My Story, My Journey, My Flight
Honesty was one of the first principles I was taught as a child. My parents put especially my aunt tried to instil in me from a very young age that it was of the utmost importance for me to be honest at all times, especially with them. As I grew up and discovered more about right and wrong, new challenges faced me every day concerning honesty. My Catholic parents taught me from infancy the reality of the Creator God and confession, the Eucharist and the Rosary still important in my life today, the literal importance of His Word and the Mass, and the necessity of all people to obey the Church. Being reared in a Catholic Home and attending a catholic school, and learning to live according to the rigors of the religious Right code of conduct, I soon learned there were certain things I could not be honest about if I wished to be included and respected by my family and church. As with any organized society, individualistic characteristics contrary to that society’s acceptable norms are not tolerated and least of all not welcome. .
The principles I had been taught as a child, grew and blossomed into my understanding, causing me to be challenged about the current status quo amongst the people at church. Through many unique circumstances and providential encounters, I was introduced to the concepts of Monasticism in Christianity and exposed to a reality of religious practice that I had never known before. Meeting with and befriending many in monastic life, who helped me to see a more practical living application of Jesus’ teachings for my life in contrast to the emphasis I had always known and accepted as gospel truth.
Personal study in monasticism led me to research church history in depth, exposing me to the recorded teachings and practices of the Early Christians, the later persecuted European groups. My friendships with these plain men dressed in black cassocks introduced the concept that the New Testament should be understood from the perspective of Jesus’ teachings interpreting what the Apostles wrote, rather than the other way around. Simplicity of life, Truth in speech, Integrity and Consistency of living became important ingredients for me to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus. In this monastic setting was the first place I experienced what I believed was the level of love and trust necessary to become completely honest with myself and others about who and what I really was. My understanding of Christianity had culminated in the expression of the self-denying, non-conformist lifestyle. The continued struggle with my inner physical self and efforts to conform my outer spiritual life’s expression were still very real. My life seemed out of balance with me vacillating between actions that promoted one concept or the other. At the age of 35, I put a stop to the dishonesty for myself and others and became openly honest about who and what I really was, sharing personally in confidence with one of the monks and then community.
Did I expect acceptance yes and no. Now I was forced to choose between increased honesty about my inner physicality and the outer spiritual expression of the plain life I had come to embrace. It became impossible to live wholly myself and honestly continue in monastic life Though this was a very dark time of rejection and introspection in my life, I believed that God understood the spiritual part of my life, and that if I was honest about my whole self, He would work out the details regarding my spiritual belief and practice. Expressing honestly who I was and what I was brought me around to recognizing myself as a man interested in having a relationship with another man. I knew and acknowledged that I truly desired being in the company of a man both physically and spiritually, rather than with a woman. The social concept of being ‘GAY‘, having been something I was always taught was horrible and ungodly, was difficult for me to understand at first. Part of me wanted to resist the label and part of me wanted to reach out for something to identify with. I began to seek out ‘GAY’ things, people, places, activities, support, etc. Somehow, there was new found strength and focus once I admitted that my physical attraction to the same gender was a definite ingredient in my life and that though it did not define all of who I was, it set me apart amongst those whom society refers to as ‘GAY’. One day while visiting a local Jesuit parish I came across a pamphlet of a community of gay Catholics and was eager to call the number. A kind mother answered the phone the first time I called and very warmly guided me to visit some churches in the area that might be able to help me along on my journey and here began the journey with a Jesuit priest that taught me God does not make junk. My learning was just beginning at that point, but it was an encouragement to me to be able to grow in acceptance of myself as God truly sees me. During this time, I had been fortunate enough to continue to each. I came out to my co-workers who became all the more accepting and helpful to me, aiding me in whatever way they could with meals, housing and money. I was invited to a party at a gay couple’s home, which turned out to be my first time to really interact with openly gay people. I shared my story with several of the people there and was warmly welcomed and encouraged to just be myself and be strong in the confidence that God loved me no matter what. One of the older gentlemen there that day was a local church organist, who later became a musical mentor to me when I joined a gay men’s chorus he directed. Most importantly though, that invitation set into motion the events that would ultimately change my life for the better in the years to come.
The priest got one of the gay guys I had met at the party to invited me to stay with him for a short time until I could get back on my feet in this new world of living. This was a kind and gracious offer to me and I took him up on it, as it was closer to my new work position and granted me the help I truly needed to start over in life. When I first embraced the realization that I was interested in men and that I desired to understand that part of me which I had so dutifully denied all my life, it was somewhat overwhelming and daunting to face on my own. My new roommate became a close friend, mentor and the only family I really had, he and his partner sacrificing time and talent to teach and help me grow in my new awareness of God’s love, and the fact that I was okay in His sight. They encouraged me to first accept myself for who I was and that I was valuable to God and others, teaching me self-worth and value for the first time. Previously, I had known a concept of worthlessness and degradation for not truly being all I was taught God required me to be. They encouraged me to go to church, even when I felt rejected by God as a sinner by the teachings of my childhood. They encouraged me that I was lovable and valuable even though my family and friends all rejected me as ‘rebellious and out of God‘s will‘. It was during this time that I really began to awaken to all that life had to offer, a lot of what I had missed out on in life so far, and many things that I had never experienced before.
I did go through a period of change and experimentation through all of this, but soon began to sort out the things I truly wanted to include in my life. My teaching was going well in the new transferred location, I had a small place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, and friends that loved me and accepted me for who I really was and always knew there was the Jesuit priest only a call away.. I was truly blessed and beginning to see that God’s hand was at work for good in my life, not condemnation. My heart began to revive and healing started to repair the hurt in my spirit, teaching me to reconsider some of the things I had lost in all the tumultuousness of coming out.
Though I dated some different guys, I was very thankful to eventually find someone of similar background and ideals to build a relationship with, for which I am currently thankful beyond words. There were not many likely candidates amongst the gay guys I knew, especially ones that might be interested in going to a music evening, church meetings. So, I feel very blessed to have a partner to share my life with who can be comfortable with some of my past and willing to share my journey into the future. I continue to grow with relating to and understanding modern religion, Christianity, and God and see as blessing the acceptance of my partner and I in the church at home and by the Jewish community at the synagogue, but I have faith that things will work out for good. In all fairness, though it seems that the cost may have been supremely high for me to pay, I truly believe that the healthiest thing I have done in life was to just be openly honest with myself and then with others. Honesty certainly has a price, but it gives dividends of happiness and joy that overcome the pain of its cost. And yes I still miss my aunt and cousins and family, who knows maybe one day I will get a call. Nite all, love you all and can’t wait to see you all who knows when?