Joyful Pilgrims

by | January 1, 2014

g__k__chestertonIn the Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton wrote, “about sex especially men are born unbalanced; we might almost say men are born mad. They scarcely reach sanity till they reach sanctity.”

We are men and women who came to realize that like most of humanity, about sex, we had an incomplete picture. We have discovered on our journey that the view of sex we once had didn’t lead to the promises it seemed to offer us, and that the path to peace and fulfillment is found only by gaining a true understanding of sexuality. That understanding has come to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ, as expressed through the Catholic Church.

We are men and women who live with same-sex attraction. We have all traveled our own journey, but the common bond that unites us is that our paths have converged on the road that leads to Rome. Through meandering paths, we have all found ourselves on the road paved with the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality. Between us, we have followed nearly every other signpost along the way, only to find each path to have been a dead-end that leads nowhere. Though the paths we once took are well trod by others, we never found our home there, and the road less traveled–the road of chastity–has become for us the only road we realize will bring us peace and the vocation we are called to take.

We have come to view ourselves as sojourners and pilgrims. Through our journeys, filled as they have been at times with mistakes, disappointments, dead-ends and broken relationships, we have come to the keen awareness that the most sane way of viewing our lives on earth is as pilgrims and wanderers. The unrealized promises of the glittering paths we once walked have shown us that this world is not our home. We echo King David’s words in Psalm 119:19, and say to God, “Wayfarer though I am on the earth, do not hide your commandments from me,” recognizing now that the commandments of God are our compass.

We choose to see the world through the lens of C. S. Lewis: “If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

We have come to view the call of chastity not merely as “it’s not so bad,” but rather the path that leads us to fulfillment and contentment. We call ourselves “joyful” because we finally know where we belong, who we are, what we are made for and to where we are going. We desire to echo the words of St. Irenaeus, who said that “the glory of God is man fully alive!” We have chosen this path, not out of a sense of obligation, or by viewing the demands of chastity as the dictates of an unloving Puppet Master. No, we have chosen the path of chastity because we finally know that this is what will allow us to be fully alive, living out the life we would choose naturally if we truly understood what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. In that context, we choose to live life fully, embracing all of the great gifts that God has given us, particularly the gift of communion, friendship and relationships with both God and man.

As wayfarers and pilgrims, we have come to realize that the commandments of God are necessary signposts on the journey. Once they seemed absurd and the arbitrary whims of a despotic God, but now we agree with St. Clement of Alexandria that “the commandments of God lead to the Blessed Life.” Like another sexually broken man, King David, we ask now of God, “do not hide your commandments from me.” They are the only reliable road map that leads us Home.

We desire to share our journey with others who also live with same-sex attractions and who are seeking a map that makes sense of their lives. We want to tell them why we’ve chosen to take this road less traveled. It isn’t always easy, and a lot of us find ourselves backtracking and taking detours along the way. We’re no saints, and each of us echo the words of Pope Francis in saying, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” But we press onward, towards the goal which we’ve become convinced we need to follow, striving to follow, each of us saying with St. Paul, “Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” We know that we’ll only reach the goal by the grace of God.

We sometimes stumble and fall, or become disconsolate about our shortcomings, but like St. Paul, in those times, we “can only say that forgetting all that lies behind [us], and straining forward to what lies in front, [we are] racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” That call has led us to pursue the path of chastity, out of the conviction that it is the path to peace and joy and fulfillment on earth. That peace, joy and fulfillment, and as G. K. Chesterton put it so well, “sexual sanity” come from the sanctifying gifts of the Church.

This blog is about sharing our journeys and reflections in the hope of giving what J. R. R. Tolkein called “a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”

We invite you to journey with us.

 

 

 

5 Responses to Joyful Pilgrims

  1. Mary says:

    What a fantastic start to what promises to be an oasis in the desert for many!

    The image that comes to mind for me is the reaction of Pippin to Gandalf’s words of hope and reassurance (1:09 – 1:20 min) before battle in Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King, where he says words very similar to those you cited from C. S. Lewis. I pray that those who are having a hard time finding hope, after reading this blog, will be able to understand, like Pippin did: “Well, that’s not so bad.”

    And in your words, might they sense that knowing smile and hear that confident reassurance from you who have tasted the goodness of God, “No. No, it isn’t.”

    The battle continues, but the perspective changes. Even in this life, that makes all the difference. (Of course knowing where it all ends makes THE difference.)

  2. Jim Russell says:

    YES! Wonderful to see this–will highly recommend this site, and frequently!

    God bless your work!

  3. Caterina says:

    Just saw your interview on Catholic Answers about beer evangelization and ‘Holy Leisure’, and it got me thinking: is there any chance that our holy brothers and sisters with SSA might pioneer a new form of vocational life around the notion of Holy Leisure and Holy Friendship (or something else)? After all, the vocation to consecrated religious life wasn’t specifically instituted by Christ–it developed organically in the Church as people just started, well, doing it, by starting their communities etc. And to my understanding people with SSA are generally advised not to place themselves in temptation’s way by joining communities of same-sex people (like monasteries), or by joining the priesthood (and living in a rectory with other men). I would just love to see a positive vocation develop (though obviously not something that SSA people ‘have’ to do, or that CSA (complementary-sex attracted) people necessarily ‘can’t’ do) for living out chastity and the virtues in a specific, joyful way that people can feel called to regardless of SSA. Or is this already present in simply being single in the world, and joining individual existing ministries/working apostolates? I have a friend with SSA (who also loves craft beer, so I imagine your brewery trips would be very appealing to him!) and would love to be able to point to a vocation of ‘yes’ rather than a series of vocations that are prudential ‘no’s. Something where he can use and enjoy his enormous skillset (he’s very musical, handicrafty, and social).

    I feel it needs to be SSA people who lead this charge though, and explore/discover (and re-teach all of us!) what it means to live joyfully in Christ, amidst our sensual experience. And I guess the talk about ‘Holy Leisure’ prompted my thinking about a re-invigoration of the re-virtueing of worldly experiences, and the world’s need for a demonstration of chaste, holy friendship (given this world’s contemporary over-emphasis on physically romantic relationship as the ‘main’ relationship or source of affection/community in one’s life).

    Am I way off base? What are your thoughts?

    • Thanks for stopping by! I think there is certainly a place in the Church for community living, regardless of one’s sexual attractions. One of the grave problems of our modern life is the emphasis we place on our sexual attractions as defining us–so for me, I don’t really like focusing on those as defining characteristics. That’s also why I always get a bit leery of the idea that men and women “with SSA” will be the ones to bring about a new way of living. Rather, I’d like to focus on all Catholics who find themselves single, but not married, nor called to the priestly or religious life as being the ones God calls to perhaps bring about what you’re talking about. That being said, there are many communities of single people that exist already that are in that sort of “in-between” space, but they are few and far between. I think of the Madonna House Apostolate where all the men and women make a decision to be celibate, but they’re not really in religious life in the formal sense of things. But they have remarkable community, and I would say have both Holy Leisure and Holy Work involved.

      I love your comments about the importance of elevating friendships too. That’s one thing I talk about in my book, incidentally. https://www.ignatius.com/Why-I-Dont-Call-Myself-Gay-P2637.aspx One of the essential paths for men and women who find themselves single, for whatever reason, is to follow the example of St. Francis: to realize that it is far better to console than to be consoled. It is in that way, I have found, that my own needs for friendship, love and care are fulfilled. By giving of myself, I naturally receive too–another one of of St. Francis’s wise words.

      It sounds like I would enjoy meeting your friend, and enjoying a beer with him. I hope you can urge him to come to the Courage Conference sometime. http://couragerc.org/wp-content/uploads/Copy-of-Save-the-Date-1.png

      God bless, and thank you!

      Dan

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