SSA, Humility, God’s Will, and Marriage

I made a new acquaintance recently, a man who turned out to be Catholic and who attends the parish where I received the sacrament of Confirmation in 2010. We found we had a lot of connections, and as conversations such as these always tend to go, I found out he was a married man with six children, the oldest in college, the youngest still in elementary school. He then asked me, “So how about you? Married? Have any children?”

This is the moment in conversations that many people who identify as gay find awkward. The situation often causes an internal monologue of stressful questions: “How do I tell the person I’m single, because I’m gay, and seeking after God, and so thus I’m living a chaste life, which means I’m probably going to be single the rest of my life?”

I understand the awkwardness of the question–it’s awkward and uncomfortable for people like me too, who reject LGBT labels, yet experience predominantly same-sex attractions. I remember this awkwardness particularly from when I was younger, when people my age were regularly getting married and starting families. The question was often asked of me at weddings, “So Dan, when are you going to find yourself a wife and get married?” It’s a challenging question, and it gets asked often of people in their mid to late twenties. So what’s the answer to give in those situations? The key here is to be truly honest.

Now, some people who identify as gay, and yet are still committed to Church teaching on sexual abstinence outside of marriage also argue that any commitment to virtue requires an honest answer, where “being honest” is defined as being forthright in saying, “Well, marriage probably isn’t in the cards for me, since I’m gay, and am committed to the Church’s teaching, so that’s why I’m not married, or won’t be. But thanks for asking!” I find this sort of answer strange, and actually opposed to honesty.

Central to my way of thinking here is the Catechism’s discussion of sexual identity:

2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.

2334 “In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity.” “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.”

the-marriage-of-adam-and-eveThe “gay” identity is no identity at all in the Church’s teaching about the human person. Humility before my God, as a created being, allows me to accept and acknowledge the truth of my created nature: I am a created being, created by God, as a man, with an innate sexual orientation towards my sexual complement given to me by God in my created nature. My sexual identity is not as a “gay” man, but rather, simply as a man, who is created for sexual union with a woman. Humility before my God, and total abandonment to divine Providence thus makes me open to the possibility that God’s will for me may one day be to realize my innate sexual orientation in marriage with a woman.

Having followed the teaching of the Church in accepting and acknowledging my sexual identity as a man, it would dishonest of me to say that the reason I’m not married is “because I’m gay.” No, there I see a confused understanding of “who I am” getting in the way of God’s potential will for me in my life. I cannot know what God, in his Divine Wisdom has in store for me, and I refuse to close the door to the possibility that he may will for me to marry a woman, by adopting a false identity, manufactured by the world, which by its very nature argues that for me to be married to a woman would be lying about my true sexual nature and orientation. *

So what is one to do in such a situation, when one accepts and acknowledges his true sexual identity, and yet realizes that there is a very real obstacle in the path towards marriage, because he doesn’t particularly find many women sexually desirable at all?

Here the key is total abandonment to Divine Providence, with an accompanying humility and docility to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What I say in such situations where new acquaintances ask about my personal life is exactly what I said to this new friend I met recently:

“Well, I’m still single and it seems that it’s God’s will for me at this time that I be single, but I’m open to being married if it’s Gods will. I decided to stop looking for a wife long ago, since dating is really just a drag, but I’m reminded of what we read in Genesis: God brought Eve to Adam. So I say to God, ‘Look, Lord, if you want me to be married, you’re just going to have to bring me my Eve, because I’m not interested in looking for her’. In the meantime, I’m content being single, for it seems that it’s God’s will for me.”

The line about “God will have to just bring my Eve” always gets a laugh, and no one ever thinks anything more about it. Saying that you trust God’s will for your life more than your own hopes, dreams and desires is the most sane–and most honest–response a man like me can ever give to questions of why I’m single.

*Key for me here in knowing that it may be God’s will for me to be married is that I would say of a woman God brought to into my life the same words Adam said of Eve, “Here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” This is a very different view from “sexual orientation change efforts”. I find the notion of such things as “sexual orientation change” based on a faulty premise: that man is the sort of creature with a plurality of sexual orientations–no, our sexual orientation is innate and built-in to us, but due to man’s fallen nature, this true sexual orientation can be impeded. Yet God is not limited by man’s fallen nature, and there are too many examples of men who once lived life as “gay men” and are now married to doubt that God’s will for many men with SSA is for them to be married. But that is beyond the scope of this post.

Advertisements

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.

stand-at-the-door-and-knock

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.