The LGBT community and 3 possible pastoral approaches as Catholics

I am a part of the LGBT community. And it is a part of me. It does not define me, and is not all I am or think about. But to suggest it is not part of me is to be intellectually and otherwise dishonest.

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Having said the above, I am, first and foremost, a Catholic Christian with a commitment to seeking towards chastity and a pure heart. Some of you reading this have already challenged my reference to myself as “part” of this group, but I am. And so is every same-sex attracted person, whether active sexually or not, and whether they choose to identify as such with other LGBT persons.

To me that is lesson # 1 here. In the recent book by Father James Martin, SJ, “Building a Bridge,” he suggests that we begin to eliminate from our vocabulary the term SSA (same sex attraction) and that it, among other things, can cause an unnecessary rift with those we are part of if that happens to be our orientation. At first I challenged that idea, and strongly. In further thought, however, I think he is right. The reason many of us have used SSA rather than LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is precisely to differentiate or distance ourselves from what many call the “gay identity.” Instead I fear it is causing more confusion than it could ever be worth.  For starters how many people do you know (outside of the more traditional Catholic world that is) who even know what SSA means? Probably none. We thus are distancing from the very people we say we are attempting to reach out to.

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To be clear, SSA is not an improper term by any means, and I would not criticize any who continue to use it. But, like so much of “Christianese,” it does not clearly identify the topic at hand, which is homosexuality, without an easily distracting sidebar chat that can derail the entire conversation if we are not careful. The purpose many of us have used it in the past is to emphasize that being SSA or LGBT does not need to define us, as I suggested in the very first sentence of this essay. That is valid. But very often that same sidebar causes it to do exactly that. I have personally found it far easier to simply say I am gay or LGBT but “celibate for religious reasons.” People get that, even if they disagree, and one can then move forward in what is already most likely a very sensitive discussion overall.

The above point, however important, only lays the groundwork for the actual pastoral approaches in question though.  I would like to deal with each of them briefly and then allow both myself and the reader to digest the idea that the Church can reach out far better to the LGBT community than we have done, both collectively and individually, in the past. I would suggest 3 valid paths to the topic, both doctrinally and in approach.  I would mention here, in using the term “pastoral,” I am not limiting my terminology to priests or ministers. We are all “pastors” at times to those we know and love.

First is what I would call the “Courage approach.” Within the Church, and approved by the Vatican, is a vibrant ministry to those who struggle with homosexuality. I link to the Courage website here, and have suggested to more than one person, including me, to utilize their fine services.  I can say nothing against it nor is that my intent today. https://couragerc.org.

As an important aside, it is crucial to note that Courage does not reach all however. For some, the struggle is in making peace with themselves and their sexuality in order to even accept the possibility of a celibate life. For others, there is an in-between or middle path that sees ways for us to have in-depth and possibly even legal commitments which do not involve sexual activity but allow for the love which so many of us crave, and as perpetually single people in the Church do not tend to find easily. For yet others, it may involve a very honest but fundamental disagreement with Church teaching on the topic. Each of the three groups mentioned are real Catholics and real human. All deserve consideration.

In any case, Courage believes strongly in using the term SSA and for the reasons I have mentioned already, among others. Having had at least some association with them over the last several years, I would observe that, while none of the 3 paths here are easy, this one can be very good for some and extremely painful for others. I have spoken to people who have wept after viewing pornography, for instance. You might say, and in many cases I would agree, that this would indeed be a good reason to weep. But…

I have also known those same people to be literally threatened with hellfire during what is already a difficult and humbling time of confession with their priest, and I do not see that as the answer most often. Imagine being a person of 21 years and having been told by the Church you love and the Christ you wish to follow that you will never, under any circumstances, be allowed to express your sexuality to any other human in this lifetime. Further imagine that one day you turn on your computer to do school or other work and quite unexpectedly you are sent a link to some, in this case, gay porn.  What would you do? If you are hormonally within the norm, you will most likely view that porn, particularly if you are in other areas denying yourself from being sexually active. Then you go to confession and the priest tells you, in no uncertain terms, that had you died that day or night you would have gone straight to hell and burned for eternity due to that one act. It might just cause you to never enter a confessional again.

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church does delineate this as serious sin, and I am not here to argue that point, more often that not you likely were not in serious sin but simply tripped up temporarily. For a sin to be serious or mortal, we as Catholics are taught that it must be serious, we must know it is such, and we must freely choose to do it anyway.  Most people at their hormonal heights, alone on a lonely night, denying themselves as mentioned from direct sexual contact, would not fit the last of the 3 listed here.  A priest who does not realize this when someone is weeping in the confessional is simply not getting it.

Back to Courage–while much hope is offered, there are more than a few within that group who live in constant fear and misery due to their lapses such as the above. And that can actually lead to a form of sexual binging and purging, which then becomes a habit and finally a total oppression within even the most sincere individuals.  Please note I am not suggesting to bypass Courage here. I am saying one needs to know what they are in for if they choose that route however.

Second would be the “spiritual friendship” approach. This would be Christians, primarily Catholic but others as well, who accept and even embrace their LGBT side and identify as such but who nevertheless choose celibacy. At one point I challenged this idea–I do not anymore. Some in those circles choose partners, even having life commitment ceremonies, but choose to not become sexual with that person. The pitfall of course is to live under the same roof with someone you are attracted to and love deeply and to avoid ever having sex. How far can a person go? Is kissing okay? Is emotional “marriage” okay? What if one or the other chooses to marry sacramentally to a person of the opposite sex? How devastating could that be for the partner left behind? Again there are blessings and pitfalls in this approach. But it at least has some honesty. A website to learn more of the thoughts and ideas behind this concept would be https://spiritualfriendship.org.

Finally what about those who are within the Church but are not at the place where they choose to give up full sexuality and possibly even marry those of their own gender biologically? The Church as we speak is having many conflicting ideas and discussions in regards to the place of such people in the Church, as to whether they are allowed to receive Holy Communion or even have a Christian funeral.  This one to me is the most heartbreaking–and in fact the one that the vast majority of LGBT Christians, whether Catholic or other, find themselves dealing with.

A high-profile priest who in the past worked closely with Courage suggested publicly that it would be allowable to have such couples in one’s home, for example at Thanksgiving or other holidays, but never to refer to them as a “couple.” Really? People who are committed to one another, who share a home and bed, and who are faithful to one person rather than being promiscuous, but we are told that the “truly Catholic” approach is to pretend none of that is the case and to make the partner of one’s beloved son or daughter feel slighted due to what the Church terms as an irregular relationship? I cannot believe that this type of thinking still goes on. But it does and regularly.

Let me use a slightly different example from my own life many years ago. A friend of mine (straight) was dating a woman, and they suddenly broke up. A couple of short weeks later his former girlfriend arrived on the scene and he decided rather suddenly to marry her. Then, he asked me to be best man at the ceremony. I prayed on it, and finally decided that the best approach was to speak to him privately about my concerns. I did so, and then agreed to accept the supreme honor of standing up for him, and have never regretted doing so. It has been years since we have been in contact, but I am pretty sure from all indications that this marriage was a lasting one. And, even if it had not been, I had clearly shared my suggestions regarding waiting so I knew he could never say I had not done so. We remained wonderful friends, even after their first child was born, and that simply would not have happened if I had pushed him away at that moment.  There are no easy answers in such scenarios, whether gay or straight, but turning from him and his bride-to-be would not have prevented that marriage from occurring. It would however have estranged us, possibly forever. Supporting him did not mean agreeing with him. Nor does it with same-sex couples.

How this fits with same sex marriages is simple–I do not agree with the priest from Courage who suggested that we distance ourselves from loved ones who choose another path.  Expressing initial concern is one thing, but I believe that being there for them in that crucial hour could make all of the difference later on in regards to them coming back to the Church or not.  Again I probably have horrified a few readers by this view, but to me that is the far more pastoral approach.  And, by the way, it is no longer “so-called same sex marriage.” Legally it is marriage, whether one agrees with the concept or not. In the same vein Bruce Jenner is now legally a woman and her name is Kaitlyn. If you cannot acknowledge that or must make light of it, as so many Catholics and other Christians are absolutely fond of doing, you do neither her nor your cause any service. I am not sure what we are attempting to prove by calling someone else’s sexual identity by other names than they prefer. We do not have to agree with them. But pretending their perception or legal identity does not exist, or for that matter spending time fighting to reverse the law, whether one fought for it or against it at the time, is a waste in my view, and a good way to turn away some very good LGBT people from the very place they should feel most welcome–the house of God. A great place to learn more about Catholics on this particular path would be https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com. I would say succinctly that this site is not endorsed by the Church. But it is a great place to become educated on the feelings and concerns of those you may at times disagree with and yet who have struggles more similar to yours than you may expect.

I am sure this post brings more questions than answers to many of you.  And there is much more I could add to the 3 approaches discussed here.  But the Church does not need to choose between defending her doctrine and accepting those who do not. To me that is the bottom line here. And I think it is a crucial one for the day we live in.

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Priest Bans Gay Man from Singing at Grandmother’s Funeral

Originally posted on Bondings 2.0:  I see many things differently than New Ways Ministry in that I accept the traditional teaching of the Church on homosexuality and same-sex attraction. However coming from that background and world I also recognize that the very real ostracizing of actively or not LGBT Catholics is not the way to reach out to people who may be at different places in the journey than I or some others happen to be. 12 years ago I came back to Rome after many years away, and during those many years I was in every way an LGBT activist for 15 of those years. Even after returning to the Church I have at times had to sort and re-sort my understanding of where I fit in, particularly in regards to those particular issues which hit me at a very personal level. I would dare to say that I might have never returned if I had encountered a priest such as the one in this article at the beginning crucial stage of that return. Here is a young man who was raised Catholic, still identifies as such, and had a loving gift of song for his grandmother. To deny him the opportunity to sing in his home parish for her funeral is unbelievable to me, especially without at very least a phone call or in person conversation to discuss the matter. My heart aches for Connor–and for our Church, when we think that denying people the opportunity to grieve is part of our “ministry” to them. Thank you New Ways Ministry for sharing this important piece.

Bondings 2.0
When Connor Hakes’ grandmother died, he wanted to honor her with a song at the funeral. But because he is a gay man, the parish priest denied Hakes’ request to sing, adding more pain to an already painful time.
Connor Hakes
Hakes’ family are longtime parishioners at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur, Indiana. Generations of the family, including his grandmother, were part of the community there, and Hakes had even sung at the church before, reported WANE.
But Fr. Bob Lengerich, pastor, banned Hakes from singing at the parish until the “present situation” was resolved, though he did not, in the letter explain what the “present situation” is.  One of the issues mentioned in the letter that would ban people from liturgical roles was “openly participating in unchaste same-sex relationships.”
Father Lengerich made his thoughts known in a letter to the grieving grandson. The letter also…
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A Question of Language: ‘Same-Sex Attraction’ vs. ‘Gay or Lesbian’

I respect the work of New Ways Ministry. I do not always find myself on the same theological page as them. I agree though with the idea that we are more than our sexuality and are people of dignity in the eyes of God, whatever our orientation. And that is not the center of our lives. He is.

Bondings 2.0

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently featured an interview with Fr. Philip Bochanski, the new director of Courage, a ministry which promotes celibacy as the only path for gay and lesbian Catholics.  The article states that the priest reported that “the organization feels supported by Pope Francis’ encouragement to accompany those ‘with same-sex attraction’ on their spiritual journeys.”  Bochanski is quoted as saying that Francis’ language of accompaniment, “is very useful for us. It recognizes the approach we take.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski

It is noteworthy that Courage is taking direction in their pastoral work from Pope Francis, who is seen by many as having initiated on new openness on LGBT issues in the Church.  But, as the NCR article points out, the leadership of Courage does not follow Pope Francis when it comes to language about LGBT issues. The reporter stated:

“[The Courage] approach includes using a language that some might…

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A Good Man’s Happy Death

TO THE READER: Tomorrow, April 8, 2016, marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death. Many of you read my personal tribute, linked in the first paragraph, to his influence on me in my life, but not as many may have seen the backstory of the actual dying process he and our family, journeyed through with him during those last months. It is in no way morbid–sad to be sure, missing him daily still of course–but a very real joy exists in having seen a long life well-spent.  Here it is once again, and Donald Leroy Evans, please continue to look upon us left behind and pray for us, as we know you will. And a well-deserved rest in peace. We each love you much.

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Just over 2 months ago, my father, Donald Leroy Evans, journeyed into eternity. I wrote elsewhere recently about my own experience with him, bridging chasms we once had, due in large part to my SSA (same sex attraction) struggles and the closeness we later shared in the last number of years since my return to the Catholic Church.

This piece however is about another aspect of my dad and his last few months on this earth. We each pray for a “happy death,” not meaning pain free or with no struggles, but with the Lord Jesus Christ as the absolute center of that holy time which we all one day will face. St Joseph had such a death, and passed on with both Jesus and Mary at his side. That, in essence, is what a “happy death” consists of—no more, no less. This is the story of another beautiful entrance into the next world, and one I was extremely privileged to play some small part in.

My dad had beaten the odds a number of times over the years, having had a quadruple bypass while in his 60s and not long after his retirement. He had quit a heavy smoking habit around 20 years earlier, and, had he not done so, the doctors were convinced he would never have lived long enough to have such a procedure otherwise.

Not long after, my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma, leaving us due to that insidious cancer at age 69, just months short of their 50th wedding anniversary. My dad, while not the most domesticated of creatures, took care of her as best he could, and heroically keeping her at home as she had wished until the very end.

Two years later, he met a lovely woman by the name of Betty Yates. He took full advantage of this second chance for a happy retirement, and they were married in 1997 when he was 75! He had converted to Catholicism at age 18 when he married my mother, and Betty was a divorced Lutheran. It would have been very easy to just marry in her faith community, but he chose to go through a proper and careful process of annulment so that he could marry in the Church.

They spent the remainder of his earthly life together, and during that time he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, had two mild heart attacks, and only through much argument with the heart specialists was he able to have three stents put into his already damaged arteries, again saving his life for several more years. He also developed pneumonia a number of times, and kidney disease began to take its toll on him. Finally, on Thanksgiving night of 2014, the family was called and was told that he was in the hospital with what appeared to be end stage kidney disease. He was 92 by this time, and the option of dialysis did not make sense for his already battered body. He was placed into hospice, and moved into the care center of the assisted living/nursing home facility where he and Betty by then were living. She could still see him every day, and he could get the additional care and help that only hospice can provide. But we all knew that the end was near. Or so we thought at least.

I should add that he had one other love—the casino—and spent at least two-three days a week honing his blackjack skills and making friends, something he did easily all his life. Hospice was not going to stop him from this either. He managed, even while on O2, to get there three more times to see his card playing comrades and to return each time with more money than he had come with! Those skills literally paid off until the very end for this amazing man.

In reading the above, one might not have completely guessed that Christ and the Faith were really front and center for him. Not much could be further from the truth though. When he and Betty married, the both began attending each other’s churches; each Saturday evening worshipping at Catholic Mass together, while visiting her Lutheran service every Sunday. To this moment I am sure there are many from both communities who thought that they both were members of each other’s church, and their picture together graced both parish directories. While different on some key beliefs, they truly were one in spirit.

After I returned to the Church, my step-sister, a former co-worker of my dad’s who had introduced them, decided to become Catholic. My dad, at age 85, became her RCIA sponsor as she was received into the Church two years after I had come back. He obviously took his faith seriously, and it showed.

It was in the last four months of his life, with his kidneys working at just five percent, that he blossomed most though. He knew he was not long for this earth, and decided to have his memorial service (aka party!) while yet alive. We had food, festivity, laughter and tears, and it was on that day just before Christmas of 2014 that I saw for the first time how really ready he was. He loved this earth, and the people here. That was clear until the very day he died. But he had begun to detach as well, not from people but from other things that had once mattered so much to him. We took turns sharing meaningful moments together, and he cried freely and laughed just as much as we did. He was still dad, always cheerful and a bit mischievous, but that day it seemed he was also surrounded by angels, and his trodden face looked like one as well. God was clearly in that place and in charge.

He did better than expected for the next few months, scooting around and never missing a card game—or a Mass. Then, once again, pneumonia came, and he made the difficult choice for comfort care rather than antibiotics. It would now be only a matter of days, and once again the family gathered. Again, instead of gloom, it was a near party atmosphere at moments, and tears during others. He would sleep and awaken, and when he was ready to drift off he just said he was glad to know we were all there enjoying one another’s company. At moments he could not breathe well, and would momentarily panic, but medication and prayer brought him back each time. One time he was having trouble resting, and finally said to his wife “Betty get over here and talk to me so I can fall asleep.” We all roared including her, of course. She, like him, enjoyed life, laughter, and large doses of chatter.

The day before he died, he managed to phone every person who was not able to be there in person, and even made peace with one close family member who had some serious issues with him in the past. He had been trying for months to have her come and visit so that they could talk, but due to time and distance it was not to be. However, in a 3 minute conversation they were at harmony with each other, once for all. That was the kind of man he was. Earlier, not long after his diagnosis, he told me that he could now for the first time truthfully say he loved absolutely everyone. He was never a grudge holder, but, like all of us, had some people he was not as close to as others. Now he simply loved them and wanted them to know it.

Speaking again of detachment, he had always loved sports. A lot. When we were growing up, he would often pull the TV into the dining room during dinner and it was nearly impossible to talk at the table as a result. A couple of months before he died, I recall phoning him and Betty, who answered, told me that the game was on. I asked dad if he wanted me to call back later, and he said, “No, I can talk to you for a while.” A first for everything. The night before he passed away, a basketball tournament was on TV, and we offered to turn it on. He said to us, “No, I don’t want to know if MN wins or not.” What he was really saying, I think, was that it no longer mattered to him, and that his family who was gathering to see him off was all that did. For him, that was a very real and final detach from this earthly life.

One other thing he asked me for during this time was a blessing from Pope Francis. I had been able to obtain one from then-Pope Benedict XVI for his 90th birthday, and he was extremely proud to have that blessing displayed in his room. However, those generally take months to obtain through the Diocese, and I had no idea how I could ever honor his request this time. But I prayed, and I suddenly remembered that I had a seminarian friend from Facebook who was and is currently studying in Rome. I sent him a quick message, and he was able to get not one but two of his fellow seminarians to attend a public audience with the Pope for me. People who attend are told that the Pope willingly extends this blessing to any of their loved ones not present, so they each prayed for that blessing on his behalf and mine too. I then printed him an unofficial but real certificate, and he now had a blessing from Pope Francis as well, which I presented to him at his “farewell party” in December. Amazing how God works in little ways and big.

On the last day before he died, the room was filled with family and friends, and health care staff were coming in and out as well, hugging him, crying, telling him how they loved him, and we as a family were amazed at such an outpouring. His priest also came, and gave him the Anointing of the Sick as well as an Apostolic Pardon. By then he was drifting in and out some but still knew we were there, and shortly after that he fell asleep and, other than occasional moments did not wake up again, at least fully.

The next morning, the day of his home going, it was just me, 2 of my siblings, his sister and my stepmom who were there. We prayed for him together, and later both his priest and the Lutheran minister came and prayed with him as well. The care center had Rosary that day, so I attended and prayed for him with his own Rosary. One of the leaders suggested that they come and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet over him, which they did. She began to cry when she saw Betty, my Lutheran stepmom, and told her that the rosary she was using was one Betty had given to her as a gift! Powerful indeed. True ecumenism.

Just over an hour later he was gone. But as he was passing, I laid on his arm an antique rosary from Lourdes. Mary was there and readying him. And during the last few hours, he continued to talk, on and off, but not to us, saying such things as “I love you” and “I am doing pretty good.” Whatever was happening during those moments we may never know in this life. But when he took that last breath it was simply done, no pain, and no other apparent discomfort. It was the quintessential happy death. As he kept telling people, “what a way to go.”

Why do I share all of this today? Perhaps I want you to know this great man, just a little. More so, because I want us all to be less afraid of what is coming. I know I am. Without canonizing him, I am yet fully convinced that he was taken directly into the arms of Jesus, Mary, and St Joseph. And my mom too. That to me is a comfort beyond words or tears. It is also a challenge to live better so that one day I too may have such a death and join a holy man, Don Evans. Please join us too.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “CATHOLIC STAND,” June 13, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Ready…again

 

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I am ready to write again. You will likely read and notice a few differences though. For one thing I do not intend to cover up my weaknesses quite so much anymore. Do not get me wrong—God has done huge things in my life and I do not wish to in any way glorify my less-than-perfectness either. However, too often I have seen, and not just in others but in myself as well, the tendency to put my best foot forward and keep the other one hidden out of sight, so to speak.

I sin daily. Most if not all (actually all, whether intentionally, consciously or not) of you reading this do so as well. We also live in a day and age that is unprecedented in its ease to fall in various ways, in particular sexually. That particular discussion may make some of us uncomfortable—I know it does in my life. But I still fall in areas, and that is one of them. I have been celibate, in that I have not had nor have I sought person to person contact with another human, male or female, since 1999. That is nearly 17 years, and the last 10 as a Catholic Christian. So far so wonderful, right? Yes—and no.

Before you go congratulating me on such an accomplishment, I will openly say that my mind is at times a virtual cesspool. My computer too. Living alone with the WWW at my fingertips has some built in occasions of sin, and I cannot pretend I never have allowed myself to become trapped from time to time due to that combination. I have seen lately a multitude of articles by people who “used to” struggle in this area, and that is truly great and inspiring. I can take nothing away from that and am not attempting to do so. But what of those who have yet to overcome? Those who try all the techniques of prayer, fasting, daily Mass and rosary, and every other good idea on the lists of those who have “made it?” And still fall more than flat into the sewer after doing so?

And that is where I am at. Overcoming, and failing. Overcoming again, and then falling worse yet. Celibate but not chaste. Born again virgin but occasional internet whore. All of that can describe me and more. Not always but sometimes. In between such moments I do indeed seek God in the ways mentioned and have not given up hope. Not at all. But it can be deathly discouraging to be the one who does not quite seem to get over this area of what is a sometimes intense struggle. Reading of other’s victories can, at times, have the unwitting effect of tempting a person such as me to near despair. If I really wanted the victory, if I was truly consistent, if I honestly came to the “end of myself” (whatever or however that may look like) I would be able to write one of those victory articles too instead of one which sounds like I have given up on all that I hold sacred, which I nearly have at times, by the way. More than you the reader know. And not so long ago either.

But one thing keeps me going. What God has started within us, He does tend to finish. In fact He promises to do so. Every one of us are works in progress, even if that progress seemingly comes only in fits, starts, and restarts. And a lot of us fall into that category in one way or another, not necessarily in lustfulness but perhaps with gluttony, jealousy, or numerous other inner and outer wars. Traps exist for all of us, and for some they are lifelong struggles. Mine certainly has been longstanding to say the least.

Perhaps you are the person who watches the infomercial about the 300 LB woman who is now a sweet 120 and size 8. And, instead of being excited, you find yourself medicating your discouragement by going to the kitchen and getting some Ben and Jerry’s plus a spoon as you continue to watch the anorexic model on TV tell her tale. In my case perhaps it is a sense of utter loneliness that makes it easier to imagine being surrounded by beautiful and youthful folks who do not notice my many flaws. That is the power of pornography and cyber.

My point is this. Victory does not come in a one size fits all package. Some are delivered from certain of their sins instantly and never understand why that same deliverance does not occur with in the next person. Others fight a long battle but, once they are on the winning side for a few months or years, begin to lose compassion for those of us who keep messing up. And neither of those groups realize that very pride may lead them one day into something worse. I once knew of a young man who was instantly delivered from drug addiction, with no withdrawals of any kind. He fell in love with Jesus and his life was genuinely changed. I knew him personally and can attest to his sincerity. Yet, a few short years later he had an affair with a married woman from the church. The struggle within him was not gone but had only morphed into a new weakness. That story is scarily similar to many of us I think. The roots of our battles, the besetting ones at least, go deeply and at times lie dormant, waiting for the next way to become manifest. We do well to admit this to ourselves and others.

So yes, expect some honesty, some of it painful not just for you to read but me too, in what I pen going forward. When I posted on Face Book a few months ago that I had failed in chastity if not in person at least online, and that someone was possibly interested in quite literally exposing me due to what he rightly saw as my hypocrisy, I was overwhelmed with the response of probably friends, most Christian but even a few who were not, who gently supported me, as well as some who wrote me privately and admitted to their own struggles. Ironically a fellow Catholic writer was the only person who felt the need to tell me how deeply disappointed she was in me, and strangely that one response is the one I think about the most even still.  The lesson I would gently say to that person if she is reading this is that most of us know our failures already, and do not need them to be thrust at us, especially if we have confessed them to God and the world already. Yes there are consequences as she deftly pointed out to me and I am willing to pay them as God sees fit. I took time totally away from writing precisely due to this situation during all of Lent and used much of that time to do some serious reflecting so that I could come back fresh and new after Resurrection Sunday. Instead I skipped Mass on Easter and did it all over again after a beautiful Holy Week. And my first thought after yet another such major failure was to never write again but to go into permanent hiding. Not so however. Not with the God of second chances who we love and serve.

Today I have been to confession and, yet again, I have been forgiven. And my penance this evening was to sit silently in the church sanctuary before the Blessed Sacrament and let God speak to me. That was it. Not 50 decades of anything. Just let God be God in me.  In doing so, I came to believe that He does want me to write, and not just about this topic hopefully! But I have to do so with more humility and each time as a “wounded healer.” I do not have all of the answers yet, even for myself, and I will not guarantee to God or the reader that I will never slip into the abyss again either. But that was never my story anyway. Mine is one of Divine Mercy, and not only for the octave of Easter. God’s to me, and, very hopefully, mine to others who also are as flawed as I am. And that is many of us. Many of you.

So I am back. Humbled. Maybe even a bit humiliated. But real. And working on the underlying issues that make certain sins so attractive to me. God willing, perhaps I can help some of you do the same even while you help me too. Then perhaps the ugly sins I have committed can be somehow used for something good. And so can yours as well, if we just do not ever, ever give up. Blessed Easter.