To Know Is Not Always To Live

One of the great struggles about being a Catholic with same-sex attractions is the disconnect between what you know and what you experience. Yes, I know what the Catholic Church teaches. I get what the Catechism means, the importance of chastity, and the role of cultivating meaningful but disinterested friendships. I have no qualms about it. I understand well enough that the Church’s teachings are meant for the good of our souls. So I’m not interested in debate and discussions about changing these teachings. I believe them. 

But there’s a difference between what you know and what you experience. So while I agree that the call to live a life of chastity and conversion will only lead to holiness, the day-to-day living out of Christian demands is burdensome. I am still attracted to other men. I develop feelings for them. I long for companionship. I experience loneliness. At times, I feel abandoned by God, too, and there isn’t a year in my life since I decided to truly live out the Catholic faith where I don’t question if it was a good idea. 

Despite being involved in the LGBT lifestyle six to ten years ago, I never found myself in a relationship with another man. I had interactions but it never turned into anything romantic or long-term. Most of the time, I found myself pining for straight men, too, and so had more experiences with unrequited affections than anything else. In hindsight, I think it was Our Lady always interceding with her Son that I wouldn’t put myself in a stupid, sinful situation. Still, the desires are present, perhaps even stronger since the day of my conversion.

I wonder how it feels to date someone, go out to the movies with a guy, or simply have coffee and talk about anything you want. I only have a few straight guy friends. I can count them in one hand. I typically prefer not being close to them, too, because I might end up getting attracted to them. The flipside of that coin is I end up never developing real friendships with my male peers and idealizing them more.

Meanwhile, many of my gay friends from before, including those who weren’t out of the closet, are now in their respective same-sex relationships. Some of them are Catholic and remain so. When I see their posts about their love lives, it does a lot to confuse me. How can they be in relationships and still be Catholic? It’s not resentment. Jealousy, maybe. But I’m curious about the thought process behind these decisions.

I’ve always believed being Catholic meant being behind the Church’s teachings on everything. If you’re Catholic and promoting abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and other moral ills and sinful actions, it would be hard to agree you are Catholic. It’s not a piecemeal faith where you choose teachings you agree with and disregard those you don’t. So how does one reconcile a same-sex relationship when the Catholic Church tells us it’s wrong?

These sort of things I encounter in real-life or online lend confusion to my own faith experience. I left behind that homosexual lifestyle, why am I not happy? Why do I still yearn for another man’s companionship? Why can they do that and not me? What are the limits of what I can do without it being sinful? Was conversion a good idea?

So you see, even though I know there is wisdom behind the Church’s teachings — behind Christ’s promise — the reality of a gay Catholic man doesn’t always align with the perceived rewards of following Christ. It’s a huge cross — like it should be. Questions on one’s worthiness to love and be loved would always arise. Many days are spent dreaming of what could have been. There’s always the temptation to download a dating app — where things will probably go downhill. Most of the time, family and friends would suffice in calming these anxieties and soothing the loneliness. But I can only imagine the social and cultural pressure for those like me who may not have strong family connections, too. 

I don’t think what one knows about faith and what one experiences, in reality, will ever be resolved here on earth. It’s too much to ask. We weren’t made for this earthly life. Heaven is our real home. But gazing at the eternal kingdom with the constraints placed by our earthly existence means sometimes it’s easier to rest one’s eyes on the promise of happiness in this world. I hope I don’t fail and disappoint my God when I choose. 

To Speak Out

Last night, I was able to talk with a priest from Courage, Fr D. I’ve been in touch with him since my conversion back in 2016, but had not been frequently seeking his advice and counsel until recently. A few months ago I messaged him to talk about the burdens I carried at home, work, and my personal life, and his advice was instrumental in me taking steps to address the issues I faced. I wanted to talk to him again about another problem: my homosexual inclinations and same-sex attractions rearing their ugly head again in my life.

As a brief background, I have found myself infatuated with a male friend, JM, since September. We’re not particularly close. He was my replacement at work when I resigned back in 2018. We’ve met a few times because of transition concerns but have also seen each other because we now have common friends. I also learned early on we had a few other connections through our parents and some relatives of mine. 

I was never into him, JM. He wasn’t my type. And even if he were, at that time in my life I would have been quick to squash those feelings. My 2018 self was determined to win this struggle. But the pandemic happened. And being cooped up inside one’s home for almost two years, with few respites from the chaos and limited access to the Sacraments, has weakened me emotionally and spiritually. So when JM sent food out of generosity for his birthday, I was taken aback. My heart, longing for any gesture of kindness, clung to the act with such force. It blew out of proportion. I fell for him.

I have tried to psychologize my feelings for him. At times, I see my attraction to him as the result of my existing insecurities over him. He was, after all, my replacement at work and there was a part in me that was insecure he couldn’t do what I did. Well, he did. He’s done me better, too. I told myself that perhaps the reason why I suddenly liked him was that I had idealized him as someone better, and now my attractions were a symptom of my desire for masculine approval.

A mentor told me that to “get over him” I needed to know him better. This wasn’t the case of getting infatuated with a celebrity. In those situations, it’s easy to detach because there is no possibility. It’s all fantasy. But I knew JM on a personal level. He’s a real person I can talk to physically. So my mentor mentioned that if I keep putting a distance between us, it would only serve to bloat any form of kindness he shows me and I will continue idolizing him. 

Talking to Fr. D yesterday evening, several of these initial thoughts were fleshed out. This was important because I just saw JM once again early this week, together with friends of course. During that day out with our group, I found myself putting too much meaning in our interactions as if there was something serendipitous about our similarities. 

What the priest from Courage shared was important. Yes, the way I had reacted was absurd. My emotions had snowballed into a great opening for all these conflicting feelings to swirl. But this wasn’t just an imagination. Objectively, JM cannot reciprocate the feelings and my “love” for him isn’t anything more but a powerful, intoxicating case of infatuation. Yet, subjectively, what I was experiencing was real. That conflict had to be addressed.

Talking to Fr. D last night was a powerful moment in my life. While I’ve discussed or shared a lot of my sentiments with a few friends and my mentor, it was only yesterday evening that I felt like I could unpack the knots and complexities of my attractions. For the first time, I could frame my emotions with the guide of an objective voice, and assess how I respond to situations. Fr. D allowed me to speak out. He said that if I don’t carry out this exercise of unburdening myself, I will be able to overcome what I wanted to overcome.

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Be Natural

Be natural with God your Father. It’s easy to feel ashamed of our weaknesses, defects, and sins. How often do we fall in a day — or even within an hour, right? But God is closest to the sinners, even to those struggling to recover and begin again. It is precisely when we feel most unworthy and thus afraid of God in prayer that we need to turn to Him. Speak to Him naturally, as a child who stumbles repeatedly on the ground, showing Him your scrapes and wounds. God is merciful and just. His mercy heals. And because He is just, he accords us what is due to a creature plagued by faults and failures.

Tell Him, “My God, My Father, I am struggling. Help me because I do not know how to help myself. I am ashamed, but you do not judge. I want to be holy, but I can’t seem to be. My Father, please accompany me. Teach me how to pray.” And even if no words pour out your soul, you can simply gaze at His Son on the Cross. Mary, too, who stands at the foot of the Cross will accompany you. She is a creature, too, like you and me. She knows exactly what her children need and will never delay whispering to the ear of her Son, “They have no wine.” Then you must do your part. “Do whatever He tells you.”

When I Am Weak

When you’ve had a certain amount of “success” in your struggle for holiness, it’s easy to credit to yourself the accomplishments you have made or the progress you’ve achieved. Often, it’s this momentary lapse that causes the great misery of a downfall. Because the truth is, man cannot do it on his own. The struggle for holiness is not an autonomous process. While our freedom means our decisions are our own, we do no move forward simply by our own feet. 

You see, the old voice will always whisper to you about your past. It’s his way of weakening your trust in God and sowing seeds of doubt in your identity. This old voice would usually resurface when you face an onslaught of external issues that trigger many of the dysfunctions you previously thought had been buried by your efforts towards a more Christian life. One of the easiest temptations offered by the enemy is to tell you the old voice was right all along. You weren’t made to be a saint; your past life is the truth. And the common response is that we buckle under the pressure of our past, thinking maybe we can accommodate one more mistake, indulge in a few more days of our desires until we finally lose interest.

A big mistake is simply thinking we have to respond to this crisis only in spiritual approaches. We brush aside the need for us to address the human aspect of our struggle. We forget to care for ourselves because we fear it’s a sign of weakness. Given the climate in our culture wars, we might even believe we just have to deal with the suffering and accept it wholeheartedly. After all, others are suffering more. God only wants us to suffer, it seems.

But that doesn’t make sense, right? God, our Father, would be the last Person who would want to see us suffer. The problem is we tend to spiritualize everything and forget about our humanity, too. And in the face of the truth that God became Man, this becomes a challenge that only extends our misery when confronted by our weaknesses. We invalidate our sufferings because we have been conditioned to believe, well, others are suffering more. Just deal with it, right? But this only de-personalizes and leaves no room for love, for the truth of God’s Sacred Heart.

Let us pray to cope. But let us not forget we need to care for ourselves, too. If this means reaching out to someone and unloading our burdens to these people, then there is no shame in that. There is more courage in stripping ourselves of our “holy” defenses and being vulnerable in front of our Lord, and finally admitting, yes, we need Help.