A Few Speaking Engagements

I’m going on the road a few times this fall to do a couple of speaking engagements. The first is this week, at the Catholic High School Formation Summit in Atlanta.

The second will be in early November at the University of Mary, in Bismarck, South Dakota. You can see the link here, but the info is below. If you’re in the area, please come and say hello.

BISMARCK, ND — Nationally recognized speaker and writer Daniel Mattson visits the University of Mary to explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction.

Mattson will address “The Church’s Teaching on Homosexuality as Good News: One Man’s Story” at Grounds for Belief, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, 8 p.m., in Butler Auditorium, Gary Tharaldson School of Business. Grounds for Belief is the Thursday night speaker series sponsored by University Ministry.

“Dan Mattson offers a positive message on a topic that many people find difficult,” says Ed Konieczka, assistant director of University Ministry at the University of Mary. “His presentation will enlighten us as a way to tear down the walls that divide people on this issue. Mattson clarifies Catholic teaching with great fidelity to the Church and at the same time encourages us to support each other as brothers and sisters.”

A convert to Catholicism and a professional musician, Daniel Mattson is a representative of Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church dedicated to ministering to persons with same-sex attractions. His writings have appeared in periodicals such as “First Things” and “Crisis” magazine, and he is a regular guest on Catholic radio and EWTN television.

Mattson’s talk on campus is sponsored by the Saint John Paul II Center for University Ministry at University of Mary. All talks are free and open to the public. For more information, contact (701) 355-8102 or umin@umary.edu.

From Stones to Men

I was reading something tonight from St. John Chyrsostom that recalled to mind the story of the Prodigal Son we heard in the Gospel reading for today. The Parable of the Prodigal Son always moves me when its read at Mass, for within its tale I see my own journey: I left my Father’s house, believing I would find happiness my own way, but found myself in the swine pits of the world’s view of happiness. Just as the Gospel says of the Prodigal Son, when I realized I was suffering in the swine pit, I finally “came to my senses,” and then made the journey back home to my Father.

When one is caught in a life filled with sexual pleasures, it’s nigh on impossible to see clearly. As C. S. Lewis once said, indulgence brings fog. This is something the Church Fathers always said too: sexual pleasures cloud the mind from seeing things rightly. This clouded vision is so hard to penetrate that it seems that God’s usual tool in such things is to bring suffering as a severe mercy into a person’s life.

As I read this bit from St. John Chrysostom tonight, I thought of all of the parents who I’ve met, who ask me what they should do after their child came out as a gay man or woman and left the Church behind. Usually, parents want to somehow find some sort of plan or program that will bring their child back home, and quickly. What I always tell them is to focus on loving their child, and to wait on the Lord.

We’re told by St. Paul that “love is patient.” Usually we interpret that as being understanding of our friends and family, to forbear with their particular shortcomings. But I think part of the patience of love is waiting. We see this in Christ’s patient pursuit of us:

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Icons and paintings of this scene always tend to picture a door with no handle. The door Jesus knocks upon, the door of the human heart, only opens up from within. He never forces himself upon us. He invites, he knocks, he woos, he loves.

And he waits.


The passage I read from St. John Chyrsostom today resonated with this patient call of love:

So then let us also deal with the heathen sort: with condescension, with love. For love is a great teacher, and able both to withdraw men from error, and to reform the character, and to lead them by the hand unto self-denial, and out of stones to make men.

Love: out of stones, it makes men. Love is what brought me home to my Heavenly Father. In the fullness of time, God helped me “come to my senses” through the chastisement he brought into my life. Just before Jesus says he knocks at the door, the Lover of our Soul says,

Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.

It was suffering that caused me to heed his knock. It was love that shattered the hard rocks of my heart that prevented the seed of his love to grow. It was the loving chisel of his hand that made me a man from the stone of my heart, hardened as it was to the core by sexual immorality.

Parents, be patient. Be loving, be not afraid, and as the Psalmist says, wait for the Lord, and pray that by your love, their stony hearts will be broken, and so that they will come home.

Why I Don’t Call Myself A Gay Christian

A few years back I wrote an essay for First Things magazine with the title, “Why I Don’t Call Myself A Gay Christian.” I suppose that was the spark that started my public engagement on faith and sexuality, and it’s been a fun and exciting ride ever since.

I’ve been a bit silent on the blog here, since starting my book, as well as doing some writing for other outlets, but tonight I stumbled on another blog of a fellow who published a post with the same title, so I thought I’d link to it here.


Thoughts on Suffering

I have been a bit silent on this blog. But for good reason. I was writing a book. It’s sitting on the desk of a publisher right now, waiting for the next step in the editing process. I’m not sure when it will be published, but Lord willing, it will be sometime in 2017. So now that that’s out of the way, I have time to do some other writing.

In the meantime, this is bit of some old writing I stumbled upon, written on Christmas Eve, 2008.

Our lives are beautiful. We lurch forward, day to day, sometimes stumbling, sometimes standing, often bowed down by grief and trouble, occasionally filled with the lightness of boundless joy. Dreams are dashed, or sometimes granted beyond our wildest imaginings, and yet often we realize that our dreams, if fulfilled, would have fallen far short of what we imagined would bring us happiness. We are scarred by wounds that befall us, marked by the battles we wage in our lives each and every day. But in it all is the constant beauty of God’s loving hand, always guiding us, always lifting us up, always binding our wounds and drawing us to His loving arms. All that befalls us is transformed into our good, and when we reach that far shore, we will be welcomed with open arms, and our scars will be testament to God’s healing grace. We will wear them as a badge of honor, and say to anyone who will listen to us, “See this! This is where my Heavenly Father healed me! I was afflicted, and he tenderly cared for me. This wound here? I brought it upon myself, but Our Savior took it upon Himself, and bled for me in my stead. How glorious is His love for us, He who binds our wounds, wipes away our tears and brings joy out of sadness.”

Our lives are far richer for the sorrows that befall us, because of God’s inestimable grace and lovingkindness. Praise be to God, for His compassions fail not, and they are new every morning.

May we never be healed of the wound of living.

The Birth Pains of Mothers

I often hear from parents who are greatly troubled by the poor choices their sons or daughters have made.

I tell them that usually the birthing pains of a spiritual birth are far more painful–yet like the pains of physical labor of a mother, all of them are forgotten when their son or daughter is born again.

I tell them to think often of their tears and sorrow for their child like St. Monica’s tears.

And today, in reading something from St. Francis de Sales, he said much the same thing.

I hope this can be an encouragement to any parents who are still waiting for their child to come Home.

Thus St. Monica, with so much fervour and constancy, fought against the evil inclinations of her son, St. Augustine, that having followed him by sea and land, she made him more happily the child of her tears by the conversion of his soul, than he had been of her blood by the generation of his body.


A Journal Entry On Loneliness

As I write my book, I’ve been digging deep into things I wrote many years ago.

One of the threads of the book concerns the loneliness I felt so often in my life.

This Journal entry from September 22, 1998 will be making an appearance in my book:

What a time this is! I can so quickly go from the mountaintop to the valley—I feel as if I’m in the valley now. How do I feel? Utterly, utterly alone. I feel empty and simply desire to be filled. There are others around me, and when I am with them, it brings me temporary joy. It is so easy to slip into some sort of thinking that being with people will simply always bring temporary joy, and that upon me leaving them, I shall fall again into “despair,” instead of being refreshed by my time with them.

But what does this loneliness mean? Is it God calling me to say that He is my only comfort and rest? Or is that a depressed man’s hope for salvation?

FACT: God is my only salvation and only source of joy and the only answer for the aching emptiness of my soul. I don’t like that! And what does that mean? Could I have joy in a world in which my sole companion was Jesus Christ? If the world were merely He and I, would I be happy? In part, my heart has a thrill at the thought, but that is squelched quickly for I find that hard to conceive. And terrifying. Yet I am a needy, needy being! I ache inside tremendously, and I so long to fill that empty void with SOMETHING, so that I may feel joy. I know this: that SOMETHING can only be Jesus Christ—and what staggering reality is this? He will not tolerate anything to compete with Him. He desires to ravish my soul, completely!

That last line makes me think of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
The only path to peace on this earth, the only salve for the soul, is to be ravished by the Lover of our Soul. No earthly love will ever satisfy or appease us.
I needed the ache of loneliness to realize this.

On Not Feeling Like a Real Man

One of the greatest struggles of my life was the persistent feeling that I was “never man enough” to really be called a man. I wrote a horribly depressing poem at one point that will make it into my book–it was all about the rutting of rams, where I heard the crack of the rams’ horns far away, and felt unworthy to be a part of the ritual.

I was constantly comparing myself to other men. In college, every man I met on my walk to and from class was a standard upon which I gauged myself. In my mind, I usually fell short.

It was a horrible existence, but I know that it’s common for many men who live with attractions to men. I subscribe to Leanne Payne’s description that some men’s attractions to the same sex stem, in part, from a “cannibalistic instinct.” The basic argument is that the psyche can become drawn to those features we think are lacking within ourselves, and this can become sexualized. Cannibals only devour those enemies who have traits they themselves feel are lacking. I’m not doing justice to the theory here, and of course, such things as sexual attractions are complex, but I am generally drawn to those men who have aspects of there person that I have always felt/wished were different within me, so the theory is compelling to me.

I was doing a bit of reading tonight, and came across this passage from a short story of D. H. Lawrence that perfectly expresses this sense of lack that I always felt when I was younger. I’m posting it here, with the contrast of a passage from C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce about a man who truly learns what it means to become the man God created us to be.

I don’t have enough time to flesh this out further, but notice how in both examples a distorted version of sexuality becomes a way in which this lack of feeling truly like a man comes out, sideways, as it were. And how the true man is master over his passions, and knows, through the grace of God, that he is truly a man.

He came home again, nearly thirty years old, but naïve and inexperienced as a boy, only with a silence about him that was new: a sort of dumb humility before life, a fear of living. He was almost quite chaste. A strong sensitiveness had kept him from women. Sexual talk was all very well among men, but somehow it had no application to living women. There were two things for him, the idea of women, with which he sometimes debauched himself, and real women, before whom he felt a deep uneasiness, and a need to draw away. He shrank and defended himself from the approach of any woman. And then he felt ashamed. In his innermost soul he felt he was not a man, he was less than the normal man. In Genoa he went with an under officer to a drinking house where the cheaper sort of girl came in to look for lovers. He sat there with his glass, the girls looked at him, but they never came to him. He knew that if they did come he could only pay for food and drink for them, because he felt a pity for them, and was anxious lest they lacked good necessities. He could not have gone with one of them: he knew it, and was ashamed, looking with curious envy at the swaggering, easy-passionate Italian whose body went to a woman by instinctive impersonal attraction. They were men he was not a man. He sat feeling short, feeling like a leper. And he went away imagining sexual scenes between himself and a woman, walking wrapt in this indulgence. But when the ready woman presented herself, the very fact that she was a palpable woman made it impossible for him to touch her. And this incapacity was like a core of rottenness in him.

So several times he went, drunk, with his companions, to the licensed prostitute houses abroad. But the sordid insignificance of the experience appalled him. It had not been anything really: it meant nothing. He felt as if he were, not physically, but spiritually impotent: not actually impotent, but intrinsically so.

He came home with this secret, never changing burden of his unknown, unbestowed self torturing him. His navy training left him in perfect physical condition. He was sensible of, and proud of his body. He bathed and used dumb-bells, and kept himself fit. He played cricket and football. He read books and began to hold fixed ideas which he got from the Fabians. He played his piccolo, and was considered an expert. But at the bottom of his soul was always this canker of shame and incompleteness: he was miserable beneath all his healthy cheerfulness, he was uneasy and felt despicable among all his confidence and superiority of ideas. He would have changed with any mere brute, just to be free of himself, to be free of this shame of self-consciousness. He saw some collier lurching straight forward without misgiving, pursuing his own satisfactions, and he envied him. Anything, he would have given anything for this spontaneity and this blind stupidity which went to its own satisfaction direct.

HE WAS NOT unhappy in the pit. He was admired by the men, and well enough liked. It was only he himself who felt the difference between himself and the others. He seemed to hide his own stigma. But he was never sure that the others did not really despise him for a ninny, as being less a man than they were. Only he pretended to be more manly, and was surprised by the ease with which they were deceived.

From The Great Divorce:

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder….What sat on his shoulder was a lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience.

“Shut up, I tell you!” the Ghost said to the lizard. But the lizard wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. Then the Ghost turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountain.

“Off so soon?” said a voice. The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

“Yes, I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap (here indicating the lizard) that he’d have to be quiet if he came….But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”

“Would you like for me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh, ah, look out! You’re burning me. Keep away!” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Do you want him killed?” asked the flaming Angel.

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“Well, that’s a further question and I’m open to consider it……I mean for the moment, I was only thinking of silencing it rather than killing it….”

“May I kill it?”

“Well there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There’s no time. May I kill it?”

“Please. I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—–really—don’t bother. Look, it’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it will be all right now.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I can keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

“Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will….But not today. I’m not feeling terribly well now and I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day perhaps.”

“There is no other day. All days are present now.”

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”

“It is not so.”

“Well you’re hurting me now.”

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

“Oh, I know you think I’m a coward. It’s not that, really…..let me run back to the bus and go home and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll get back to you the first moment I can.”

“This moment contains all moments.”

“Why are you torturing me? And jeering at me?…….If you really wanted to help me, why didn’t you just kill the damned thing without asking me—before I knew? It would have been all over by now if you had.”

“I cannot kill it against you will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?” The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard but not quite.

Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it is saying…..”Be careful, He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and He will. Then you’ll be without me forever and ever! How could you live? You’d only be a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand……Isn’t what I give you better than nothing? And anyway, I promise to be good now. I’ve gone too far in the past, but now I promise I won’t ever do it again.”

The Angel said to the Ghost again, “Do I have your permission to kill this Lizard?”

“I know it will kill me.”

“No, it won’t. But supposing it did?”

“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to go on living with this creature.”

“Then may I kill it?” “Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like!” bellowed the Ghost: but ended whimpering “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

“Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man.

Then brighter still and stronger the legs and hands of the man grew. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man—an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel.

What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks.

Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, ripled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clasped the new horse’s neck . It nosed the man’s bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils.

The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them.

When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness—one cannot distinguish them in that country—which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it.

In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening.

I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains.

Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

While I still watched, I noticed that the whole plain and forest were shaking with a sound which in our world would be too large to hear, but there I could take it with joy. I knew it was not the Solid People who were singing. It was the voice of the earth, those woods and waters of that land that rejoiced to have been once more ridden and therefore consummated, in the person of the horse. It sang,

The Master says to our master, Come up! Share my rest and splendour till all natures that were your enemies become slaves to dance before you and backs for you to ride, and firmness for your feet to rest on!


“From beyond all place and time, out of the very Place, authority will be given you: the strengths that once opposed your will shall be obedient fire in your blood and heavenly thunder in your voice.

“Overcome us that , so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.


“Master, your Master has appointed you for ever, to be our King of Justice and our high Priest.”