Most gay activists are greatly offended when (the homosexual orientation) is referred to as a disorder.
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I grew up in the 1960s and `70s and I was a product of the times: whatever feels good, do it. It was the beginning of the sexual revolution, and I really did believe that “sex is the integrating force in life.” When I was told that the Church was teaching chastity, it came as a bit of a shock: There I was, full of passion and wanting so much to be involved in a relationship. I was thinking, “I need to be in a relationship or else I can't breathe. Is there life without this kind of relationship?” I really didn't know how to handle it. I went through a lot of stages with it.
Early in my conversion experience I was introduced to the spirituality of St. Peter Julian Eymard and the person of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It was like the Lord was saying, “You do need a person; you need me. And I am here.” This was all new to me - really experiencing and being told that I needed to come before the Tabernacle every single day to work on a relationship with Him. I started to sense that our Lord was very real and that He was taking care of me.
Gradually, a certain level of trust started to form as I was being led spiritually and taught what chastity was all about. Over the years, I've come to my own definition of chastity. I see it as getting sober: separating myself from certain persons, places and things so that I can get in touch with a deeper sense of who I am in my deepest identity. Chastity is getting sober for the integration of ourselves.
I think that's a positive way of looking at it. There are too many negative connotations to the word chastity. You tell someone that they have to lead a chaste life and they're like, “OOOOHHHH!!!” And I had that same feeling. “This is going to be like a punishment. Why do I have to live chastely?” But in the seventeen years now that I've attempted to live this way, chastity has really been a positive experience for the integration of myself. There's an empty space within all of us that's reserved for God and for the deeper spiritual things. And there is a whole aspect of spiritual healing in becoming chaste.
I proceeded with my own healing with an openness toward becoming heterosexual (in my orientation). I really had the best spiritual directors and the best psychotherapists. But I found that I always returned to a sense of woundedness in myself. Now I realize that in my past I was victimized emotionally and physically. These experiences caused wounds. I have tried to work them out and I am still working on them in therapy. But I have found that it is in my falls and in the times when I felt my weakest that I have sensed the Lord's presence most strongly. I have sensed myself going deeper into the Lord, into union with Him. I call this the “theology of weakness.”
A lot of us were raised in dysfunctional family. Systems where we grew up with the need to be perfect. It is really the idea of codependency, meaning that we try to validate ourselves and obtain a sense of self-worth by attaching ourselves to another person - either through fixing, rescuing or controlling. We were taught to relate to other people in a certain way. We were taught not to look at our weakness, and we get frightened by it. We have to run away from it. But for me there has always been a real lesson, a real theology, in weakness. St. Paul uses the idea often in his writings. He was three times fallen and couldn't get past something - whatever that was for him - emotionally or physically. The Lord allowed something to remain in him that was a real weakness. In a sense, I see our walk (toward chastity) in the same way.
We don't fall in the corner and say, “God is going to judge us by our orientation.” He's going to judge us by our behavior and our attitudes. God works with our raw material, and He's not scandalized by it. He knows what preceded me. He knows the third and fourth generation of my family and the weakness that's been there for who knows how long. And He knows how I grew up in it. There is nothing that God doesn't understand about my weakness. But God is constantly working through the weaknesses in our lives. I see that as part of the way in which our Father in heaven has proposed to save us. What I'm going to say right now is very Catholic: (Our struggle for chastity) is a sharing in the passion of Jesus. I've been led constantly to the passion of Jesus... to put my wounds into His wounds.
I've titled this talk “The Kingdom of God is Within You” because it is within ourselves that we have to find the Kingdom. We have to accept our insides. We can't run away from who we are. And our weakness is part of us. The Kingdom doesn't lie in any outside solution or in running away from ourselves and trying to be somebody else. It's not in our fantasies, it's not found in a relationship, it's not in drugs, alcohol, sex... it lies right within us, in the very depths of who we are. And this includes our weakness.
St. Therese the Little Flower (Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Theresa of Lisieux. Rev. Francois Jamait, O.C.T. Alba House). had come up with her own theology when she was at her death. She said: “We will only grow interiorly when we can accept our poverty and our littleness and in our powerlessness depend on God. We must learn to tolerate our own deficiencies and not deny them.” St. Therese made this her little way. She knew her poverty, her limitations, her inadequacies. She learned through her experience of weakness that she could have tremendous confidence in God her Father. She came to accept her nothingness, her powerlessness, and to believe in God's power. She said, “We must love our littleness and our weakness and have complete confidence in God. Unfortunately, most souls impede the operation of God's merciful love for transforming us because they refuse to accept their poverty and weakness. But more especially because they do not even realize how poor and weak they are.”
Most gay activists get greatly offended when (the homosexual orientation) is referred to as a disorder. I wonder what they would say about St. Therese's remarks. They probably would want to string her up somewhere.... But heterosexual or homosexual, we are all disordered or flawed to some extent. St. Therese goes on to say, “The greatest awareness we can have is to accept the truth about ourselves. It is the key to the spiritual life and to a wonderful relationship with God. It gives us deep peace and takes the pressure off of us. God cannot resist us when we abandon ourselves to Him in all honesty and sincerity and say that we cannot do this or that. I am completely powerless over this emotion of anger, lust, jealousy, etc. So Lord, I give it to you.”
It seemed to me, at first, that this meant having to become powerless and vulnerable again. I felt that I was returning to a state that I didn't trust, because someone had hurt me when I was there before. But I have to let the Lord love this fear off of me. The more I can feel His love, the more it will burn away my fear. I have to kind of shift gears and it's painful. But through that pain I have a stronger sense of who I am. I am totally integrated in that painful spot.
We in the Courage movement are being called to witness the power of living in the passion of Jesus, and in the power of His resurrection running through us. Philippians 3 is the closest thing to what I would say is my experience: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” That thought is a very life-giving reality, that I can unite something of me into Jesus and become more like Him. It's not easy. It's a decision and a choice I make every day.
“Vera's Story.” The Family (November 1993): 16-18.
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