The Gaze of Love

Sometimes we find ourselves meeting people who unsettle us. After many years struggling against same-sex attraction, we may have become overconfident and thus, complacent in the fight. It is, after all, a lifelong struggle. You may have put your defenses down momentarily. You entertain the curiosity, and convince yourself, you are only meeting this person on safe terms. But even if nothing happens, you find that this person has opened a can of worms that you’ve done your best to keep sealed. It’s especially harder to battle when a connection has been formed. You may think that connection is a manifestation of the man’s interest in you even if it’s nothing more. You begin longing for his companionship, for his attention, and most of all, for his approval. You want to know him. You seek him out.

He becomes a distraction—until you realize, you had misconstrued the connection as something else. In that sense, he can become your life’s destruction.

Maybe you had given a little more of yourself in the process. Oftentimes, these situations will find you expecting reciprocity. You try to justify your affections by framing this as harmless. Perhaps, you’re not even objectifying him.

And yet, you are waiting for something in return. You want him to want you. And when nothing is given back, you collapse as you face the cycle of rejection that gave you the Cross in the first place. You become angry and possessive and demanding. You try to remedy the paid by escaping it, silencing the throbbing wound with passing things—music, entertainment, frivolity.

You’re in this cycle again, perhaps even lonelier. Your weakness is startlingly exposed once more, and the ‘accomplishments’ you once boasted and thanked God for are nowhere to be seen. You thought you were strong. You thought nothing could disconcert you. And yet it seems, you’re still that gay man who is trying too hard to become a good Catholic. You contemplate giving up.

It may be uncomfortable to hear it, but you need to stand up. You need to put up a fight again. Yes, you can allow yourself to grieve the loss of an imagined relationship, to feel the sorrow of the the self-generated contractions and rejections which are truthfully, painful. But you need to wipe those tears, rise up, and fight again. You need to accept that in our struggle, we must fight the desire to entertain the dangerous fantasy of ‘receiving’ a ‘wholesome, ordered’ love from men—straight men most of all. You need to understand that what you are expecting from these straight men is an impossibility.

How do you rise up again?

Remember that God is the only Person who can give you what your Heart most desires, and what it rightfully needs. God’s Love is not how we expect it to be. It is not just a physical sensation or a sense of peace. It envelopes our souls and so immerses us that we do not even notice it.

You keep looking for happiness in the wrong place and in the wrong people. All the while, God is there, patiently waiting for you to seek Him out. He will, as always, even be the one to seek you out when you forget, or when you’re already too weak.

God puts up with all our infidelities. His eyes gaze on us steadily even when our own sight has strayed and fixed on creatures. You must look at Him again. You must share the joy of meeting eye-to-eye, and allow His Divine gaze to touch you, clothe you, feed you, acknowledge you, heal you, and give everything you need. God thirsts to give Himself to us. You must let Him embrace you, and fill you with his Love.

Pandemic

In this time of a pandemic, one sees a little more clearly where he is spiritually. When everything was fine and our lives enjoyed the balance and safety of routine, I was under the impression that, after many years since my conversion, I would be closer to holiness. When the Sacraments were available, when there was little conflict at home and at work, when the Christian life was simply enjoyable, it seemed like heaven on earth. Yes, there were struggles too. And of course, the Cross presented itself daily. But there was still a sense of control over what was happening in our world. It really is different when we do not get to choose our Cross.

But over two months since my last Holy Communion and confession, the spiritual bubble I lived in has burst. I am no different than the sinner I always knew I was but which I hated to admit.

Stripped of the Sacraments, I have found myself weak—spiritually, emotionally, physically. The old demon of scruples, always lurking but kept at bay by frequent confession, has now emerged with greater viciousness, attacking any peace or consolation I find. Old voices are heard again. They whisper. They chatter. They fill the mind with doubts and disappointments, repeating loudly how I haven’t really ‘converted’. They remind me of my past sins. They rub into my memory the fleeting pleasures of yesterday.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t put up a fight.

The lockdown took everyone by surprise. There were things to do—groceries, medicines, protective equipment, chores. What I thought would have been more time for prayer slipped into a structureless, almost seamless blending of day into night and then into day. What day is it, I ask often? And before I could even start praying, the fear of parents and grandparents contracting the disease hijacked the moments of peace I hoped to sustain; the reminders of time wasted fill me with horror and self-loathing.

The politics of our government’s response has also filled me with resentment. The division and disagreements among clergy and laity left me bewildered at how Christians have found themselves more eager to speak, than to pray. There were so many voices. There still are. And they only add to the mix of confusion.

As a response, I spent much time online: reading the news, looking for consolation in social media, busying myself with frivolous entertainment. It was my way of coping, or better yet, escaping reality. And as family friends died left and right, the inability to properly grieve the losses dug a hole into a soul that was already hollow from the frantic, impulsive, practical and fantastical responses. I was drifting from prayer. I was hiding from God. I wanted to confront the problem but also didn’t want to lift a finger.

What day is it today?

Another Wednesday. I am slowly trying to put myself back together. This pandemic has been a huge challenge to my trust issues. At the very core of my disorder was a desire for (masculine) approval, one which I also yearned from God. I often forget I am His child. I am constantly battling the idea that I need to be perfect, immaculate, to be loved. Without confession, was I forgiven? Does God make allowances for people in the time of pandemic? The answer should be clear but the heart of Man is always plagued by the scar of our sinful nature. Will God listen to my pleas for forgiveness, even after I had cursed at incompetent public officials, or put myself in occasions of sin; after I had entertained little daydreams of falling in love with another man? Will God understand how my outbursts and longings are a strained effort to release all this pent up anger, fear, and frustration?

Will God still love me?

I know he does. But there is a difference between knowing and believing. Stripped of my disillusions I was holy before the pandemic, I find myself a little lonelier than before. I see that I am weak. I see that I have been estranged from the norms of piety I practiced fervently but perhaps hollowly before this invisible, microscopic virus began tearing society apart, closing borders, testing souls, and changing lives.

Isn’t it true, that the things hidden are the things most powerful; that what is invisible to the naked eye often has the most visible effects? And I’m not talking about the virus.

My Lord and My God, do have mercy on our souls. Take pity on the men and women who struggle to trust your mercy in this pandemic. Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach us how to love, trust, and pray.

Between Two Days

One day you will wake up and find that the loneliness you experience today no longer holds you captive. One day, you will stand up from your bed, look at yourself in the mirror, and find the gaze of a son of God looking back at you—every bit made with a divine deliberateness, with a value beyond the dignity inherent in its being. One day, as you walk out of your house, and onto the routines of the human experience, you will notice the will of God permeating in every nook and cranny, every nuance, every ticking of the clock; in every hope, aspiration, disappointment, and sorrow you will experience.

Today, it may not seem like it. You have fallen again. After two years of what you deemed to be a successful enterprise in your pursuit of holiness, you find yourself facing the same demons you thought you had overcome. Today, they may whisper in your ear a great lie—you will never be able to give yourself in a love that equals that which has been naturally ordered by God. Today, they may plant seeds of doubt. Perhaps you will nod. You’re still the same, after all. You still find yourself attracted to men, desperately trying to win their approval, and along the ways of folly, committing countless frivolous mistakes. You still find yourself longing for happiness, this idea that if you can finally bury your body into the arms of another man, and be embraced by the other, the loneliness will simply be gone.

One day, you will look back and see how true untrue the suggestions of the enemy were. You will find that the momentary happiness you consumed left you even unhappier. You will find that friendship is invaluable, and in fact, incomparable to a passing romance.

Today, it may be hard to believe. There is a hole in you, a deep wound. You might wonder where Christ is. You might wonder why Mary and the saints seem oblivious to your condition, indifferent to your request for intercession, aloof in their perfection. You might wonder how you will be tomorrow and the next day, when your family is gone and you’re finally, really alone. You fear the prospect of being an old, single man in a rapidly progressive society that emphasizes all sorts of freedoms and rights, with the blatant disregard for life and morals. Will you be strong enough for that?

A hand held by another; fingers that stream through your hair; the quiet presence; a shared bed—aren’t they all so appealing? In the face of these physical reassurances, can God even compete?

One day you will understand that the things you could not see were far more real than the tangible. The Eucharist will suffice. You will never be alone. You were never alone. One day you will find yourself at ease with solitude, at peace with disinterested friendship, confident in Christ’s tender love. Everything that seemed impossible and untrue under the shadow of the cross will come to the light of the man on the cross. And on that day, you will see with greater clarity and appreciation; taste with so much sweetness and joy, why the darkness and bitterness of life came to b

Sail On

It has been months since I’ve written anything meaningful here. At its peak, I wrote furiously and filled the digital walls of this journal with insights and reflections about my conversion. However, the last three, maybe even four years of my life have not been uneventful. On the contrary, so much has changed—my conversion, a new job, family milestones, and plenty of setbacks. In between the changes were decisions I took to sustain what I believed, and still think is, as the right direction. This meant cutting people from my life, quitting old habits, changing views, learning new things, and taking huge risks (that often did not pay). There were setbacks and comebacks and throwbacks. At the core, I’m still the same person with the same dreams and fighting the same demons.

Ever since I felt the call to abandon the LGBT lifestyle and truly follow my Catholic faith, I had faced unprecedented challenges. Most took me out of my comfort zone, that area in my life wherein habits had become my sources of reassurance. But they were bad habits too, and all too often they brought me more hurt and pain than the freedom promised and espoused by my past life. I had new lows which made me question my decisions. I faced a new kind of loneliness. I encountered stains and old wounds that reopened, giving glimpses of the past I thought I had overcome. Some of the scars looked even fresh.

But I was never under the assumption that ‘changing’ automatically guaranteed happiness. If I were that naive thinking engagement in the spiritual life and the Christian faith was a relief from sorrow, then you can call me a fool—although in reality, I am one. I was under no pretensions with myself when I decided to become who I am called by God to become. But it didn’t necessarily mean I had been stripped of my humanity and the capacity to be broken, to be wounded, to be unhappy.

And so I was caught off guard by some of the circumstances I found myself in. Those old temptations can really be entrenched in your system. And whenever I encountered a failure, a setback, or another huge fall, I found myself entertaining doubts that maybe, just maybe, I was wrong. The idea of falling into self-pity and melancholy was so appealing. Indulging in my sentiments was the easier route. In several instances, I did just that. I yearned for companionship and treated myself to daydreaming, entertaining ideas of what life would be if I had not responded to the call for conversion. I gave in to infatuations and melodramas, and thought to myself if I were still the same person as I was ten years ago, I’d probably be happy with a man, living out a homosexual lifestyle.

Then a snap.

Because each time I find myself wanting to quit and even quitting momentarily by giving in to the fleeting pleasures of an imagined life, I would also find myself surviving and coming back to reality. Each time I seek the frivolous companionship and dangerous advice of old friends, I would next find myself talking to the sources of my strength, to counselors and mentors who remind me to fight. Each time I stare at the monster of loneliness in the eye—the overwhelming notion that I was giving up even companionship for a more meaningful Christian life—I just as quickly brave the storm.

It’s funny how God can use the most peculiar things to lead about these changes. In prayer, the conversations I’ve had with my Creator had often been an expression of my human frailty. But I embraced it, and kept going and going. When I look back at these moments, I recognize that my strength in facing the persistent thorn – not far from what St. Paul endured – came from Him. I was nothing. But in Him, I had everything.

That’s the benefit of hindsight. And maybe even of a blog. You see things a lot more clearly. Reading some of the posts I’ve written in this journal, as well as those in my old blog, reminds me of how far I’ve come. When you leave the safety of shore, and you still haven’t gone too far yet, it’s easy to see the progress. But when you lose sight of the shore, you begin wondering if you’re even making strides in the sea. When the horizon is empty, it may seem as if you’re not moving forward.

Trust me, you are.

Things will find its place, and you’ll find that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It may not be evident yet just like where I am in the present—a stressful new job amidst a global pandemic that has made me question what I really want to do in my life. But like all those moments when I thought I couldn’t do it and that there was no escape from misery, I know and trust that I’ll figure it out. We will figure it out. Patience is not a virtue of mine but I value its role in handling testy waters.

If you’re feeling the same way; if you’ve decided to take a risk by changing the course of your life and find yourself seemingly adrift and without any control, trust the courage you relied on in taking the risk in the first place. You will not be in the sea, no matter how tempestuous, had you not pulled the anchor and opted to sail.

So sail on, dear soul. Sail on.