was all powerful and loving. I was there to do one thing, find the way to Him, to serve him to love him in the most sublime way.

 

The Eucharist became the ritual that would bring me closer to God. I sang my heart out; I prayed until the beads ripped through my hands, I walked in circles until there were ruts in my gardens. (I was a seminary gardener) during that years. It was in this year that things became clear to me. I started to hear God’s voice. I was just a boy in a big world. I was unprepared for the drama of living with others in such tight quarters. My every decision was scrutinized. My every prayer was spell checked. My intentions and motives were questioned. My classmates became my judges but I observed them as well.

 

My quest to find God was not the same quest that my fellows were on. It had seemed that “identity” was the issue on the table. Many of my peers had figured out their identity and were comfortable in their own skins to “practice their ways.” I had not come to this stage in my life yet. What did I know about identity? I was just this boy in a seminary trying to find my way in a world that was not kind to me. Sex was the first topic of discussion at each and every spiritual direction session I attended that year. It was one of the only lies I told to the man who was interested in my sexual proclivities.

What did my masturbation have to do with the attainment of holiness? What I did alone with my God was my business and no one else’s.I saw injustice in the church; I witnessed people being removed from service because of judgment. I witnessed the church move gay priests and some with illness to our grounds to live and work with us; they were taken from their parishes as a punishment for an unholy lifestyle. Homosexuality was right there in front of me.

Grown gay men of the cloth living in community with me, and from my mouth to God’s ears, these men had more sacred reverence for God than any heterosexual holy man in residence with us at that time. I highly respected some of these men. They showed me real faith and real love for God. They gave me more in that year than others. They did not judge me nor force me to be anything but myself. It was the institution that forced choices of identity and allegiance. I was not ready to “identify” nor was I going to pledge “allegiance” to the rector of the seminary or to mother church.

What I do know is this, that I knew then who God was for the age that I was and I was ready to sacrifice my life for that God, but I was hell bent on denying the pressures of the institution to turn a blind eye to blatant abuses of power and human dignity and respect. I had no desire of entering or pledging for the “boys club” it was beneath me. I was better than that and I wasn’t going to compromise my walk with Christ to be like them.

 

After a year in seminary I was told that my invitation to return the following year had been rescinded. That maybe seminary was not “the place for me.” That maybe becoming a priest was not my “calling.” Who were they to judge with blinder on their eyes? What did they really know about my relationship to God, not that any of them really wanted to know? I walked away from the church and from God.

 

I moved back home for a short time. That did not last very long. I got a job and traveled the world. I met His Holiness John Paul II twice in the space of 2 years. Once in the states the second time at the Vatican. He was a sainted man; he was a star in my eyes. What I did not know then would not hurt me until decades later.

 

I was “Outed” by my best friend on a cruise when I was twenty one. We never spoke again after that. I moved away to be gay, to have my coming out experience. God was no where to be found in my lexicon. He was there; I just refused to allow him into my life, because the church had shit on my spiritual journey. That I took as a clear affront by God so I retaliated.

It is really hard to try and explain to some that unless you have walked a day or a week or a month and quite possibly a year in my shoes, NO ONE has the right to judge me.

Illness forces one who is ill to grow up, faster than usual. It asks of us to persevere through the illness and to hope and pray that one will live through adversity and come victoriously to the other side. 162 of my friends went into that dark night with me. They are all dead, I am still alive. I must be doing something right.

People, who think they know God, come and tell me about their God and they share with me their warped views of Christianity. How could I possibly know God, be a Christian and be Gay? My God does not care that I am gay and he doesn’t care that you are straight. My God tells me that I must walk this path, and I must pray and I must respect the station of God, and I do that. I am sure that every Christian who reads this blog has a different conception of God, and you may not agree with me and that’s ok. What a bore it would be if we all agreed on every note of Christianity.

When I got sick, and doctors told me that I had, at best, 18 months to live, that I better make good use of that time, I took that diagnosis home with me and I was alone. Because I would be Coming Out again and AIDS was the great leveler. It surely separated the boys from the men, and the girls from the women. I tell this story again because it is who I am – what I am – and where I came from.

I had to come to believe that I was going to live, when all of my friends were dying. Against all odds, a group of men rallied round me and forced me to think, they begged me to believe in them, if I could not believe in myself or in God at that present moment. I cried for days. I worked my ass off and I listened to every word that was spoken to me in that first 18 months. I listened to the men who made sense of living. I listened to men encourage me through the toughest time of my life. Were THEY wrong???

The path lies ahead of you. What you choose to do with that knowledge is up to you. I had a choice, I could stay on the path and follow the leader, or I could go it alone. I chose to follow the leader. When Christianity turned its back on the sick and the dying, WE were still there. When the Christians were condemning us, and labeling us, WE were still there, we walked through that hell. I accuse many for what they did to me and my friends. I accuse you for turning your back on so many, families, friends, lovers, churches, congregations, funeral parlors, office workers, hospital workers and doctors and nurses.

You have not a shred of experience on what we lived through. You have not a leg to stand on when you speak your vile accusations and judgments. God as my witness, you have no idea who I am, you did not see with thine own eyes the horror I witnessed. You did not weep at the bodies laid wasted by those who abandoned them. I reckon, you did not shed one guilty tear of remorse for your actions.

I counted the days, one by one, on paper, in my house, in my heart and in my mind. I sewed my own memorial quilt with the others and when they died I wept for my friends and those who loved them to the end. I worked night and day to care for the sick and the dying. I worked night and day to keep myself alive. And I was sober as well. I experienced rehab and I read my Big Book, I worked my steps and I let go of my resentments and my ego. Because let me tell you, there is no EGO when it comes to mortality. You beg God for one more day, one more week, and one more month. You tell me if you’ve ever knelt before God, knowing that your life is in his hands, and you don’t let go of your EGO pretty damned fast.

God does not deal in egos and attitudes, although you wouldn’t know that by the actions of some Christians I run across. You’d think that God stepped out of his heaven to tell some Christians that it is their duty and responsibility to speak for the almighty!

I beg to differ…

I do not know of any Christian, priest, minister, pastor or the like who has ever heard from the Almighty and has access to the 1-800 number to the heavenly host. Not one day goes by as of late that I don’t think about my mortality. Because we are quickly approaching my diagnosis anniversary. It has been 14 years and counting, and I am still here, 162 of my friends are DEAD!!!

The longer I lived the more I believed that I would make it – the more I walked the path, I learned about me, about others, I learned what true compassion was, because I watched people like you, HUMAN BEINGS become ANIMALS, un-compassionate and uncaring. I witnessed the worst that humanity threw at us; don’t think for one moment that I have forgotten after so many years. I have not…

I know very few noble men and women in my life. I know that the men and women who worked tirelessly to help me and others stay alive, did that because they had to. The believed in us when nobody else did. They hoped that we would survive the medications, the drugs, and or the lack there of. Those men and women stood at the gates of death and protected us to the best of their ability to see that no one would go alone and those who lived would not forget the kindness shown to them in their darkest hours.

YOU who think you know God. YOU who think God has anything to say about me. YOU who think that you can prance around your little churches proclaiming “Jesus Saves” on Holy Sunday and at prayer meetings and revivals, out of one side of your mouth, and from the other you spout such vitriol and hatred!!! How could you possibly be in communion with the same God who created heaven and earth and all that you see before you!

In 40 years of life, I know who I am today. I survived. I lived. I persevered. I broke all the records and markers that my doctors gave me. I survived a family that turned their backs on me. I survived loosing my friends, my fellows, and my boyfriend at the time. I survived finding my lovers corpse 5 days after he killed himself, rather than telling me that he was sick. I survived the curse that his mother said to me as I signed his body out of the coroner’s office to send his rotted corpse home to his family when she spoke those words:

“I Hope that every night when you close your eyes that you see my dead sons body before you until the day that you die…”

Not a night goes by that I don’t pray for his soul and for mine. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that this body is but a shell that I happen to inhabit for this lifetime. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that I could die at any moment because my constitution is not that of a 26 year old boy any more. Not a day goes by that I don’t start my day with prayer and pray during the day and before I go to sleep at night that I don’t thank God for that day and pray that there is air in my lungs when I get up the next morning. It seems that God listens to my prayers, because there is still air in my lungs tonight.

You must concede that I know of what I speak of. You must concede that somewhere in God’s heaven are millions of souls who have gone before me, who speak to God on my behalf. You must concede that Sister Georgette, my sainted Grey Nun aunt, isn’t up there speaking to Mere D’Youville on my behalf. You must concede that after all these years, that I know how to pray. You must concede that probably I have prayed prayers for myself and my friends that YOU have never thought about praying for yourself or your families.

Death and Dying is not just a spectator sport for those who live and die with illness. You look at a child, who is sick, and you feel pity for them, yet you spurn the lot of us who are sick and dying. There was no pity on your face, only recriminations and condemnation. Until you face your appointed hour could you ever utter one single word against me, my friends or our family?

We learn a great deal about life in the pursuit of death. We learn a great deal about prayer when the chips are down and we have to utter those “Hail Mary” prayers. I don’t think that YOU could shine a light on my prayer life with the certainty that you think you have. I don’t believe that YOU could even imagine what it is that I pray for on a nightly basis. I don’t believe that YOU could ever know the relationship that I have with God; because of the way you treat others. Humans are imperfect beings.

Religious men and women across the board for centuries have prayed to God, studied the finer points of God and they speak about theologies and religions, and nobody has the definitive word on God, what He thinks and what He believes of anyone on earth. Scripture, Talmud, the Qu’ran, the Bible, the Upanishads and the Vedas all speak of spiritual nature and spiritual truth. Words written by man, inspired by God are open to interpretation by the best scholars and religious leaders. Centuries of collected works are borne into a system of belief for the masses because YOU need to believe in something, and far be it from me to tell you what to believe, and As God as my witness, YOU have no right to tell me what to believe, how to live my life, or who I can love.

Over the last six years I have worked on my religious truth. I have studied God INTIMATELY. I know who God is and I know who God is not. I have prayed simple prayers in some of the most beautiful churches on the earth. I have walked the staircase to the roof the Pinnacle of the Holy Catholic Church. I have stood in awe of the expanse of Rome and I have looked down into Papal Gardens where I am sure, centuries of Popes have communed with God in their time.

I have spoken to Pontiffs; I have worshiped in the greatest Church that exists on the planet. I have communed with the bones of saints and prophets. I have stood in the place of honor where the disciple Peter’s bones rest beneath the cupola of the Vatican. I have walked the hallowed halls of the catacombs beneath the Vatican and I have seen the early Christian catacombs on Rome where the first Christians worshiped God.

There is not one egotistical bone in my body. I have worked tirelessly for years to share a message of hope and love with my readers. I have worked with the sick and the dying. I have spent a lifetime learning how to die. I have spent a lifetime studying the path to righteousness. I don’t care one bit for righteousness, I DO care about Holiness. I care that I live a holy and blessed life. I care that those I listen to live holy and blessed lives. I care that the religious authority that I follow RESPECTS me for WHO I am and are not bothered by WHAT I may be.

The world is so caught up in labels. What good have labels done to people in the past? The Nazi’s believed that labeling people and putting them in extermination camps was useful. To route the world of Jews, Gypsies, Christians, (oh yes they exterminated Christians too), homosexuals, the Polish and the sick and dying. MILLIONS of people WERE MURDERED because they were labeled as useless and dirty.

I once believed, as a young person that I wanted to carry a label, but 40 years of experience has taught me that once you label someone, they are as good as dead. Once you label someone, they loose something of themselves. The uniqueness of the soul is tarnished by those who would see them labeled. In centuries of time gone by, we have seen what labels do to human beings. Because if YOU can label us, then you believe that you can separate us from the whole, and section us off from the normal human population. You do not own that power any longer.

My Husband, my friends, and my fellows love me for the man I am today. One who gives freely of his soul every day that I live. One who writes with such passion and strength? One who lives with determination that I can safely say that probably YOU will never see in your lifetime. Because faced with imminent death, I am sure you would not rise to the level of enlightenment that I have seen in my lifetime.

Ah, you might get sick, get cancer, or some other disease, you will say a prayer here or there, and maybe you just might see the face of God before he takes you, but you will still be as judgmental and vile as you are today. Nothing will change.

Because a sick heterosexual is far better in Gods eyes than being a sick homosexual.

Because you believe that God will hear and hearken your prayer before he does mine. Well, I wonder about that. What do you think? YOU who sputter unchristian words now need God’s grace, because like me, now you are sick and you need God to heal you and make you better. Do you think that you are going to walk a different path than I have? Do you think that your illness might be better than mine? Do you believe that a heterosexual should be pushed up the line of healing before God, before someone like me?

You have no idea what it feels like to face your own death, several times over in my case. And lived to tell the tale. And you think that I am prideful or have one ounce of hubris in my soul? You think that I am arrogant and that I come from a place of ego rather than a place of selflessness???

I have come to believe…

One day YOU will stand before God, and on that day YOU will reckon for all that you have done on this earth, and for me it is this last thought that keeps me going in my pursuit of Christian faith, that at the end of my life when I stand before God I will hear him say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Will God say the same words to you???

Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

When you read some of the early AIDS writers there is one alarmingly missing part of the puzzle? Nobody speaks the name of God, nobody invokes the power of God, and nobody is going to church to pray. This is a specific aspect of my story that I did not forget to write about – but as I read my spiritual text “Life with God” as I lie in bed, I am remiss to let this go without addressing it here.

There is no doubt that the Christian Right has much to answer for its treatment of the sick when it comes to people with AIDS, be they children, men or women. And there is no doubt that the “Church” with a Capitol “C” plays their own role of hatred as well. And we must also cite the evangelical preachers across the board for their fire and brimstone direct condemnation of people with AIDS as being “Punished by God, for their acts of sinful behavior.” And then there is the family unit of those who were sick who unleashed their very own brand of religious condemnation when it came to denying their own children when it came to AIDS and death. I would be remiss if I did not mention these specifically by name because you are all guilty as charged.

I never had issues with my faith when I got sick. Even when the world turned their backs on so many, when it came down to the nuts and bolts of survival, I truly believe within a shadow of a doubt that a Power Greater than myself was taking care of me. And I know that because when I got sick, I got sober at the same time, having daily contact with a power greater than myself in that precise time in my life paid out dividends. I prayed, my friends prayed, my community prayed. We all prayed.

Faith and Faith in God was a huge part of my life, my story, my recovery, and my survival. I must have done something right after all these years, to still be talking about this subject some fifteen years after the fact and I am still alive. Someone up there loves me enough to plead to God on my behalf. None of this goes unnoticed. I just thought it was important to talk about that part of my survival, because you just cannot survive on drugs alone. Because you can stuff yourself full of medication, but unless there is some conscious or unconscious action behind them, those pills are useless. If one does not put some power of grace behind the act of taking a pill, why take the pill to begin with?

There is a definite correlation between what the brain tells the body, the body eventually follows. So if you are sick and you bombard yourself with thoughts of death all the time, death is what you are going to get. And for some, death was the only conclusion to life and illness. There are just some things that happen that cannot be countered.

Everyone is going to die at one time or another and I know that God sees each and every one of us who suffers and he works to end that suffering, and sometimes, the end to suffering is death. No matter how much one prays or believes, if illness overcomes you, and for many it does, death is a foregone conclusion. But I lived…

When I moved to Miami in 1995, I returned to my roots of Holy Mother Church. I sought out the fathers of the cloth. I returned to the church of my upbringing, yes I was gay, I was sick and I was waiting to die. God had other plans for me. And I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that Nuestra Senora Caridad del Cobre prayed for my soul, I firmly believe that Jesus walked with me, and that Mary prayed with me, and that God saw that I wanted to live because I was actively living my faith in the direst of situations. Death was imminent. I was supposed to die. At least that’s what the medical establishment told me, either they got it wrong, or God had other plans.

In moving to the Mercy Hospital Immunodeficiency clinic, that was a very Catholic institution. Because we lived in a very “Latin i.e. Cuban” religious and secular system of care. Many, if not all the women who worked in this circle were good church going, God fearing Catholic Women, who all had God’s ear. Not to mention the men and other doctors they served under they were quite the team of spiritually prepared warriors for God’s poor, downtrodden, and sick.

There was a faith component to our care. There was no denying it, there was no avoiding it, there was no disrespect, there was no question. Even the sick went to church, and when the sick could not get to church, they were visited by the Church. Now you couple sobriety and a power greater then myself, which I choose to call God, to this day, with prayer and sacramental living, you have one powerful energy machine for healthy living. And I know on those days when I found it difficult to speak, others were praying for me day and night.

Hell hath no fury like a group of faithful Cuban prayer people. We recited the rosary daily in any language you chose. We went to mass daily, and we received the sacraments. We were visited by holy men and women; we were even treated to spiritual retreats by holy men and women on the grounds of the Church of Our Lady of Charity, Caridad Del Cobre. God saw us come, he heard us pray. And for many, they lived.

The one important thing I have to say for myself is that I lived.

I remember when I went to my church of my upbringing and I told the priests that I was sick and that they doctors has said that I was going to die, I remember holy men weeping, and telling me confidently that ONE, you will come to church, TWO, you will pray, THREE, you will see the face of God. They believed for me when I could not believe for myself.

I often tell the story of Father Jeff, a priest I met one Sunday who has MS, and he walked with crutches in and around and out of the church. He had no use of his legs, but he did have the use of his faith. And that day I watched him say mass that one Sunday, I knew I would never complain about being sick ever again. I would never become as jaded and cold to faith as many did before me. Many of my friends went to their graves cursing God because of what they had witnessed themselves in human beings who became animals, they, those cursed Christians who had not one word to offer the sick, but their vitriol of condemnation.

I guess that the spark of God never left me, even as a child, when my grandmother Memere presented me to God, that day in that church when I was just a boy, had a lasting affect on my life, even to this very day. Now, you want to talk about blind faith, mention to God the names Camille and Sister Georgette. They are both long since dead, Sister Georgette died a few years ago August here in Montreal, Memere died a few years after I was diagnosed. They are two women I know have God’s ear.

One of the things that mystifies my doctors today is my reliance on faith, when doctors who run by the book and by the numbers who are faced with patients that believe in God and have stock in faith that seems to throw my doctor off the deep end. You can’t convince a scientist or doctor that faith plays a big role in the longevity of the sick. They say, what ever works, and for me what ever works.

– Reflection and Discussion –

With the stories told, we can move forwards. Now you know who I am and what my story is which gives me the ability to talk about many things with you. They say that if we do not take care of ourselves first, we cannot take care of another. As ministers and seminarians we are supposed to study and to pray and to work for the betterment of society. But do we take ample time during those hours of the day to take care of ourselves?

We come with our baggage, our feelings and emotions and our addictions for some. Nobody escapes this life unscathed. We all have something we carry within us that goes unspoken and ignored. If we do not deal with this baggage it will hamper our ability to minister effectively.

This talk is supposed to reach across the aisle and ask you to consider for a moment the importance of gay spirituality. It is something I have cultivated over forty years of life and that is what I would like to share with you today.

Let us not mince words. And let us not avoid the obvious. We have found that here in the diocese of Montreal, that there are gay men in ministry. Over the years we have heard from them and we continue to be ministered by them. We are a progressive diocese and the ministers that serve this diocese have asked me to prepare this talk for you. Whether you are “out” or not, I am not judging any one of you, but I want to speak to you as a fellow brother on the road to God.

There has been, in the recent past discussions about “outing” clergy to their parishioners, I can recall reading an article written by one of my friends who is a former Catholic priest. I know several men who have been defrocked by the Church over their commitment to justice and equal treatment. This was truly evident in the life of Geoffrey Farrow and the debacle of Proposition 8 in the diocese of Los Angeles.

This is not an exercise in outing anyone. But I want to talk to you about topics that deal with LGBTQ people. There are some who hide behind their collars never admitting that they are gay, and there are some that are out to a few close friends and family. Some may be in formation and know they are gay and they still pursue ordination. We know that you are there. And through this we are reaching out to you to tell you that God loves you just the same. I am not here to make issue of who you are or what you are.

But let us look at this for a moment. What do you do with what you are? Who do you tell and why would you tell anyone? The first thing to think about is being true to yourself; therefore you can be true to others you meet on the path. Dealing with your own self will assist you in proper listening and acceptance of another who might come to you with the same issue on their lips.

I have dealt with coming out twice in my life, once when I realized I was gay and secondly when I was diagnosed with AIDS so many years ago. So I know what you are all thinking about this topic. I can see the questions forming in your heads. Who do you tell? Your family or your friends, your significant other, if they exist? Your superiors? I am one of your superiors and I reach out to you today to tell you that I am here.

Over the whole of my life my take on disclosure has changed. In the beginning when I was a young boy, disclosure was something that was thought to be necessary to attach ones self to a group or to identify a way of life. We call this labeling. And over the years my thoughts on labeling has changed. Many of the young men I mentor who are gay, I have tried to impress on them the desire to go out into the world as the men they are and not to attach labels on themselves prematurely. One, because I feel that the label can endanger their lives on a grand scale for we see what hate crimes take place on city streets just because someone may be walking with another too closely. And secondly the label becomes a wedge that finds its way between the youth I mentor and the world they go into. We know how hard it is for some to move into their lives because of homophobia and judgment.

Who should you tell, only those you must. We are all adults and we all know how to conduct ourselves in public and in private. And if we don’t have the stress of being forced to disclose, life is easier to live. I think labels limit the men and women we are to become. But on the other hand disclosure can be beneficial to help us do better ministry. Because we may have gay men and women come to our parishes and churches and it may benefit them to know that there is someone who can intimately minister to them if they should need our counsel and help.

The monsignor and I have spoken about disclosure and coming out. Becoming who we are is a process. And like all life issues coming out to ones self and to the world is a process of change. We all go through these changes some make it easier than others.

We walk into a change of life and we follow the 5 stages of grief, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, from her book, “On Death and Dying,” I have been through this process more than once. The first time when I was coming out as a young gay man and the second time, when I was diagnosed with AIDS. We start with denial (This isn’t happening to me). I am not who I am becoming – this is not who I am. We deny to ourselves and to others that which we are becoming, and if we sit here long enough we will convince ourselves that we are not changing.

Anger (Why is this happening to me)  is a huge issue for many. We are angry at the world for the way we are treated by the world and by extension the way community treats “others” who are different in community. Unchecked anger can be detrimental to our lives and to the lives of those we know and love. I work every day to keep my anger in check and sometimes it gets the best of me and in those times I need to seek the forgiveness of God and maybe others that I have hurt in the process.

Or maybe we have moved into bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if), We made promises to God and to others and we try to bargain our way out of certain situations and activities. And usually this leads into depression, which can be a life killer. If we fall into depression (I don’t care anymore)  about where we are in our life, some do not recover from this stage of mourning. We mourn the life we had, and we mourn the life that is coming. And if we stay here too long, we find that it can impede the men and women we are to become. I have seen many men and women get stuck here and stay for long periods of time. I myself took a lot of time to get through this stage when I was sick. Not knowing who to trust and who to look to for help, I thought that I was on my own, which was not the case by a long shot. There were people taking care of me and once I realized this I was able to move forward with my life.

It is a fairly good lesson to understand that we are powerless over people, places and things and once we realize this, we can move forward. Not allowing people or things too much excessive power over our lives free us to move forwards.

Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)  is the key to all of my problems. Coming to the point where I am, where we are comfortable in our skins will be a huge step in our life development. It is the final step in becoming free of the shackles and judgments of others that help us truly become the men and women we are meant to be. This is the last of the 5 steps of mourning. But the monsignor has added a sixth dimension to our development. That is compassion. And I must agree that once we have walked this road we come away from this experience with a modicum of compassion, not only for ourselves but for others who are on the path that we have just walked. And with that experience in our proverbial tool boxes, we can use that compassion with others and also for ourselves.

Knowing who we are now, not making excuses for the men we have become and being comfortable in speaking about these and all things we can move forward into the next area that I wish to discuss. I know I have glossed over the stages of formation, I did that because it is something we do naturally. Some move through the process quickly and for some it is a longer process. But I wanted you to see the process in order to be able to acknowledge it in your own lives. Where are you right now? Are you stuck somewhere amid the process or are you through it? And what can you offer yourself and your fellows? And what can you offer your commuity of faith?

This is where we move into community. I want to introduce you to a paper that I wrote for my Pastoral Ministry class with the monsignor. It speaks to the Pastoral Ministry of young LGBTQ people. It draws on the writings of the Catholic Bishops and the Church. I don’t always agree with institution. So here you can read for yourself what that paper says. And I ask you to look at the paper as it impacts you personally. Does it speak to you and does it help you minster to yourself and with that helps you minister to others?

Here is that paper.

A letter to the community dealing with the Pastoral Care of Gay Young Adults.

The purpose of this pastoral message is to reach out to parents trying to cope with the discovery of homosexuality in their adolescent or adult child. It urges families to draw upon the reservoirs of faith, hope, and love as they face uncharted futures.[1] And it is at this point that we part ways with the Church in our dealings with homosexual children, for we are aware of what the Catholic Church has to say on the subject of homosexuality.

The late Pontiff John Paul II writes in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,

“In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option, it is not.”[2]

I write from the position of a man who was raised within the Catholic Church with all the traditions and rites given to him by Holy Mother Church. I myself am gay and am living with HIV/AIDS. In my lifetime I have had issues with the church and have moved away from the Magisterium and the Catholic Church because of their immovable stance on the homosexual person and homosexuality as a whole. This statement does not make me any less of a spiritual man having left the Church because of her treatment of gay men and women. If your family is involved with going to church or have any participation in spiritual beliefs, I encourage you to maintain that spiritual connection to a God of your understanding, a Power Greater than yourselves.

“It is something of a platitude to claim that organized religion has not been good for gay men, just as it has not been good for other marginalized groups such as women and so-called heretics. There seems to be something strangely threatening to religious power when it enters into contact with individuals or collectives who do not represent the sexual or the gender norm – or any other norm, for that matter. In some senses, this is a natural response by institutions that believe they have a right to exercise a monopoly and a control over moral codes, whether this right is claimed by virtue of “divine authority,” “democratic privilege,” or “reason of state.” Political power acts in similar ways, as does, though far more subtly, economic power. Gay men have therefore always had a suspicious view of religious institutions, as though these could turn at any instant and devour them. In many cases, the cynical and distrust emerge from childhood or adolescent contexts where religion has played an oppressively stifling role.”[3]

Even though we can make the argument that the church is not kind to those who are marginalized or different, in my world today I find that there are little kindnesses in many sacred and religious communities with men and women of faith who are willing to go to any length to keep their flock from falling apart. The Anglican Church of Montreal has done wonderful work with LGBTQ people and also people with AIDS; I am one of those persons.

We live in a more progressive country, Canada. And we live in a more progressive city, Montreal. And it has been my experience that I have never been turned away from the sacraments or the church in my many years as a gay HIV positive man.

I have survived two coming out experiences in my life, the first time as a young man “Coming Out” into the world at large and later in my life when I was “Diagnosed with AIDS.” In today’s day and age, unlike the years when I was growing up, gay lifestyles have become more main stream. We still see people with AIDS treated with disgust and disdain even today as I work with new diagnosis folk.

In the Bishops letter to parents of homosexual children they speak about the stages of acceptance and staying true to ones emotions and allowing the spirit of God to guide you, as long as you maintain adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I know for many families reconciling a homosexual in the family and the church [ones faith] is a task not for the feint of heart. I know that, in today’s day and age, still there is an amount of stigma attached to being gay, I also believe that if homosexuality is approached from the right direction, this can be avoided, if all parties step up to the plate and we all follow certain spiritual practices and follow the words of Jesus when he spoke of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This was a huge issue for my parents in the 1980’s. My father dictated the family social gospel. And what was spoken was not broken in our home.

So it went that I came to a point in my life that I knew that I was different. It was the first day of junior high school, when I walked into the gym at school, that rush of emotion hit me and like a wave, washed over me and made me whole. My parents kept secrets. What they did behind closed doors and what they shared openly in community were two very different things. And they did not think twice about publicly sharing their racist and homophobic views with friends and family, while living in their secrets.

My step mother had begun to notice that my “difference” needed some assistance and she would prepare dinner parties for family and friends and invite professional gay men [doctors, lawyers, educators] to join us. These additional dinner guests did wonders for my father’s hatred of all things gay, because they had my ear, and he did not.

The first lesson I tell parents is this, “Always be careful what you say in front of your children, because one day your words may come back to haunt you.” This was the case for me. I never openly came out to my family because of the stance I knew already existed.

My father’s physical, emotional and verbal abuse kept me in my closet for the whole of my adolescent life. He attempted to beat “different” out of me. His constant barrage of “You were a mistake and should never have been born” took a toll on me in my adult life. You can’t abuse difference out of your children. What you do to your children, they will do to others in their future lives. How you treat your children now, will translate into how they will treat others as adults.

The Bishop’s letter states “There seems to be no single cause of a homosexual orientation. A common opinion of experts is that there are multiple factors – genetic, hormonal, and psychological – that may give rise to it. Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”[4]

While parents work to navigate their minefield of emotions, so too your children are braving the same waters you are, but on a more personal level.

Each person will respond to their respective challenges, each according to their gifts.

There is a notion of liberation and freedom when one decides to take that step outside themselves to accept what is theirs to be taken. It is always safe to stay where one is comfortable to wade through the waters of change in order to maintain some sense of equilibrium in the rolling tide.

A good piece of advice here is that if you don’t know where you are going, then sit in this spot and get to know your feelings and your surroundings, consult with your fellows at this spot and consult your guides, look at your map, and once you are ready to make a move forwards, take that next step, but not until you are sufficiently prepared to do so.

[Explanation: Just because you are dealing with a gay son or daughter, neither of you need leave the church or your faith community.] If people have issues with who you are or what you believe, or that your son or daughter is different, that is their problem, not yours. We are powerless over people, places and things.

Finding your way will happen. It can be done. God is present everywhere, and it has come to pass for me and countless others that one does not need institution to find God.

God exists everywhere…

“For a Gay Man, acceptance by the dominant heterosexual world is never complete, nor is it ever an easy thing to learn to live without. One always feels a bit off balance, almost as though one were the last piece missing from a jigsaw puzzle. Heterosexuals may try to reassure us as much as they can, but they inevitably betray themselves, and they usually end up betraying us. All gay men have known at some point in their lives – and sad to say for some, for most of their lives – the feeling of being the outsider, the raw and stigmatizing experience of marginality. For some, it has scarred them forever; for others, it is a source of liberation and genuine relief…[5]

Over the whole of my life, I have cultivated a “religiously” spiritual life, in addition to my religious leanings. I love the Church, even if the Church does not love me fully in communion with all that is holy. The same may be for your children, if they were raised in the church.

If we are to expand as Christians and fully adopt the greatest commandment of loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves, then we must move into a spiritual paradigm. I maintain that this paradigm is most helpful in reminding us that even if the institution says one thing, God is as constant as the North Star. I don’t believe for one moment that God would turn away anyone from his love.

Donald Boisvert writes:

“Perhaps, as many continue to claim, religion and gay culture do not belong together. Perhaps they are mutually exclusive spheres, and the best we can hope for is a fragile stalemate, a draw at high noon. Yes, perhaps indeed. The pitfalls of religious institutions with respect to homosexuality are legion, and gay men are right to be wary of them. Yet gay men keep believing. We continue to attend church and temple, to pray and to meditate, to come together to celebrate and to worship. What explains this almost irrational need to remain part of what is certainly a homophobic – and somewhat passé, in the eyes of some – cultural institution?”[6]

So we maintain decorum of spiritual seeking in this journey of personal growth and discovery, because even as your child grows into the man or woman they will be, so too, you, as parents will grow into a new place in your lives as well. You will find commonality with other parents who are on this journey. And your children, by way of education and personal friendships will find their way into the gay world as well. When the two worlds collide, the one that popular culture dictates as normal, the heterosexual way of growing up, coupling and being fruitful and multiplying, gay men and women, we find our way around these prescribed notions of normalcy and we find a new route to divinity outside the normal parameters of life and love.

To be different is to be blessed.

You would be amazed to know how much of an impact gay men and women make on the world they inhabit. We continue with Out on Holy Ground where Donald writes:

“Gay theologian and psychotherapist John J. McNeill makes a similar biological argument: The homosexual community has, perhaps, a special role to play in liberating the heterosexual community to a fuller understanding of themselves as persons by being an organic challenge within society to the partial and dehumanizing aspects of these [i.e., traditional] sexual-identity images…

Gays carry a special spiritual consciousness, and they challenge other human beings to see beyond the closed boundaries of nature. This view of gay people as spiritual visionaries and cultural change-agents is part of a long tradition in gay spirituality”[7]

“An article entitled ‘Coming Out as Spiritual Revelation” expresses quite well this line of reasoning. In somewhat grandiose tone, its author writes:

We see a special role for gay people. In revealing that what looks weird, unnatural, queer or freakish is in fact another natural part of an unlimited and complex universe, don’t gay people in coming out provide a key to a spiritual maturity for themselves and for others? What could be less useful in a soulless Darwinian world than individuals that don’t procreate? Why in the world are we in the world? I believe we are here to reveal a further dimension of the diversity of life, and, in so doing, our fellow human beings into celebrating life’s differences.

Moreover, I believe that gay people are here to witness to the truth that human life is not just about procreation, as magical and wonderful as it is. Reproduction is not the only mission for women and men. Just as God gave us a soulful dimension that binds us like a spiritual umbilical cord to the mother of creation and to each other, so she has created gay people to reveal this spiritual dimension.”[8]

Life is a gift from God. And nobody has the right to take that life from any human being, no matter if they are gay or straight. As soon as society finds the divinity of the human life, in every life, then acceptance of that which is different can become a spiritual experience for both the homosexual child and his or her parents and thereby extension, the society we live in and the world at large.

“Marginality is a most effective formative experience; it is the furnace that tempers the steel. Its corollary is loss. For most gay men, consciously or not, loss is the defining texture of our lives. Simply by having had to give up so much that so many others take for granted on an almost daily basis – whether family, children, lovers, acceptance, or inclusion – we have learned how to live on intimate terms with the experience of loss. In many cases, this experience has been sharpened to the point of exhaustion and rebellion by the overwhelming impact of AIDS on our lives and those of our lived ones.”[9]

It has come to pass in the last twenty years that I have seen some of the most heinous actions carried out by human beings upon other human beings. With the onset of AIDS in our world, Christians, human beings and spiritual people have participated in some of the most reprehensible actions I have ever witnessed. Being gay is one issue, having HIV or AIDS is totally another beast.

I was 26 when I was diagnosed with AIDS and I was told that I was going to die. I called my family together for a meeting and they responded according to their coping skills and understanding and their ability to deal with that kind of news. I remembered the words of my parents from my earlier adolescence. My mother worked in home health care and she cared for people with AIDS and I remember how she mocked and made fun of the faggots being punished by God.

What my parents did to me after that, I would not wish on any other human being. God forbid their friends find out I was gay, first off, and secondly, heaven forbid they find out I had AIDS, what would they think about my parents. They were more concerned about themselves rather than me.

I witnessed parents throwing their sick children out into the streets. I watched them turn their backs on life and love because of an illness. I watched as lovers and friends turned their backs on their friends and each other. It got so bad for me that I had to walk away from my family because they were treating me like pariah. It was amazing witnessing my own family act as ignorant and as stupid as they did, even knowing my mother worked in the health care field.

It wasn’t like they were not educated, yet they embarked on a path where they treated me like a leper, with bleach bottles in the bathroom and plastic utensils on the dinner table and they did this in front of friends and family, which totally made me sick inside.

My boyfriend at the time of my diagnosis left me, all of my friends walked away. I saw sick men get thrown out of homes by landlords. I saw sick men get fired by employers, and good Christian church going people turn their backs on God’s creations, other human beings. Funeral parlors would not process sick people because of fear.

Churches demonized the sick and they stood on their bibles calling AIDS punishment by God for the sins of the flesh of men.

But it was the kindness of one man who made the difference in my survival. The man I credit for my survival. Todd was my employer, but after my diagnosis he became my champion, my father figure, my friend, my care taker, and my savior. I can’t tell you that the first thoughts in my mind were of God, at that point in my life. I had to deal with surviving with a death sentence.

And it was but for a group of men and women with a common goal who worked tirelessly in seeing that we had everything that we needed as the world turned in on itself and people turned upon each other.

Where was God in all of that insanity, I ask you? When religion turned on us, we turned on religion and those who lived, lived. Out of all the men I knew from that time, over 162 of them, are dead and thousands more are immortalized in the National AIDS Memorial Quilt and in addition all those who went to their deaths unknown to anyone but God alone. I am the last one left alive out of that original social circle of men.

Someone up there likes me and I always say to doctors who constantly look at science as fact, that one cannot deny or ignore the power of faith for a sick person’s survival.

After I was diagnosed, I read ravenously. I studied all the major religious and spiritual traditions, trying to make sense of death and in doing so I would be able to face my own death courageously and with some modicum of dignity. Alas, I lived and here I am speaking to you today. This has been my journey over these odd 15 years.

It is very easy to maintain an attitude of denial and to be narrow minded. It is too easy to listen to what the church says about homosexuality, “that it is a condition and is an objective disorder.” It is too easy to listen to the evangelical preachers condemn homosexuals as deviant and as an abomination unto God.

We can sift through our bibles and we can focus on the seven deadly scriptures to bolster our argument for discrimination and subjecting our children to the dictates of society as a whole. But I encourage you to study your scripture and to pray to your God and I hope to that end that you would come to understand scripture as something written for a specific time and for a specific people.

We must look at scripture from three points on the compass, the exegetical, meaning “what did the text mean in its original setting?” Secondly from a hermeneutical position: “What might the meaning of this text be today?” and thirdly Methodological with its two approaches (a) that Scripture as Revealed Morality and (b) Scripture as Revealed reality.

Much hatred of homosexuals is propagated by those who would use scripture as a means to an end. And those who follow religious teachings and the many institutional churches will wrestle with these angels if you find that your son or daughter is gay.

What route shall you take, will you deny them what is rightfully theirs and demonize them and turn them away from you like pariah? Or will you take the high road and live into love, accepting the special love that God has called you to see through.

Richard M. Gula writes “The Bible says what is has to say about the moral life in the forms and genres of laws and imperatives, to be sure, but also in narratives, parables, sayings, and other literary forms. The Bible is far from a handbook of ready-made judgments which we can immediately apply to current situations. Its ethical material both illumines the moral life with images to help us interpret what is going on and, in some instances; it prescribes behavior, such as in the ten commandments, the great commandment, and the instructions of St. Paul. The proper use of the Bible in either instance involves an ongoing dialogue between the faith experiences of the biblical community and those of today.”[10]

This is our ministry. And this is what I see as needing to change for the future. I spend so much of my life working with my kids and with those who appear on my path.

I have spent the better part of fifteen years working with LGBTQ young people, I work with adults coming out later in life, and I have worked with the sick and the dying from AIDS and from other terminal diseases.

Where the Church has failed to see to the care of those they see as “other,” I have seen to care for those who find themselves looking at the Church from the outside in. I believe that Pastoral Ministry must change with the times. It is also my belief that the church needs to change with the times. But we know that the archaic institutional church we see today does not have the wherewithal to make that much needed change. And that is why working in the field works for me. If we are to bring the Gospel forward into the lives of those we touch, we must be willing to walk where many fear to tread.

We must do the work of God where he may be found. Care of the individual begins at home. Because what our children learn at home, they will eventually carry out into the world. And if we are to be good agents of change, the work of change begins with us in our own lives.

If we turn from our children, they will turn from their neighbor and from themselves, if we do not personify love incarnate, then our children will not know what that proper love is, and it may take years and even for some decades to learn about love from the right direction. Every word we speak, every emotion we telegraph, every tone of voice we use with our children has a direct impact on the adults they will become.

I have seen this truth with my own eyes.

I cannot tell you how many kids I work with have been hurt by their families, friends, and church congregations and have turned to terrible addictions to ease and eliminate the pain of the past. In terms of recovery, we find that in that recovery, people come to believe in a power greater than themselves, and usually that ends up being God, even if they have had a past with a church that hurt them to begin with. We reorient the downtrodden into relationship with God on a spiritual plane, not necessarily an institutional plane.

But if for once, we could eliminate the first contact with negativity, how many lives can we change for the better, for the future. The dictates of society have so burdened us with rite and ritual and accepted ways of life and behavior that we have forgotten how to think and act for ourselves. We are so busy following the pack that we have lost our individual consciousness to act rightly and Godly. The teaching of Christ is so simple, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If the world could embrace these two principles, what a world we could create.

But on the grander scale that is impossible, so that work must begin with us, in our lives, in our homes and in our families and in our social and religious circles.

We have but this one life to get it right, so how much time have you wasted living in fear, or anger or judgment? The time has come, the time is now. Today is the day we create change. Today is the day we renew our Christian calling to serve one another as Christ served us. These are the words I speak to my kids and my fellows. I am but one man, and my ministry is but one little effort in this big wide world. And I walk my path as it is laid out before me.

But I always return to the one common thread that exists in my story, my love for a Judeo Christian God and my need to worship God in his church with the sacraments and my fellows. Montreal is a huge religious city, and God can be found any number of places in any number of churches, no matter what faith you follow.

Find your path and walk it. There are people already on the path that you will come in contact with. Be sure to share your water, your bread and your hospitality with them. Walk in the desert with the pilgrim and find God. Every person on the path of life appears there for a specific reason, to teach us something specific, are you paying attention?

Each connection is an opportunity to learn about them or about yourself.

Every relationship is an opportunity to broaden your ability to love all of God’s creation. There is no darkness that God cannot touch. Learning that your son or daughter is gay should not be an earth shattering event, although for many that is what happens, because it challenges every fiber of our being and asks us to wrestle with our faith. You can either walk away, or turn your back on God or you can walk towards the light and see God in yourself and in your neighbor. We are spiritual beings living a human experience, and in that we are called to higher things. What will you do?

In the end of this Christian life I live, when on that last day I meet God, I want to hear him say to me

“Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We close with a reading from the Gospel of Matthew. Chapter 22:34-40.

The Greatest Commandment

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It is a forgone conclusion that we must move into a model of Pastoral Compassion. We must exhibit cultural and personal sensitivity when we are dealing with gay and lesbian young people and as well, gay and lesbian adults. We live in a melting pot of cultures and ways of life here in Montreal so we will be challenged to try to find solutions and ways of ministry that will compliment the work we do as ministers and also help the myriads of people that come to us from all walks of life to find a welcoming spirit in our churches and ministries. Every tool we find that is useful for others is a tool that we can use on ourselves. The best tool that I have to use is my bank of personal experiences.

Talking to you here is a way for me to exercise my experience muscles to help you become better ministers, priests and people. I have walked this road myself, and I think that I understand where each of you might be on your journeys and I may be able to offer you assistance to help you along the way.

2.0 – Parking your judgments at the door.

This paper is written to you in the spirit of community and I understand that this paper is to be received locally. Hierarchy is like a series of concentric circles from the top down. From Holy Mother Church in Rome (the greater European circle) to the Churches of North America and Canada. (moving inwards) to the Church of Quebec and here to our city of Montreal. In the beginning when this paper was in the planning stages I wasn’t sure of how I was to write to you and I was allowed to address you on a communal level because this is our community. There are specific issues that we are to touch on here in Montreal and the surrounding areas.

We all know what Holy Mother Church has to say about homosexuality and what the Council of Catholic Bishops speak to this issue as well. But I am told by my religious superior, the monsignor that it is ok to speak about what I know to you here and now. This isn’t Rome and it isn’t the United States. And we, as men and women of faith, we can talk of these things in a community setting.

We all come from different backgrounds and we all may have our crosses to bear when it comes to issues of sexuality and sexual orientation. We have been indoctrinated by our church to believe certain things about others and ourselves. We are to deny the feelings of the flesh and we are not to act upon our sexual desires, but we are to aspire to become the person of Jesus in our human lives. For if we do not act on those urges, they will disappear. Right???

Sexual urgings just do not disappear just as sexual orientation does not disappear. Some say we are born this way, and others say that homosexuality is learned behavior. I know for myself that I knew that I was different before I knew what difference was. We are all a product of our upbringings. We learned from our parents the way we were to evolve and we learned from our church how to relate to God and to ourselves. And for some these teachings became points of contention for many. Being Gay and Catholic was something that could not be reconciled with Holy Mother Church as it came from the top down. Homosexuality was an abomination and that God judged those who were homosexuals with certain doom and damnation. But we know today that that is not the case. God created man and woman and it is written that God thought that they were good. I don’t believe that God sees a gay man or woman any differently than he would a heterosexual man or woman.

We live in a Province that has legal laws that protect gays and lesbians. We have marriage legislation in place to allow couples to marry. We live in a greater country that makes it easier for gay and lesbian men and women to prosper and live. We live in a multicultural city that is awash in cultural and sexual diversity. What could be better than living in a multicultural city that has its own gay village.

There are parishes in that gay village that minister to LGBTQ people. And to that end I am speaking to you today to help you deal with who you are, to help you come to believe that God, in his wisdom, created you in all of your splendor. And that we don’t need to hide behind convention and occupation. We do not have to hide behind the veil of church and her laws and decrees.

Like you, we have a multitude of kids here in the city that struggle every day with sexuality and family issues. We know that there are millions of kids who need our help where we can offer it. If we help just one kid, we have done our jobs. And what better way to be part of community than to open your parishes and churches to those that that Holy Mother Church has segregated from the community at large. Mother Church has not been kind to LGBTQ people. Here is where we have to opportunity to open ourselves up to the greatest ministry that can be had.

3.0 – Rejection

What would Jesus do? It’s a very simple question. I believe that Jesus sees past sexual lines and orientation lines. It is my belief that Jesus would welcome the sinner and every other man, woman or child whom he met along the way. I have met Jesus, in the ministry of certain men and women in my lifetime. I have seen God work miracles in my life so I know that He sees me and hears my prayers. And it is in that spirit that I can write to you today.

There is no room for your ego when it comes to ministry. There is no room for judgment when it comes to working with others. There is no room for negative thoughts when dealing with the sick and the dying. Rejection is not an option in today’s day and age. Because if we reject one, or the other, we reject Jesus.

I think we all know what rejection feels like. We all have been affected at one time or another in our lives. We may have been rejected by family or friends. I am sure if you are gay and Catholic that you have felt rejected by Holy Mother Church. And maybe you have been directly rejected by the priests who served your parishes as young people. And this is the message of God. Right here and now, as God speaks to us, we know that God will never reject us. I think that God is forgiving and understanding. It is my belief that God would never turn on us for any reason because he knows all and sees all. There is nothing about our lives and secrets that he does not know already.

4.0 Responding the the Pastoral Needs of LGBTQ People

We have spoken about a number of topics thus far and I just want to review some of them for you now. We’ve spoken about disclosure. To whom and when is it time to do so. When is disclosure a problem and why I don’t suggest you disclose to just anyone because of force or ego.

People who are gay have issues to talk about – issues to disclose. And that can be sometimes a daunting process. The easier we make it for young people to come to grips with who they are in a very supportive way is the key to helping young people to grow into socially and sexually responsible persons. When it comes to illness, this is almost sacrosanct. People with AIDS know that to disclose certain information can be life altering and for many life ending. We have seen in other countries what the disclosure of HIV does to the human being facing this diagnosis, the family that they come from and the community that they are part of. HIV is not the death sentence it once was, but still the spiritual upkeep of positive people is crucially important.

I work in the area of diagnoses. I sit with men and women who have been newly diagnosed and I try to help them deal with what they have been told. Now in my 15th year of living with HIV I know where someone who is newly diagnosed is in their head. I can tell you that I know all the concerns they might have, and I know what their friends, family and fellows are going through. And I know how hard disclosure is for them. And I follow them, for as long as they need to be followed to make sure they find their way into their new lives, and to help them not focus on death so much. With the way medications have come along in the last decade, people are living longer and more productive lives with HIV. For many they need to hear a positive message of love and support to help them keep on being productive loving people. We cannot afford to reject anyone who comes to us for spiritual guidance.

The most important aspect of Christian life is the celebration of the sacraments. And this was the one area that my spiritual guides insisted that I partake in as often as possible. It is one thing to pray and to be faithful to God. Sometimes that is a tall order for people who are gay and lesbian. But we have come so far in pastoral care. Not all people are gay and many are spiritual people who go to church. Keeping LGBTQ people in our pews is an important pastoral task. Making sure they feel welcomed and loved by God is paramount.

We as community do not have time to reject the sacraments for people who do not necessarily meet Holy Mother Church on all points. There is no room for any pastoral minister to deny the sacraments to anyone. Even Holy Mother Church uses that tool as a punishment for those who fall outside the purview of the church. But I have never known a minister here in the city to deny me the sacraments for any reason. Although I have met ministers who have said to my face that I was an abomination to God and that I had subverted the teachings of Holy Mother Church to suit my own personal agenda. Needless to say that that priest no longer has a parish in this diocese.

There is nothing that is more important that to offer another the sacraments. From prayers to confession, from reconciliation to the celebration of the Eucharist. In certain churches here in Montreal the sacrament of marriage is an acceptable norm and those norms will be coming to more churches in the coming years. However unlikely the Catholic Church will ever grant rites of marriage to gay and lesbian people, other churches will. I know the Anglican Church in Canada is moving towards rites of blessings for same sex couples.

When I was diagnosed with AIDS and I returned to my parish the priests of my parish insisted that I participate in the Holy Eucharist as often as I could make it to church. And so it became a daily event. Coming to church early in the morning to spend some time before the blessed sacrament and to pray my rosary, then followed by the reception of the Eucharist and spiritual direction every week.

Participating in communal prayer and the reception of the Eucharist are very important aspects for all Christians who go to church. If we are to be ministers of Christ, we must make sure that the sacraments are available to everyone – every day. For participating in the mass, saying the prayers of the church and the reception of Jesus’ body was terribly important to the men who were my spiritual mentors and to me as well.

I truly believe that it is my faith that has sustained and saved me from imminent death so many years ago. I was taught to keep my eyes on the prize and to pray every day and go to mass. And it was also important that the men of faith who led my parish had made time for me in their daily schedule to spend time with me to talk and a lot of the time, just to listen. It is important to be able to discuss any topic with our people, but it is imperatively important that we are able to LISTEN.

If God takes time every day to listen to his people, we should be able to make time to listen as well. In order to be spiritual men and women, we must practice the spiritual principles. We must be obedient to God. We must be responsible to one another and to God. We must pray and we must meditate. And then we need to sit back and be still and become receptive to Listening. Listening to God and to one another. In order to be good ministers we must find the balance in ministry. We must take time for God, we must take time for ourselves, and then we must spend time with others. And finding that fine balance can be a daunting process. But it can be done. The sacraments must be made available whenever possible. For that is where we meet God face to face.

In the end, when life comes to an end, we must be prepared to offer final rites to those who are sick and have come to the end of their earthly existence. It came to pass that I witnessed men of faith deny those rites to sick people. It was an abhorrent action served on those less fortunate by those who were in religious power. It is so important that we live lives of prayer in order to be able to offer those prayers to those who might need them.

For we know that God created us in his image and that we are acceptable and blessed in this life. God loves us unconditionally, but in today’s world do we or can we love another unconditionally? Or do we withhold certain things from certain people? How can we be ministers of Christ’s love and not love all people equally? How can we stand before our parishioners and speak the words and not carry those sentiments in our hearts for all? It is just imperative that we come to a point that we allow God to transform our lives and our prayers into Godly lives and Godly prayers.

If we are to become the men and women we are meant to be, we must find the way to God be it in our prayers, in our words, in our writing and in our actions. We must be the manifestation of God to those we encounter on a daily basis. Because you know, we might be the only Jesus that some may ever see.

You never know what situation or circumstance will come up in your daily life and I encourage you to live with a reckless abandon for God and for Jesus. I encourage you to live in the moment always anticipating spiritual moments in your days. You never know when someone may be looking for Jesus in the men and women we are today.

God is love, and love comes from God. In order to love one another, we must first begin by loving God and by loving ourselves. We must take care of ourselves first in order to be able to take care of another pastorally. It’s all relational. God – Love – Self – Other.

We must find the path to finding peace with our God. Because once we find that way into peace and that peace fills us, it is then that we can offer God’s peace to other people. In making peace with God and with ourselves we finally are able to live peaceful lives. Knowing who we truly are and knowing the gifts that each of us have from God will allow us to use those gifts for the betterment of the sheep of our flocks. And if we see gifts in ourselves, we must pray on them because then we can see gifts in other people. And the cycle is made complete from God through us, into those we minister to back to God.

An

Before I begin my reflection I would like to share with you the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, from the Gospel of John.

John 4: 1-30
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

I welcome you in the name of the one who sent me. We shall be speaking about a multitude of topics today. We might consider taking a moment to center ourselves and to pray that we are open to the whispering of God as he may move amongst us.

 

I will open this discussion with the telling a two stories that will give you some sense of where I come from, and how I walked a spiritual journey which brings me to the writing of this paper. I ask you to listen with your ears and also with your hearts, for once I was a man in need of ministering. Today I am a man who can offer ministry to others. So here we go – let us begin.

 

1.0 – Life and the living of that life

 

God comes to those who wait upon him. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we are God is still faithful to us. To begin this seminar I would like to tell you a story about myself and God. It began long ago and has brought me to where I am today.

 

As a young child I have fond memories of old churches and polished pews and candles flickering in dark corners of the building, statues of saintly persons who looked out over the congregational spaces and the dark corner grottos making sure we knew that they were watching over us and praying in tandem with the many who came to find peace, solace and faith within those walls.

 

I remember that day that my Memere took me to that grand church all alone, just her and I and God. It was an afternoon event; she brought me here for mass on a regular basis. These were the days of the old missal books and rosaries, women wearing lace over their faces, it was an ethnic parish church attended by many from ethnic communities all around.

 

On that day she took me to the church, she had a purpose. I remember this as if it was yesterday because, in my minds eye, this was very important to her. We went to light some candles and leave our offering in that little tin box attached to the candle display, we sat in quiet supplication and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and we lingered to hear the voice of God speak to us. I am sure that Memere and God had brokered an agreement over me.

 

After a while she got up from her place and she gathered me to herself and we walked to the edge of the banister that protected the main altar from people walking up on the dais. The banister was open, as if to welcome us to step up there – so with great pride Memere walked me ahead of her until I was standing on the dais before God. I must admit there were no words that were spoken to me; this is where the agreement must have been made. Memere looked up that the altar, then at her favorite statue and then beckoned God to look down upon us and take us into His arms and protect us.

In that moment I believe I had been “consecrated” to Christ and to God and the Blessed Mother, not to mention Marguerite D’ Youville. (This will be explained later in the timeline)Memere had a “tight” relationship with God. Her homes were shrines to the family that had gone before us, to the saints who protected us, and the God who gave us life. I always felt naked before God in her house. As if God sat with us daily and saw us for whom we really were simple God fearing folk. I never for one moment feared God. There was nothing I could not say to Him nor ask of Him, but I also knew that there were things one just did not ask of God, because greed and excess were not part of Memere’s lexicon.

I learned to pray the rosary as a young boy, we went to mass frequently. I don’t know if my mother and father were aware that I had so much “sacred time” in my early life. I am sure she knew that if I was with Memere that I would go where she went and I would love her for taking me and I would love the adventure of going to see God all the time.

 

The church of old is not the church of now, unless of course you live in Montreal and have living “great” relatives who live in a convent not far from home.

 

Being the first of two children in a family firmly grounded in the late 1960’s brought a lot of opportunities to me as that first child. I had three years on my brother. Three years are a big deal. I had the adoration of the matriarch’s of the family; I had three years of unadulterated wisdom taught to me over time. My time was my own; there was no one to deflect that attention away from me, which endeared me to the hearts of the women of the family. But secrets existed, secrets that would one day turn my life upside down.

 

My father was an abusive man; he came back from Viet Nam with major issues. I was born out of the man who came back from war, damaged and lost. He took a wife of Canadian blood, gave her an ultimatum and got her pregnant. I was there at the wedding, my mother carrying me in her womb, walked down the aisle that day and agreed to bear his children and live by his rules and regulations. My father, the racist, bigot that he was wanted to force a continental divide to rise from the ground to separate that which made my mother who she was and force her to become the woman he required.

 

That divide never rose, and my father’s resentment of the maternal “nursery” that I entered as a child began. I guess this is why I am so maternal, because all the men in the family were war shaken and damaged. They worked all the time in business, in the fields and in factories. It was up to the women to rear the children into the people we were to become. My father’s resentment of my presence was well known. Later in my life I would be told of the fact that my father wanted to kill me, that I was a mistake and should never have been born. He tried many times to snuff my light out as quick as he could. The one thing that he did not expect was the backlash that came in the form of vociferous rebukes by the matriarch’s of the family, hence my “consecration to God.” If I was consecrated to the Almighty, then my father’s plan for ending my life would never come to fruition.

 

I remember being chased through houses by drunk men in my life, I remember my grandmothers standing in doorways between me huddling beneath a bed, hiding for my life, and my drunk and angry father fighting with them to let him “do it already!” He wanted nothing more than to wipe me off the face of the earth. The women of my family tell me that he fought often with them to abuse me and to hurt me and eventually to kill me.

They were not going to let that happen, my mother was powerless to try and stop him, why, they had an agreement, and she was his bitch, and she did what he said without argument! That was his way unto this very day.

When I was born he gave me my name. I was given to the earth as the man he loved from the war, who died in the war, so every time he looked at me or said my name or heard my name called, the memory of “one dead soldier” would rise to the fore. What kind of man places that kind of sadistic torture on himself? Was he hoping to exorcise that memory from his brain by personal reprogramming? I think there was more to this story than met the eye. Yes, there was, it took me decades to divine the truth from those who knew, and in hindsight I was able to complete the puzzle.

At age 30 I changed that name and exorcised it from my life, it was the final conflict that separated me from my parents. Being gay – HIV Positive and changing my name was three strikes, I was now damned to live without parents. He made damn sure of that.

 

Needless to say, faith was a priority; God would protect and save me. My grandmothers agreement with God was non negotiable with any one else. Not that my father knew she had this deal on the table. Women are tricky characters you know! When Memere beckoned upon those she regarded as spiritually powerful, hell hath no fury like the wrath of an angry saint and my grandmother generating the turbine of retribution with her dedicated prayers.

Who was God? And why should I care? Because it was beaten into me that I was a mistake and should never have been born, for 18 years my father made it his life’s work to destroy me mentally and emotionally. Later on in my 30’s the revelation of my sexual abuse at my father’s hands would rise from my sobering mind. And you think HE had issues? I went to church, as a young boy. I would complete all my sacraments in the order of succession. I would be in communion with the church I would pray my rosary and my novenas.

God was present in my daily life. I was always naked when I was sacred. There was nothing I held back from God, because my relationship with God was between him and me. To stand before God is to be naked in his sight. How much more sacred could it be?

My parent’s went to church off and on. After my brother was born in 1970, my mother found out she was RH positive and a tubiligation was ordered by her OB because she might not live through another pregnancy, and so it was done. This act of “birth control” forced an issue that divides the church and her people to this day. A woman’s right to decide proper birth control and the church’s position that if one impedes the ability of a woman to conceive then you are outside the rule of mother church.

My parents were dealt a swift blow by the parish priest where they were married. That priest, by order of Holy MotherChurch, was bound to defend the party line of those times; he excommunicated them both from the church – which meant that they could no longer receive the sacraments. I have to assume my mother was crushed and my father couldn’t give a damn.

 

Years would pass, life would go on, God still existed in my life, and we, as a family went to church, I remember that much. It came to pass in my years as a pre-teen that we moved to the third home of transition, when I was in grade six. This afforded my parents entry into suburbia. It was a very big step up from where we had been socially and economically. We had made it into the “big time.” My father was proud of this accomplishment. I remember the day we saw the house, we all loved it, and it was sacred. It was in the right place, for the right money and had just the right charm to allow my parents to afford it.

 

St. Richard’s parish was less than a mile away; schools were “in the neighborhood” and all was well. My father’s drinking began in earnest so did his abuse, not only of me, but my brother and mother. My mother sought out the parish priest whom would play a large part in my later seminary formation at a later date. They began the process of becoming redeemed in the church; this process took almost 4 years, after decades of living in sin.

My father’s parents were cursed in the years when I was in grade seven and eight. The curse first took my grandmother with a stroke; I was taken from school at age thirteen and flown 1500 miles to her bedside where my father expected that I would be the one to bring her back across the divide. Since I was his first born son, and had the connection I did with her that seeing me would ignite the fire that went out in her brain. I failed to re-ignite the flame. I don’t think my father ever forgave me for my failure to heal his mother. A year later my grandfather was hit with a stroke one year to the day of my grandmother, but he was no favorite of mine, and I did nothing to help him. He abused us all, and for that abuse, death was right punishment.

At age 15, I entered High School. This was a very important period for me. I met a circle of friends that would impact the rest of my life. St. Louis Parish was one block from the High School which I was attending. The youth minister on duty at that time used to open his office at lunch and that is where people would gather to pray, to meet and talk and to learn about God. Who knew it would lead me where it did.

 

It was in my grade ten year that I would make my confirmation. In order to make that confirmation, my parent’s needed to step up their game in attaining absolution from the church for their “faux pas” with the church over birth control. The Pastor of the parish spoke to them, and gave them counsel and I remember that day he told those, in his Irish Brogue, “the hell with that priest and his excommunication.” I remember my mother doing the happy dance the day that God re-entered our home. He never left, I mean he was in my room, I wasn’t quite sure of any other room in the house up until that point, but for my parents that was the biggest coup of their lives.

 

When I was home alone on many an occasion, I prayed and I listened to music and in my sacred space within my room I would become naked and sacred. I believed that God was with me, and he protected me, because I really needed it. My father had once again stepped up his attacks, and they were getting even more brutal. My friends all came from broken homes, parent’s divorced, splitting up or on the way there… I was a misfit like all of them. These were the years I spent more time out of my own house than in it. I just could not cope with the ritual mental, emotional and physical abuse.

 

Where was God when it hurt?

High school was hit and misses, God was here and he was not. I followed him and I cursed him through both sides of my mouth. I was becoming addicted to alcohol; I was starting to slip in school. My relationship with my parents was strained and the priests and ministers of the church had to do something lest they loose me to the statistics of teen tragedy.

I was given chores at church. Any free time was spent working on cleaning the church and keeping the sacristy in tip top shape. I had access to areas of “church” that not many had. In those years the rectory was on site and I spent a lot of time in that rectory doing chores and loving every moment of that time.

 

Those priests kept me from self destruction. My consecration to God had begun once again. I guess once you are given to God, you don’t have to ask again. Hindsight shows me that I was being groomed for greater things. What my father “beat” out of me, the church replaced in me. What my father on earth took – my heavenly father gave back ten fold. I was in the right place at the right time, when the priests of the parish began to entertain me with seminary speak, serving the church and the greater good. Was I good enough to wear a robe to preach to the masses, to herd a flock?

 

From the age of ten through out my later life, I was aware of my sexuality. In that I mean I knew how it worked. I knew the finer details of sex and sexual variations. My parents lived a double life, which I was privy to. Knowing the secret sex lives of my parents was an addiction. I couldn’t get enough. Why was I like this? Where did this all begin? I can’t say, and I really don’t want to know when it all began.

I had had relationships in my teen years with others, WHAT I was – was not an issue at any time during my formative years, although I heard the word queer and faggot come out of my parent’s mouths frequently. Our family had been introduced to “homosexuals” when we made that third and final move by friends my parent had and we blessed to have.

 

I did not identify myself in any “other” term than heterosexual well through my high school years. I dated girls, I had relationships, and I went to prom. I never questioned who I was openly, but between God and myself there was a lot of discussion and praying.

Masturbation became a sacred activity, because it happened when God and I were alone. I wanted that sacred experience – to feel that divine communion with the God of my understanding, I wanted to feel sublime love in sacred terms. I’ve never had sex with a woman; I never had sexual inclinations towards the girls I dated in school. I was chaste in that way, but I was profane when left to my own devices.

 

After completing high school I attended one year of junior college and I failed miserably. I had no tools; I had no knowledge about the “world at large.” My parents never taught me about “transition.” This is the KEY moment in a young person’s life. I know that now, and I teach that to my boys and my fellows. That was when the priests of our parish suggested that I consider the seminary. It was a possible and real option. I got the necessary letters of recommendation and filed my application with the diocese. I was put through my paces and psychological testing, and I passed the boards with a clean sweep.

 

At this point of my life, my grandparents were getting old. My father’s parents did not know who they were cursed by strokes, Memere was living in a retirement home 1500 miles away, but she saw me enter seminary. When Memere consecrated me to God on that day many years ago in that church came full circle the day I moved into my room at the seminary. All her prayers and novenas were now fulfilled. I was safe for eternity.

 

I loved God with all my heart and all my soul and all my being. It was unlike any feeling I had every felt before. I remember moving in that day and walking with my parents around the grounds. My mother was so proud, my father had no choice, and he was hell bent on my destruction, my mother on my survival. The battle of the wills was raging on in front of my very eyes. God would win that days cavalry charge. We said goodbye and my mother cried as I walked them to their car and they drove off.

 

It took a few days to get used to being in the seminary. I sought quiet spaces to commune with God. I went to the chapel whenever I could. There were chapels located on the upper floors of the residence hall where we could pray and have mass said for us. It was the closest to the sacred nakedness I longed for, that I would get that year. God was all powerful and loving. I was there to do one thing, find the way to Him, to serve him to love him in the most sublime way.

 

The Eucharist became the ritual that would bring me closer to God. I sang my heart out; I prayed until the beads ripped through my hands, I walked in circles until there were ruts in my gardens. (I was a seminary gardener) during that years. It was in this year that things became clear to me. I started to hear God’s voice. I was just a boy in a big world. I was unprepared for the drama of living with others in such tight quarters. My every decision was scrutinized. My every prayer was spell checked. My intentions and motives were questioned. My classmates became my judges but I observed them as well.

 

My quest to find God was not the same quest that my fellows were on. It had seemed that “identity” was the issue on the table. Many of my peers had figured out their identity and were comfortable in their own skins to “practice their ways.” I had not come to this stage in my life yet. What did I know about identity? I was just this boy in a seminary trying to find my way in a world that was not kind to me. Sex was the first topic of discussion at each and every spiritual direction session I attended that year. It was one of the only lies I told to the man who was interested in my sexual proclivities.

What did my masturbation have to do with the attainment of holiness? What I did alone with my God was my business and no one else’s.I saw injustice in the church; I witnessed people being removed from service because of judgment. I witnessed the church move gay priests and some with illness to our grounds to live and work with us; they were taken from their parishes as a punishment for an unholy lifestyle. Homosexuality was right there in front of me.

Grown gay men of the cloth living in community with me, and from my mouth to God’s ears, these men had more sacred reverence for God than any heterosexual holy man in residence with us at that time. I highly respected some of these men. They showed me real faith and real love for God. They gave me more in that year than others. They did not judge me nor force me to be anything but myself. It was the institution that forced choices of identity and allegiance. I was not ready to “identify” nor was I going to pledge “allegiance” to the rector of the seminary or to mother church.

What I do know is this, that I knew then who God was for the age that I was and I was ready to sacrifice my life for that God, but I was hell bent on denying the pressures of the institution to turn a blind eye to blatant abuses of power and human dignity and respect. I had no desire of entering or pledging for the “boys club” it was beneath me. I was better than that and I wasn’t going to compromise my walk with Christ to be like them.

 

After a year in seminary I was told that my invitation to return the following year had been rescinded. That maybe seminary was not “the place for me.” That maybe becoming a priest was not my “calling.” Who were they to judge with blinder on their eyes? What did they really know about my relationship to God, not that any of them really wanted to know? I walked away from the church and from God.

 

I moved back home for a short time. That did not last very long. I got a job and traveled the world. I met His Holiness John Paul II twice in the space of 2 years. Once in the states the second time at the Vatican. He was a sainted man; he was a star in my eyes. What I did not know then would not hurt me until decades later.

 

I was “Outed” by my best friend on a cruise when I was twenty one. We never spoke again after that. I moved away to be gay, to have my coming out experience. God was no where to be found in my lexicon. He was there; I just refused to allow him into my life, because the church had shit on my spiritual journey. That I took as a clear affront by God so I retaliated.

It is really hard to try and explain to some that unless you have walked a day or a week or a month and quite possibly a year in my shoes, NO ONE has the right to judge me.

Illness forces one who is ill to grow up, faster than usual. It asks of us to persevere through the illness and to hope and pray that one will live through adversity and come victoriously to the other side. 162 of my friends went into that dark night with me. They are all dead, I am still alive. I must be doing something right.

People, who think they know God, come and tell me about their God and they share with me their warped views of Christianity. How could I possibly know God, be a Christian and be Gay? My God does not care that I am gay and he doesn’t care that you are straight. My God tells me that I must walk this path, and I must pray and I must respect the station of God, and I do that. I am sure that every Christian who reads this blog has a different conception of God, and you may not agree with me and that’s ok. What a bore it would be if we all agreed on every note of Christianity.

When I got sick, and doctors told me that I had, at best, 18 months to live, that I better make good use of that time, I took that diagnosis home with me and I was alone. Because I would be Coming Out again and AIDS was the great leveler. It surely separated the boys from the men, and the girls from the women. I tell this story again because it is who I am – what I am – and where I came from.

I had to come to believe that I was going to live, when all of my friends were dying. Against all odds, a group of men rallied round me and forced me to think, they begged me to believe in them, if I could not believe in myself or in God at that present moment. I cried for days. I worked my ass off and I listened to every word that was spoken to me in that first 18 months. I listened to the men who made sense of living. I listened to men encourage me through the toughest time of my life. Were THEY wrong???

The path lies ahead of you. What you choose to do with that knowledge is up to you. I had a choice, I could stay on the path and follow the leader, or I could go it alone. I chose to follow the leader. When Christianity turned its back on the sick and the dying, WE were still there. When the Christians were condemning us, and labeling us, WE were still there, we walked through that hell. I accuse many for what they did to me and my friends. I accuse you for turning your back on so many, families, friends, lovers, churches, congregations, funeral parlors, office workers, hospital workers and doctors and nurses.

You have not a shred of experience on what we lived through. You have not a leg to stand on when you speak your vile accusations and judgments. God as my witness, you have no idea who I am, you did not see with thine own eyes the horror I witnessed. You did not weep at the bodies laid wasted by those who abandoned them. I reckon, you did not shed one guilty tear of remorse for your actions.

I counted the days, one by one, on paper, in my house, in my heart and in my mind. I sewed my own memorial quilt with the others and when they died I wept for my friends and those who loved them to the end. I worked night and day to care for the sick and the dying. I worked night and day to keep myself alive. And I was sober as well. I experienced rehab and I read my Big Book, I worked my steps and I let go of my resentments and my ego. Because let me tell you, there is no EGO when it comes to mortality. You beg God for one more day, one more week, and one more month. You tell me if you’ve ever knelt before God, knowing that your life is in his hands, and you don’t let go of your EGO pretty damned fast.

God does not deal in egos and attitudes, although you wouldn’t know that by the actions of some Christians I run across. You’d think that God stepped out of his heaven to tell some Christians that it is their duty and responsibility to speak for the almighty!

I beg to differ…

I do not know of any Christian, priest, minister, pastor or the like who has ever heard from the Almighty and has access to the 1-800 number to the heavenly host. Not one day goes by as of late that I don’t think about my mortality. Because we are quickly approaching my diagnosis anniversary. It has been 14 years and counting, and I am still here, 162 of my friends are DEAD!!!

The longer I lived the more I believed that I would make it – the more I walked the path, I learned about me, about others, I learned what true compassion was, because I watched people like you, HUMAN BEINGS become ANIMALS, un-compassionate and uncaring. I witnessed the worst that humanity threw at us; don’t think for one moment that I have forgotten after so many years. I have not…

I know very few noble men and women in my life. I know that the men and women who worked tirelessly to help me and others stay alive, did that because they had to. The believed in us when nobody else did. They hoped that we would survive the medications, the drugs, and or the lack there of. Those men and women stood at the gates of death and protected us to the best of their ability to see that no one would go alone and those who lived would not forget the kindness shown to them in their darkest hours.

YOU who think you know God. YOU who think God has anything to say about me. YOU who think that you can prance around your little churches proclaiming “Jesus Saves” on Holy Sunday and at prayer meetings and revivals, out of one side of your mouth, and from the other you spout such vitriol and hatred!!! How could you possibly be in communion with the same God who created heaven and earth and all that you see before you!

In 40 years of life, I know who I am today. I survived. I lived. I persevered. I broke all the records and markers that my doctors gave me. I survived a family that turned their backs on me. I survived loosing my friends, my fellows, and my boyfriend at the time. I survived finding my lovers corpse 5 days after he killed himself, rather than telling me that he was sick. I survived the curse that his mother said to me as I signed his body out of the coroner’s office to send his rotted corpse home to his family when she spoke those words:

“I Hope that every night when you close your eyes that you see my dead sons body before you until the day that you die…”

Not a night goes by that I don’t pray for his soul and for mine. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that this body is but a shell that I happen to inhabit for this lifetime. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that I could die at any moment because my constitution is not that of a 26 year old boy any more. Not a day goes by that I don’t start my day with prayer and pray during the day and before I go to sleep at night that I don’t thank God for that day and pray that there is air in my lungs when I get up the next morning. It seems that God listens to my prayers, because there is still air in my lungs tonight.

You must concede that I know of what I speak of. You must concede that somewhere in God’s heaven are millions of souls who have gone before me, who speak to God on my behalf. You must concede that Sister Georgette, my sainted Grey Nun aunt, isn’t up there speaking to Mere D’Youville on my behalf. You must concede that after all these years, that I know how to pray. You must concede that probably I have prayed prayers for myself and my friends that YOU have never thought about praying for yourself or your families.

Death and Dying is not just a spectator sport for those who live and die with illness. You look at a child, who is sick, and you feel pity for them, yet you spurn the lot of us who are sick and dying. There was no pity on your face, only recriminations and condemnation. Until you face your appointed hour could you ever utter one single word against me, my friends or our family?

We learn a great deal about life in the pursuit of death. We learn a great deal about prayer when the chips are down and we have to utter those “Hail Mary” prayers. I don’t think that YOU could shine a light on my prayer life with the certainty that you think you have. I don’t believe that YOU could even imagine what it is that I pray for on a nightly basis. I don’t believe that YOU could ever know the relationship that I have with God; because of the way you treat others. Humans are imperfect beings.

Religious men and women across the board for centuries have prayed to God, studied the finer points of God and they speak about theologies and religions, and nobody has the definitive word on God, what He thinks and what He believes of anyone on earth. Scripture, Talmud, the Qu’ran, the Bible, the Upanishads and the Vedas all speak of spiritual nature and spiritual truth. Words written by man, inspired by God are open to interpretation by the best scholars and religious leaders. Centuries of collected works are borne into a system of belief for the masses because YOU need to believe in something, and far be it from me to tell you what to believe, and As God as my witness, YOU have no right to tell me what to believe, how to live my life, or who I can love.

Over the last six years I have worked on my religious truth. I have studied God INTIMATELY. I know who God is and I know who God is not. I have prayed simple prayers in some of the most beautiful churches on the earth. I have walked the staircase to the roof the Pinnacle of the Holy Catholic Church. I have stood in awe of the expanse of Rome and I have looked down into Papal Gardens where I am sure, centuries of Popes have communed with God in their time.

I have spoken to Pontiffs; I have worshiped in the greatest Church that exists on the planet. I have communed with the bones of saints and prophets. I have stood in the place of honor where the disciple Peter’s bones rest beneath the cupola of the Vatican. I have walked the hallowed halls of the catacombs beneath the Vatican and I have seen the early Christian catacombs on Rome where the first Christians worshiped God.

There is not one egotistical bone in my body. I have worked tirelessly for years to share a message of hope and love with my readers. I have worked with the sick and the dying. I have spent a lifetime learning how to die. I have spent a lifetime studying the path to righteousness. I don’t care one bit for righteousness, I DO care about Holiness. I care that I live a holy and blessed life. I care that those I listen to live holy and blessed lives. I care that the religious authority that I follow RESPECTS me for WHO I am and are not bothered by WHAT I may be.

The world is so caught up in labels. What good have labels done to people in the past? The Nazi’s believed that labeling people and putting them in extermination camps was useful. To route the world of Jews, Gypsies, Christians, (oh yes they exterminated Christians too), homosexuals, the Polish and the sick and dying. MILLIONS of people WERE MURDERED because they were labeled as useless and dirty.

I once believed, as a young person that I wanted to carry a label, but 40 years of experience has taught me that once you label someone, they are as good as dead. Once you label someone, they loose something of themselves. The uniqueness of the soul is tarnished by those who would see them labeled. In centuries of time gone by, we have seen what labels do to human beings. Because if YOU can label us, then you believe that you can separate us from the whole, and section us off from the normal human population. You do not own that power any longer.

My Husband, my friends, and my fellows love me for the man I am today. One who gives freely of his soul every day that I live. One who writes with such passion and strength? One who lives with determination that I can safely say that probably YOU will never see in your lifetime. Because faced with imminent death, I am sure you would not rise to the level of enlightenment that I have seen in my lifetime.

Ah, you might get sick, get cancer, or some other disease, you will say a prayer here or there, and maybe you just might see the face of God before he takes you, but you will still be as judgmental and vile as you are today. Nothing will change.

Because a sick heterosexual is far better in Gods eyes than being a sick homosexual.

Because you believe that God will hear and hearken your prayer before he does mine. Well, I wonder about that. What do you think? YOU who sputter unchristian words now need God’s grace, because like me, now you are sick and you need God to heal you and make you better. Do you think that you are going to walk a different path than I have? Do you think that your illness might be better than mine? Do you believe that a heterosexual should be pushed up the line of healing before God, before someone like me?

You have no idea what it feels like to face your own death, several times over in my case. And lived to tell the tale. And you think that I am prideful or have one ounce of hubris in my soul? You think that I am arrogant and that I come from a place of ego rather than a place of selflessness???

I have come to believe…

One day YOU will stand before God, and on that day YOU will reckon for all that you have done on this earth, and for me it is this last thought that keeps me going in my pursuit of Christian faith, that at the end of my life when I stand before God I will hear him say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Will God say the same words to you???

Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

When you read some of the early AIDS writers there is one alarmingly missing part of the puzzle? Nobody speaks the name of God, nobody invokes the power of God, and nobody is going to church to pray. This is a specific aspect of my story that I did not forget to write about – but as I read my spiritual text “Life with God” as I lie in bed, I am remiss to let this go without addressing it here.

There is no doubt that the Christian Right has much to answer for its treatment of the sick when it comes to people with AIDS, be they children, men or women. And there is no doubt that the “Church” with a Capitol “C” plays their own role of hatred as well. And we must also cite the evangelical preachers across the board for their fire and brimstone direct condemnation of people with AIDS as being “Punished by God, for their acts of sinful behavior.” And then there is the family unit of those who were sick who unleashed their very own brand of religious condemnation when it came to denying their own children when it came to AIDS and death. I would be remiss if I did not mention these specifically by name because you are all guilty as charged.

I never had issues with my faith when I got sick. Even when the world turned their backs on so many, when it came down to the nuts and bolts of survival, I truly believe within a shadow of a doubt that a Power Greater than myself was taking care of me. And I know that because when I got sick, I got sober at the same time, having daily contact with a power greater than myself in that precise time in my life paid out dividends. I prayed, my friends prayed, my community prayed. We all prayed.

Faith and Faith in God was a huge part of my life, my story, my recovery, and my survival. I must have done something right after all these years, to still be talking about this subject some fifteen years after the fact and I am still alive. Someone up there loves me enough to plead to God on my behalf. None of this goes unnoticed. I just thought it was important to talk about that part of my survival, because you just cannot survive on drugs alone. Because you can stuff yourself full of medication, but unless there is some conscious or unconscious action behind them, those pills are useless. If one does not put some power of grace behind the act of taking a pill, why take the pill to begin with?

There is a definite correlation between what the brain tells the body, the body eventually follows. So if you are sick and you bombard yourself with thoughts of death all the time, death is what you are going to get. And for some, death was the only conclusion to life and illness. There are just some things that happen that cannot be countered.

Everyone is going to die at one time or another and I know that God sees each and every one of us who suffers and he works to end that suffering, and sometimes, the end to suffering is death. No matter how much one prays or believes, if illness overcomes you, and for many it does, death is a foregone conclusion. But I lived…

When I moved to Miami in 1995, I returned to my roots of Holy Mother Church. I sought out the fathers of the cloth. I returned to the church of my upbringing, yes I was gay, I was sick and I was waiting to die. God had other plans for me. And I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that Nuestra Senora Caridad del Cobre prayed for my soul, I firmly believe that Jesus walked with me, and that Mary prayed with me, and that God saw that I wanted to live because I was actively living my faith in the direst of situations. Death was imminent. I was supposed to die. At least that’s what the medical establishment told me, either they got it wrong, or God had other plans.

In moving to the Mercy Hospital Immunodeficiency clinic, that was a very Catholic institution. Because we lived in a very “Latin i.e. Cuban” religious and secular system of care. Many, if not all the women who worked in this circle were good church going, God fearing Catholic Women, who all had God’s ear. Not to mention the men and other doctors they served under they were quite the team of spiritually prepared warriors for God’s poor, downtrodden, and sick.

There was a faith component to our care. There was no denying it, there was no avoiding it, there was no disrespect, there was no question. Even the sick went to church, and when the sick could not get to church, they were visited by the Church. Now you couple sobriety and a power greater then myself, which I choose to call God, to this day, with prayer and sacramental living, you have one powerful energy machine for healthy living. And I know on those days when I found it difficult to speak, others were praying for me day and night.

Hell hath no fury like a group of faithful Cuban prayer people. We recited the rosary daily in any language you chose. We went to mass daily, and we received the sacraments. We were visited by holy men and women; we were even treated to spiritual retreats by holy men and women on the grounds of the Church of Our Lady of Charity, Caridad Del Cobre. God saw us come, he heard us pray. And for many, they lived.

The one important thing I have to say for myself is that I lived.

I remember when I went to my church of my upbringing and I told the priests that I was sick and that they doctors has said that I was going to die, I remember holy men weeping, and telling me confidently that ONE, you will come to church, TWO, you will pray, THREE, you will see the face of God. They believed for me when I could not believe for myself.

I often tell the story of Father Jeff, a priest I met one Sunday who has MS, and he walked with crutches in and around and out of the church. He had no use of his legs, but he did have the use of his faith. And that day I watched him say mass that one Sunday, I knew I would never complain about being sick ever again. I would never become as jaded and cold to faith as many did before me. Many of my friends went to their graves cursing God because of what they had witnessed themselves in human beings who became animals, they, those cursed Christians who had not one word to offer the sick, but their vitriol of condemnation.

I guess that the spark of God never left me, even as a child, when my grandmother Memere presented me to God, that day in that church when I was just a boy, had a lasting affect on my life, even to this very day. Now, you want to talk about blind faith, mention to God the names Camille and Sister Georgette. They are both long since dead, Sister Georgette died a few years ago August here in Montreal, Memere died a few years after I was diagnosed. They are two women I know have God’s ear.

One of the things that mystifies my doctors today is my reliance on faith, when doctors who run by the book and by the numbers who are faced with patients that believe in God and have stock in faith that seems to throw my doctor off the deep end. You can’t convince a scientist or doctor that faith plays a big role in the longevity of the sick. They say, what ever works, and for me what ever works.

– Reflection and Discussion –

With the stories told, we can move forwards. Now you know who I am and what my story is which gives me the ability to talk about many things with you. They say that if we do not take care of ourselves first, we cannot take care of another. As ministers and seminarians we are supposed to study and to pray and to work for the betterment of society. But do we take ample time during those hours of the day to take care of ourselves?

We come with our baggage, our feelings and emotions and our addictions for some. Nobody escapes this life unscathed. We all have something we carry within us that goes unspoken and ignored. If we do not deal with this baggage it will hamper our ability to minister effectively.

This talk is supposed to reach across the aisle and ask you to consider for a moment the importance of gay spirituality. It is something I have cultivated over forty years of life and that is what I would like to share with you today.

Let us not mince words. And let us not avoid the obvious. We have found that here in the diocese of Montreal, that there are gay men in ministry. Over the years we have heard from them and we continue to be ministered by them. We are a progressive diocese and the ministers that serve this diocese have asked me to prepare this talk for you. Whether you are “out” or not, I am not judging any one of you, but I want to speak to you as a fellow brother on the road to God.

There has been, in the recent past discussions about “outing” clergy to their parishioners, I can recall reading an article written by one of my friends who is a former Catholic priest. I know several men who have been defrocked by the Church over their commitment to justice and equal treatment. This was truly evident in the life of Geoffrey Farrow and the debacle of Proposition 8 in the diocese of Los Angeles.

This is not an exercise in outing anyone. But I want to talk to you about topics that deal with LGBTQ people. There are some who hide behind their collars never admitting that they are gay, and there are some that are out to a few close friends and family. Some may be in formation and know they are gay and they still pursue ordination. We know that you are there. And through this we are reaching out to you to tell you that God loves you just the same. I am not here to make issue of who you are or what you are.

But let us look at this for a moment. What do you do with what you are? Who do you tell and why would you tell anyone? The first thing to think about is being true to yourself; therefore you can be true to others you meet on the path. Dealing with your own self will assist you in proper listening and acceptance of another who might come to you with the same issue on their lips.

I have dealt with coming out twice in my life, once when I realized I was gay and secondly when I was diagnosed with AIDS so many years ago. So I know what you are all thinking about this topic. I can see the questions forming in your heads. Who do you tell? Your family or your friends, your significant other, if they exist? Your superiors? I am one of your superiors and I reach out to you today to tell you that I am here.

Over the whole of my life my take on disclosure has changed. In the beginning when I was a young boy, disclosure was something that was thought to be necessary to attach ones self to a group or to identify a way of life. We call this labeling. And over the years my thoughts on labeling has changed. Many of the young men I mentor who are gay, I have tried to impress on them the desire to go out into the world as the men they are and not to attach labels on themselves prematurely. One, because I feel that the label can endanger their lives on a grand scale for we see what hate crimes take place on city streets just because someone may be walking with another too closely. And secondly the label becomes a wedge that finds its way between the youth I mentor and the world they go into. We know how hard it is for some to move into their lives because of homophobia and judgment.

Who should you tell, only those you must. We are all adults and we all know how to conduct ourselves in public and in private. And if we don’t have the stress of being forced to disclose, life is easier to live. I think labels limit the men and women we are to become. But on the other hand disclosure can be beneficial to help us do better ministry. Because we may have gay men and women come to our parishes and churches and it may benefit them to know that there is someone who can intimately minister to them if they should need our counsel and help.

The monsignor and I have spoken about disclosure and coming out. Becoming who we are is a process. And like all life issues coming out to ones self and to the world is a process of change. We all go through these changes some make it easier than others.

We walk into a change of life and we follow the 5 stages of grief, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, from her book, “On Death and Dying,” I have been through this process more than once. The first time when I was coming out as a young gay man and the second time, when I was diagnosed with AIDS. We start with denial (This isn’t happening to me). I am not who I am becoming – this is not who I am. We deny to ourselves and to others that which we are becoming, and if we sit here long enough we will convince ourselves that we are not changing.

Anger (Why is this happening to me)  is a huge issue for many. We are angry at the world for the way we are treated by the world and by extension the way community treats “others” who are different in community. Unchecked anger can be detrimental to our lives and to the lives of those we know and love. I work every day to keep my anger in check and sometimes it gets the best of me and in those times I need to seek the forgiveness of God and maybe others that I have hurt in the process.

Or maybe we have moved into bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if), We made promises to God and to others and we try to bargain our way out of certain situations and activities. And usually this leads into depression, which can be a life killer. If we fall into depression (I don’t care anymore)  about where we are in our life, some do not recover from this stage of mourning. We mourn the life we had, and we mourn the life that is coming. And if we stay here too long, we find that it can impede the men and women we are to become. I have seen many men and women get stuck here and stay for long periods of time. I myself took a lot of time to get through this stage when I was sick. Not knowing who to trust and who to look to for help, I thought that I was on my own, which was not the case by a long shot. There were people taking care of me and once I realized this I was able to move forward with my life.

It is a fairly good lesson to understand that we are powerless over people, places and things and once we realize this, we can move forward. Not allowing people or things too much excessive power over our lives free us to move forwards.

Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)  is the key to all of my problems. Coming to the point where I am, where we are comfortable in our skins will be a huge step in our life development. It is the final step in becoming free of the shackles and judgments of others that help us truly become the men and women we are meant to be. This is the last of the 5 steps of mourning. But the monsignor has added a sixth dimension to our development. That is compassion. And I must agree that once we have walked this road we come away from this experience with a modicum of compassion, not only for ourselves but for others who are on the path that we have just walked. And with that experience in our proverbial tool boxes, we can use that compassion with others and also for ourselves.

Knowing who we are now, not making excuses for the men we have become and being comfortable in speaking about these and all things we can move forward into the next area that I wish to discuss. I know I have glossed over the stages of formation, I did that because it is something we do naturally. Some move through the process quickly and for some it is a longer process. But I wanted you to see the process in order to be able to acknowledge it in your own lives. Where are you right now? Are you stuck somewhere amid the process or are you through it? And what can you offer yourself and your fellows? And what can you offer your commuity of faith?

This is where we move into community. I want to introduce you to a paper that I wrote for my Pastoral Ministry class with the monsignor. It speaks to the Pastoral Ministry of young LGBTQ people. It draws on the writings of the Catholic Bishops and the Church. I don’t always agree with institution. So here you can read for yourself what that paper says. And I ask you to look at the paper as it impacts you personally. Does it speak to you and does it help you minster to yourself and with that helps you minister to others?

Here is that paper.

A letter to the community dealing with the Pastoral Care of Gay Young Adults.

The purpose of this pastoral message is to reach out to parents trying to cope with the discovery of homosexuality in their adolescent or adult child. It urges families to draw upon the reservoirs of faith, hope, and love as they face uncharted futures.[1] And it is at this point that we part ways with the Church in our dealings with homosexual children, for we are aware of what the Catholic Church has to say on the subject of homosexuality.

The late Pontiff John Paul II writes in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,

“In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option, it is not.”[2]

I write from the position of a man who was raised within the Catholic Church with all the traditions and rites given to him by Holy Mother Church. I myself am gay and am living with HIV/AIDS. In my lifetime I have had issues with the church and have moved away from the Magisterium and the Catholic Church because of their immovable stance on the homosexual person and homosexuality as a whole. This statement does not make me any less of a spiritual man having left the Church because of her treatment of gay men and women. If your family is involved with going to church or have any participation in spiritual beliefs, I encourage you to maintain that spiritual connection to a God of your understanding, a Power Greater than yourselves.

“It is something of a platitude to claim that organized religion has not been good for gay men, just as it has not been good for other marginalized groups such as women and so-called heretics. There seems to be something strangely threatening to religious power when it enters into contact with individuals or collectives who do not represent the sexual or the gender norm – or any other norm, for that matter. In some senses, this is a natural response by institutions that believe they have a right to exercise a monopoly and a control over moral codes, whether this right is claimed by virtue of “divine authority,” “democratic privilege,” or “reason of state.” Political power acts in similar ways, as does, though far more subtly, economic power. Gay men have therefore always had a suspicious view of religious institutions, as though these could turn at any instant and devour them. In many cases, the cynical and distrust emerge from childhood or adolescent contexts where religion has played an oppressively stifling role.”[3]

Even though we can make the argument that the church is not kind to those who are marginalized or different, in my world today I find that there are little kindnesses in many sacred and religious communities with men and women of faith who are willing to go to any length to keep their flock from falling apart. The Anglican Church of Montreal has done wonderful work with LGBTQ people and also people with AIDS; I am one of those persons.

We live in a more progressive country, Canada. And we live in a more progressive city, Montreal. And it has been my experience that I have never been turned away from the sacraments or the church in my many years as a gay HIV positive man.

I have survived two coming out experiences in my life, the first time as a young man “Coming Out” into the world at large and later in my life when I was “Diagnosed with AIDS.” In today’s day and age, unlike the years when I was growing up, gay lifestyles have become more main stream. We still see people with AIDS treated with disgust and disdain even today as I work with new diagnosis folk.

In the Bishops letter to parents of homosexual children they speak about the stages of acceptance and staying true to ones emotions and allowing the spirit of God to guide you, as long as you maintain adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I know for many families reconciling a homosexual in the family and the church [ones faith] is a task not for the feint of heart. I know that, in today’s day and age, still there is an amount of stigma attached to being gay, I also believe that if homosexuality is approached from the right direction, this can be avoided, if all parties step up to the plate and we all follow certain spiritual practices and follow the words of Jesus when he spoke of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This was a huge issue for my parents in the 1980’s. My father dictated the family social gospel. And what was spoken was not broken in our home.

So it went that I came to a point in my life that I knew that I was different. It was the first day of junior high school, when I walked into the gym at school, that rush of emotion hit me and like a wave, washed over me and made me whole. My parents kept secrets. What they did behind closed doors and what they shared openly in community were two very different things. And they did not think twice about publicly sharing their racist and homophobic views with friends and family, while living in their secrets.

My step mother had begun to notice that my “difference” needed some assistance and she would prepare dinner parties for family and friends and invite professional gay men [doctors, lawyers, educators] to join us. These additional dinner guests did wonders for my father’s hatred of all things gay, because they had my ear, and he did not.

The first lesson I tell parents is this, “Always be careful what you say in front of your children, because one day your words may come back to haunt you.” This was the case for me. I never openly came out to my family because of the stance I knew already existed.

My father’s physical, emotional and verbal abuse kept me in my closet for the whole of my adolescent life. He attempted to beat “different” out of me. His constant barrage of “You were a mistake and should never have been born” took a toll on me in my adult life. You can’t abuse difference out of your children. What you do to your children, they will do to others in their future lives. How you treat your children now, will translate into how they will treat others as adults.

The Bishop’s letter states “There seems to be no single cause of a homosexual orientation. A common opinion of experts is that there are multiple factors – genetic, hormonal, and psychological – that may give rise to it. Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose.”[4]

While parents work to navigate their minefield of emotions, so too your children are braving the same waters you are, but on a more personal level.

Each person will respond to their respective challenges, each according to their gifts.

There is a notion of liberation and freedom when one decides to take that step outside themselves to accept what is theirs to be taken. It is always safe to stay where one is comfortable to wade through the waters of change in order to maintain some sense of equilibrium in the rolling tide.

A good piece of advice here is that if you don’t know where you are going, then sit in this spot and get to know your feelings and your surroundings, consult with your fellows at this spot and consult your guides, look at your map, and once you are ready to make a move forwards, take that next step, but not until you are sufficiently prepared to do so.

[Explanation: Just because you are dealing with a gay son or daughter, neither of you need leave the church or your faith community.] If people have issues with who you are or what you believe, or that your son or daughter is different, that is their problem, not yours. We are powerless over people, places and things.

Finding your way will happen. It can be done. God is present everywhere, and it has come to pass for me and countless others that one does not need institution to find God.

God exists everywhere…

“For a Gay Man, acceptance by the dominant heterosexual world is never complete, nor is it ever an easy thing to learn to live without. One always feels a bit off balance, almost as though one were the last piece missing from a jigsaw puzzle. Heterosexuals may try to reassure us as much as they can, but they inevitably betray themselves, and they usually end up betraying us. All gay men have known at some point in their lives – and sad to say for some, for most of their lives – the feeling of being the outsider, the raw and stigmatizing experience of marginality. For some, it has scarred them forever; for others, it is a source of liberation and genuine relief…[5]

Over the whole of my life, I have cultivated a “religiously” spiritual life, in addition to my religious leanings. I love the Church, even if the Church does not love me fully in communion with all that is holy. The same may be for your children, if they were raised in the church.

If we are to expand as Christians and fully adopt the greatest commandment of loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves, then we must move into a spiritual paradigm. I maintain that this paradigm is most helpful in reminding us that even if the institution says one thing, God is as constant as the North Star. I don’t believe for one moment that God would turn away anyone from his love.

Donald Boisvert writes:

“Perhaps, as many continue to claim, religion and gay culture do not belong together. Perhaps they are mutually exclusive spheres, and the best we can hope for is a fragile stalemate, a draw at high noon. Yes, perhaps indeed. The pitfalls of religious institutions with respect to homosexuality are legion, and gay men are right to be wary of them. Yet gay men keep believing. We continue to attend church and temple, to pray and to meditate, to come together to celebrate and to worship. What explains this almost irrational need to remain part of what is certainly a homophobic – and somewhat passé, in the eyes of some – cultural institution?”[6]

So we maintain decorum of spiritual seeking in this journey of personal growth and discovery, because even as your child grows into the man or woman they will be, so too, you, as parents will grow into a new place in your lives as well. You will find commonality with other parents who are on this journey. And your children, by way of education and personal friendships will find their way into the gay world as well. When the two worlds collide, the one that popular culture dictates as normal, the heterosexual way of growing up, coupling and being fruitful and multiplying, gay men and women, we find our way around these prescribed notions of normalcy and we find a new route to divinity outside the normal parameters of life and love.

To be different is to be blessed.

You would be amazed to know how much of an impact gay men and women make on the world they inhabit. We continue with Out on Holy Ground where Donald writes:

“Gay theologian and psychotherapist John J. McNeill makes a similar biological argument: The homosexual community has, perhaps, a special role to play in liberating the heterosexual community to a fuller understanding of themselves as persons by being an organic challenge within society to the partial and dehumanizing aspects of these [i.e., traditional] sexual-identity images…

Gays carry a special spiritual consciousness, and they challenge other human beings to see beyond the closed boundaries of nature. This view of gay people as spiritual visionaries and cultural change-agents is part of a long tradition in gay spirituality”[7]

“An article entitled ‘Coming Out as Spiritual Revelation” expresses quite well this line of reasoning. In somewhat grandiose tone, its author writes:

We see a special role for gay people. In revealing that what looks weird, unnatural, queer or freakish is in fact another natural part of an unlimited and complex universe, don’t gay people in coming out provide a key to a spiritual maturity for themselves and for others? What could be less useful in a soulless Darwinian world than individuals that don’t procreate? Why in the world are we in the world? I believe we are here to reveal a further dimension of the diversity of life, and, in so doing, our fellow human beings into celebrating life’s differences.

Moreover, I believe that gay people are here to witness to the truth that human life is not just about procreation, as magical and wonderful as it is. Reproduction is not the only mission for women and men. Just as God gave us a soulful dimension that binds us like a spiritual umbilical cord to the mother of creation and to each other, so she has created gay people to reveal this spiritual dimension.”[8]

Life is a gift from God. And nobody has the right to take that life from any human being, no matter if they are gay or straight. As soon as society finds the divinity of the human life, in every life, then acceptance of that which is different can become a spiritual experience for both the homosexual child and his or her parents and thereby extension, the society we live in and the world at large.

“Marginality is a most effective formative experience; it is the furnace that tempers the steel. Its corollary is loss. For most gay men, consciously or not, loss is the defining texture of our lives. Simply by having had to give up so much that so many others take for granted on an almost daily basis – whether family, children, lovers, acceptance, or inclusion – we have learned how to live on intimate terms with the experience of loss. In many cases, this experience has been sharpened to the point of exhaustion and rebellion by the overwhelming impact of AIDS on our lives and those of our lived ones.”[9]

It has come to pass in the last twenty years that I have seen some of the most heinous actions carried out by human beings upon other human beings. With the onset of AIDS in our world, Christians, human beings and spiritual people have participated in some of the most reprehensible actions I have ever witnessed. Being gay is one issue, having HIV or AIDS is totally another beast.

I was 26 when I was diagnosed with AIDS and I was told that I was going to die. I called my family together for a meeting and they responded according to their coping skills and understanding and their ability to deal with that kind of news. I remembered the words of my parents from my earlier adolescence. My mother worked in home health care and she cared for people with AIDS and I remember how she mocked and made fun of the faggots being punished by God.

What my parents did to me after that, I would not wish on any other human being. God forbid their friends find out I was gay, first off, and secondly, heaven forbid they find out I had AIDS, what would they think about my parents. They were more concerned about themselves rather than me.

I witnessed parents throwing their sick children out into the streets. I watched them turn their backs on life and love because of an illness. I watched as lovers and friends turned their backs on their friends and each other. It got so bad for me that I had to walk away from my family because they were treating me like pariah. It was amazing witnessing my own family act as ignorant and as stupid as they did, even knowing my mother worked in the health care field.

It wasn’t like they were not educated, yet they embarked on a path where they treated me like a leper, with bleach bottles in the bathroom and plastic utensils on the dinner table and they did this in front of friends and family, which totally made me sick inside.

My boyfriend at the time of my diagnosis left me, all of my friends walked away. I saw sick men get thrown out of homes by landlords. I saw sick men get fired by employers, and good Christian church going people turn their backs on God’s creations, other human beings. Funeral parlors would not process sick people because of fear.

Churches demonized the sick and they stood on their bibles calling AIDS punishment by God for the sins of the flesh of men.

But it was the kindness of one man who made the difference in my survival. The man I credit for my survival. Todd was my employer, but after my diagnosis he became my champion, my father figure, my friend, my care taker, and my savior. I can’t tell you that the first thoughts in my mind were of God, at that point in my life. I had to deal with surviving with a death sentence.

And it was but for a group of men and women with a common goal who worked tirelessly in seeing that we had everything that we needed as the world turned in on itself and people turned upon each other.

Where was God in all of that insanity, I ask you? When religion turned on us, we turned on religion and those who lived, lived. Out of all the men I knew from that time, over 162 of them, are dead and thousands more are immortalized in the National AIDS Memorial Quilt and in addition all those who went to their deaths unknown to anyone but God alone. I am the last one left alive out of that original social circle of men.

Someone up there likes me and I always say to doctors who constantly look at science as fact, that one cannot deny or ignore the power of faith for a sick person’s survival.

After I was diagnosed, I read ravenously. I studied all the major religious and spiritual traditions, trying to make sense of death and in doing so I would be able to face my own death courageously and with some modicum of dignity. Alas, I lived and here I am speaking to you today. This has been my journey over these odd 15 years.

It is very easy to maintain an attitude of denial and to be narrow minded. It is too easy to listen to what the church says about homosexuality, “that it is a condition and is an objective disorder.” It is too easy to listen to the evangelical preachers condemn homosexuals as deviant and as an abomination unto God.

We can sift through our bibles and we can focus on the seven deadly scriptures to bolster our argument for discrimination and subjecting our children to the dictates of society as a whole. But I encourage you to study your scripture and to pray to your God and I hope to that end that you would come to understand scripture as something written for a specific time and for a specific people.

We must look at scripture from three points on the compass, the exegetical, meaning “what did the text mean in its original setting?” Secondly from a hermeneutical position: “What might the meaning of this text be today?” and thirdly Methodological with its two approaches (a) that Scripture as Revealed Morality and (b) Scripture as Revealed reality.

Much hatred of homosexuals is propagated by those who would use scripture as a means to an end. And those who follow religious teachings and the many institutional churches will wrestle with these angels if you find that your son or daughter is gay.

What route shall you take, will you deny them what is rightfully theirs and demonize them and turn them away from you like pariah? Or will you take the high road and live into love, accepting the special love that God has called you to see through.

Richard M. Gula writes “The Bible says what is has to say about the moral life in the forms and genres of laws and imperatives, to be sure, but also in narratives, parables, sayings, and other literary forms. The Bible is far from a handbook of ready-made judgments which we can immediately apply to current situations. Its ethical material both illumines the moral life with images to help us interpret what is going on and, in some instances; it prescribes behavior, such as in the ten commandments, the great commandment, and the instructions of St. Paul. The proper use of the Bible in either instance involves an ongoing dialogue between the faith experiences of the biblical community and those of today.”[10]

This is our ministry. And this is what I see as needing to change for the future. I spend so much of my life working with my kids and with those who appear on my path.

I have spent the better part of fifteen years working with LGBTQ young people, I work with adults coming out later in life, and I have worked with the sick and the dying from AIDS and from other terminal diseases.

Where the Church has failed to see to the care of those they see as “other,” I have seen to care for those who find themselves looking at the Church from the outside in. I believe that Pastoral Ministry must change with the times. It is also my belief that the church needs to change with the times. But we know that the archaic institutional church we see today does not have the wherewithal to make that much needed change. And that is why working in the field works for me. If we are to bring the Gospel forward into the lives of those we touch, we must be willing to walk where many fear to tread.

We must do the work of God where he may be found. Care of the individual begins at home. Because what our children learn at home, they will eventually carry out into the world. And if we are to be good agents of change, the work of change begins with us in our own lives.

If we turn from our children, they will turn from their neighbor and from themselves, if we do not personify love incarnate, then our children will not know what that proper love is, and it may take years and even for some decades to learn about love from the right direction. Every word we speak, every emotion we telegraph, every tone of voice we use with our children has a direct impact on the adults they will become.

I have seen this truth with my own eyes.

I cannot tell you how many kids I work with have been hurt by their families, friends, and church congregations and have turned to terrible addictions to ease and eliminate the pain of the past. In terms of recovery, we find that in that recovery, people come to believe in a power greater than themselves, and usually that ends up being God, even if they have had a past with a church that hurt them to begin with. We reorient the downtrodden into relationship with God on a spiritual plane, not necessarily an institutional plane.

But if for once, we could eliminate the first contact with negativity, how many lives can we change for the better, for the future. The dictates of society have so burdened us with rite and ritual and accepted ways of life and behavior that we have forgotten how to think and act for ourselves. We are so busy following the pack that we have lost our individual consciousness to act rightly and Godly. The teaching of Christ is so simple, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If the world could embrace these two principles, what a world we could create.

But on the grander scale that is impossible, so that work must begin with us, in our lives, in our homes and in our families and in our social and religious circles.

We have but this one life to get it right, so how much time have you wasted living in fear, or anger or judgment? The time has come, the time is now. Today is the day we create change. Today is the day we renew our Christian calling to serve one another as Christ served us. These are the words I speak to my kids and my fellows. I am but one man, and my ministry is but one little effort in this big wide world. And I walk my path as it is laid out before me.

But I always return to the one common thread that exists in my story, my love for a Judeo Christian God and my need to worship God in his church with the sacraments and my fellows. Montreal is a huge religious city, and God can be found any number of places in any number of churches, no matter what faith you follow.

Find your path and walk it. There are people already on the path that you will come in contact with. Be sure to share your water, your bread and your hospitality with them. Walk in the desert with the pilgrim and find God. Every person on the path of life appears there for a specific reason, to teach us something specific, are you paying attention?

Each connection is an opportunity to learn about them or about yourself.

Every relationship is an opportunity to broaden your ability to love all of God’s creation. There is no darkness that God cannot touch. Learning that your son or daughter is gay should not be an earth shattering event, although for many that is what happens, because it challenges every fiber of our being and asks us to wrestle with our faith. You can either walk away, or turn your back on God or you can walk towards the light and see God in yourself and in your neighbor. We are spiritual beings living a human experience, and in that we are called to higher things. What will you do?

In the end of this Christian life I live, when on that last day I meet God, I want to hear him say to me

“Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We close with a reading from the Gospel of Matthew. Chapter 22:34-40.

The Greatest Commandment

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It is a forgone conclusion that we must move into a model of Pastoral Compassion. We must exhibit cultural and personal sensitivity when we are dealing with gay and lesbian young people and as well, gay and lesbian adults. We live in a melting pot of cultures and ways of life here in Montreal so we will be challenged to try to find solutions and ways of ministry that will compliment the work we do as ministers and also help the myriads of people that come to us from all walks of life to find a welcoming spirit in our churches and ministries. Every tool we find that is useful for others is a tool that we can use on ourselves. The best tool that I have to use is my bank of personal experiences.

Talking to you here is a way for me to exercise my experience muscles to help you become better ministers, priests and people. I have walked this road myself, and I think that I understand where each of you might be on your journeys and I may be able to offer you assistance to help you along the way.

2.0 – Parking your judgments at the door.

This paper is written to you in the spirit of community and I understand that this paper is to be received locally. Hierarchy is like a series of concentric circles from the top down. From Holy Mother Church in Rome (the greater European circle) to the Churches of North America and Canada. (moving inwards) to the Church of Quebec and here to our city of Montreal. In the beginning when this paper was in the planning stages I wasn’t sure of how I was to write to you and I was allowed to address you on a communal level because this is our community. There are specific issues that we are to touch on here in Montreal and the surrounding areas.

We all know what Holy Mother Church has to say about homosexuality and what the Council of Catholic Bishops speak to this issue as well. But I am told by my religious superior, the monsignor that it is ok to speak about what I know to you here and now. This isn’t Rome and it isn’t the United States. And we, as men and women of faith, we can talk of these things in a community setting.

We all come from different backgrounds and we all may have our crosses to bear when it comes to issues of sexuality and sexual orientation. We have been indoctrinated by our church to believe certain things about others and ourselves. We are to deny the feelings of the flesh and we are not to act upon our sexual desires, but we are to aspire to become the person of Jesus in our human lives. For if we do not act on those urges, they will disappear. Right???

Sexual urgings just do not disappear just as sexual orientation does not disappear. Some say we are born this way, and others say that homosexuality is learned behavior. I know for myself that I knew that I was different before I knew what difference was. We are all a product of our upbringings. We learned from our parents the way we were to evolve and we learned from our church how to relate to God and to ourselves. And for some these teachings became points of contention for many. Being Gay and Catholic was something that could not be reconciled with Holy Mother Church as it came from the top down. Homosexuality was an abomination and that God judged those who were homosexuals with certain doom and damnation. But we know today that that is not the case. God created man and woman and it is written that God thought that they were good. I don’t believe that God sees a gay man or woman any differently than he would a heterosexual man or woman.

We live in a Province that has legal laws that protect gays and lesbians. We have marriage legislation in place to allow couples to marry. We live in a greater country that makes it easier for gay and lesbian men and women to prosper and live. We live in a multicultural city that is awash in cultural and sexual diversity. What could be better than living in a multicultural city that has its own gay village.

There are parishes in that gay village that minister to LGBTQ people. And to that end I am speaking to you today to help you deal with who you are, to help you come to believe that God, in his wisdom, created you in all of your splendor. And that we don’t need to hide behind convention and occupation. We do not have to hide behind the veil of church and her laws and decrees.

Like you, we have a multitude of kids here in the city that struggle every day with sexuality and family issues. We know that there are millions of kids who need our help where we can offer it. If we help just one kid, we have done our jobs. And what better way to be part of community than to open your parishes and churches to those that that Holy Mother Church has segregated from the community at large. Mother Church has not been kind to LGBTQ people. Here is where we have to opportunity to open ourselves up to the greatest ministry that can be had.

3.0 – Rejection

What would Jesus do? It’s a very simple question. I believe that Jesus sees past sexual lines and orientation lines. It is my belief that Jesus would welcome the sinner and every other man, woman or child whom he met along the way. I have met Jesus, in the ministry of certain men and women in my lifetime. I have seen God work miracles in my life so I know that He sees me and hears my prayers. And it is in that spirit that I can write to you today.

There is no room for your ego when it comes to ministry. There is no room for judgment when it comes to working with others. There is no room for negative thoughts when dealing with the sick and the dying. Rejection is not an option in today’s day and age. Because if we reject one, or the other, we reject Jesus.

I think we all know what rejection feels like. We all have been affected at one time or another in our lives. We may have been rejected by family or friends. I am sure if you are gay and Catholic that you have felt rejected by Holy Mother Church. And maybe you have been directly rejected by the priests who served your parishes as young people. And this is the message of God. Right here and now, as God speaks to us, we know that God will never reject us. I think that God is forgiving and understanding. It is my belief that God would never turn on us for any reason because he knows all and sees all. There is nothing about our lives and secrets that he does not know already.

4.0 Responding the the Pastoral Needs of LGBTQ People

We have spoken about a number of topics thus far and I just want to review some of them for you now. We’ve spoken about disclosure. To whom and when is it time to do so. When is disclosure a problem and why I don’t suggest you disclose to just anyone because of force or ego.

People who are gay have issues to talk about – issues to disclose. And that can be sometimes a daunting process. The easier we make it for young people to come to grips with who they are in a very supportive way is the key to helping young people to grow into socially and sexually responsible persons. When it comes to illness, this is almost sacrosanct. People with AIDS know that to disclose certain information can be life altering and for many life ending. We have seen in other countries what the disclosure of HIV does to the human being facing this diagnosis, the family that they come from and the community that they are part of. HIV is not the death sentence it once was, but still the spiritual upkeep of positive people is crucially important.

I work in the area of diagnoses. I sit with men and women who have been newly diagnosed and I try to help them deal with what they have been told. Now in my 15th year of living with HIV I know where someone who is newly diagnosed is in their head. I can tell you that I know all the concerns they might have, and I know what their friends, family and fellows are going through. And I know how hard disclosure is for them. And I follow them, for as long as they need to be followed to make sure they find their way into their new lives, and to help them not focus on death so much. With the way medications have come along in the last decade, people are living longer and more productive lives with HIV. For many they need to hear a positive message of love and support to help them keep on being productive loving people. We cannot afford to reject anyone who comes to us for spiritual guidance.

The most important aspect of Christian life is the celebration of the sacraments. And this was the one area that my spiritual guides insisted that I partake in as often as possible. It is one thing to pray and to be faithful to God. Sometimes that is a tall order for people who are gay and lesbian. But we have come so far in pastoral care. Not all people are gay and many are spiritual people who go to church. Keeping LGBTQ people in our pews is an important pastoral task. Making sure they feel welcomed and loved by God is paramount.

We as community do not have time to reject the sacraments for people who do not necessarily meet Holy Mother Church on all points. There is no room for any pastoral minister to deny the sacraments to anyone. Even Holy Mother Church uses that tool as a punishment for those who fall outside the purview of the church. But I have never known a minister here in the city to deny me the sacraments for any reason. Although I have met ministers who have said to my face that I was an abomination to God and that I had subverted the teachings of Holy Mother Church to suit my own personal agenda. Needless to say that that priest no longer has a parish in this diocese.

There is nothing that is more important that to offer another the sacraments. From prayers to confession, from reconciliation to the celebration of the Eucharist. In certain churches here in Montreal the sacrament of marriage is an acceptable norm and those norms will be coming to more churches in the coming years. However unlikely the Catholic Church will ever grant rites of marriage to gay and lesbian people, other churches will. I know the Anglican Church in Canada is moving towards rites of blessings for same sex couples.

When I was diagnosed with AIDS and I returned to my parish the priests of my parish insisted that I participate in the Holy Eucharist as often as I could make it to church. And so it became a daily event. Coming to church early in the morning to spend some time before the blessed sacrament and to pray my rosary, then followed by the reception of the Eucharist and spiritual direction every week.

Participating in communal prayer and the reception of the Eucharist are very important aspects for all Christians who go to church. If we are to be ministers of Christ, we must make sure that the sacraments are available to everyone – every day. For participating in the mass, saying the prayers of the church and the reception of Jesus’ body was terribly important to the men who were my spiritual mentors and to me as well.

I truly believe that it is my faith that has sustained and saved me from imminent death so many years ago. I was taught to keep my eyes on the prize and to pray every day and go to mass. And it was also important that the men of faith who led my parish had made time for me in their daily schedule to spend time with me to talk and a lot of the time, just to listen. It is important to be able to discuss any topic with our people, but it is imperatively important that we are able to LISTEN.

If God takes time every day to listen to his people, we should be able to make time to listen as well. In order to be spiritual men and women, we must practice the spiritual principles. We must be obedient to God. We must be responsible to one another and to God. We must pray and we must meditate. And then we need to sit back and be still and become receptive to Listening. Listening to God and to one another. In order to be good ministers we must find the balance in ministry. We must take time for God, we must take time for ourselves, and then we must spend time with others. And finding that fine balance can be a daunting process. But it can be done. The sacraments must be made available whenever possible. For that is where we meet God face to face.

In the end, when life comes to an end, we must be prepared to offer final rites to those who are sick and have come to the end of their earthly existence. It came to pass that I witnessed men of faith deny those rites to sick people. It was an abhorrent action served on those less fortunate by those who were in religious power. It is so important that we live lives of prayer in order to be able to offer those prayers to those who might need them.

For we know that God created us in his image and that we are acceptable and blessed in this life. God loves us unconditionally, but in today’s world do we or can we love another unconditionally? Or do we withhold certain things from certain people? How can we be ministers of Christ’s love and not love all people equally? How can we stand before our parishioners and speak the words and not carry those sentiments in our hearts for all? It is just imperative that we come to a point that we allow God to transform our lives and our prayers into Godly lives and Godly prayers.

If we are to become the men and women we are meant to be, we must find the way to God be it in our prayers, in our words, in our writing and in our actions. We must be the manifestation of God to those we encounter on a daily basis. Because you know, we might be the only Jesus that some may ever see.

You never know what situation or circumstance will come up in your daily life and I encourage you to live with a reckless abandon for God and for Jesus. I encourage you to live in the moment always anticipating spiritual moments in your days. You never know when someone may be looking for Jesus in the men and women we are today.

God is love, and love comes from God. In order to love one another, we must first begin by loving God and by loving ourselves. We must take care of ourselves first in order to be able to take care of another pastorally. It’s all relational. God – Love – Self – Other.

We must find the path to finding peace with our God. Because once we find that way into peace and that peace fills us, it is then that we can offer God’s peace to other people. In making peace with God and with ourselves we finally are able to live peaceful lives. Knowing who we truly are and knowing the gifts that each of us have from God will allow us to use those gifts for the betterment of the sheep of our flocks. And if we see gifts in ourselves, we must pray on them because then we can see gifts in other people. And the cycle is made complete from God through us, into those we minister to back to God.

And so my friends we have come to the end of the story. I encourage all of you to pray and to be able to hear the voice of God as it comes to you. I want you to know who you are and I want you to see how important it is to be present to every person in our parishes. There is such a hunger for God out there, and we would be remiss if we were not out there in the field sharing God’s love with whoever wants to experience that.

All this comes from a gay man who has for the whole of his life followed the God of his understanding. From those who have much, must is asked of. For those who know God and serve him daily, we are called to be Godly in all that we do, and in all that we say.

We must be mindful to God. And finally we must pray always.

Peace be with you and may God’s peace fall upon you today and forever.

 


[1] Always our Children, A pastoral message to parents of homosexual children and suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, NCCB Committee in Marriage and family. September 10, 1997

[2] Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, John Paul II, given at Rome, October 1, 1986. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect.

[3] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, 2000, pgs. 111-112.

[4] Always our Children, A Pastoral Message to parents of homosexual children and suggestions for Pastoral ministers, NCCB, September 10, 1997.

 

[5] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, 2000, pg. 31

[6] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, pg. 112

[7] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, pg. 40

[8] Tim McFeeley, “Coming out as Spiritual Revelation,” Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review (1996)

[9] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, 2000, Ohio, pg. 31-32

[10] Richard Gula, Reason Informed by Faith, Foundations of Catholic Morality, Paulist Press, 1989, pgs. 181-182.

d so my friends we have come to the end of the story. I encourage all of you to pray and to be able to hear the voice of God as it comes to you. I want you to know who you are and I want you to see how important it is to be present to every person in our parishes. There is such a hunger for God out there, and we would be remiss if we were not out there in the field sharing God’s love with whoever wants to experience that.

All this comes from a gay man who has for the whole of his life followed the God of his understanding. From those who have much, must is asked of. For those who know God and serve him daily, we are called to be Godly in all that we do, and in all that we say.

We must be mindful to God. And finally we must pray always.

Peace be with you and may God’s peace fall upon you today and forever.

 


[1] Always our Children, A pastoral message to parents of homosexual children and suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, NCCB Committee in Marriage and family. September 10, 1997

[2] Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, John Paul II, given at Rome, October 1, 1986. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect.

[3] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, 2000, pgs. 111-112.

[4] Always our Children, A Pastoral Message to parents of homosexual children and suggestions for Pastoral ministers, NCCB, September 10, 1997.

 

[5] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, 2000, pg. 31

[6] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, pg. 112

[7] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, Ohio, pg. 40

[8] Tim McFeeley, “Coming out as Spiritual Revelation,” Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review (1996)

[9] Donald Boisvert, Out on Holy Ground, Pilgrim Press, 2000, Ohio, pg. 31-32

[10] Richard Gula, Reason Informed by Faith, Foundations of Catholic Morality, Paulist Press, 1989, pgs. 181-182.