The Yoke and the Burden

By Daniel Mattson

August 26, 2012

I’m grateful God gave us the saints to inspire us.  Especially the ones who lived lives like most of the rest of us:  filled with weakness, foibles and falls.  David is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  The man “after God’s own heart” gives me hope: continually up and down, living in times of both extreme consolation and desolation, and obviously living a life where he had difficulty controlling his passions.  If an adulterer and murderer can be in God’s good graces, well there’s hope for me and the rest of humanity.

I like Jonah a lot too.  God says to him, “go to Nineveh.”  Nope.  Off to Tarshish he goes.  God hounded him, and then when he finally comes to his senses, God saves him through the most bizarre means and sends him on his mission.  Then, if that’s not enough, Jonah gets angry at God for not destroying the city he was sent to warn to repent.  (Isn’t this proof that God uses weak people to do his work?)  The denouement, (which always makes me laugh when I read the story) is how histrionic and filled with self pity Jonah becomes when the plant dies that’s providing him shade.  One of the most pathetic moments of all of Scripture comes from Jonah’s mouth:

When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

I’m grateful that Jonah was filled with depression and self pity, that Moses refused to speak for God, that St. Peter rebuked Christ three times, that Gideon didn’t trust God right away, and that one of our cherished saints is called Doubting Thomas.

The saints are human, just like me.  Filled with ups and downs, successes and failures in virtue, and susceptible to temptation.  Right now, I’m thinking of the many emotional and psychological ups and downs of David, since I find myself living in a moment of desolation.

St. Ignatius’ teaching on desolation and consolation is, well, a great consolation to me.  It’s refreshing to know that these ups and downs have been the pattern of life for all the saints.  I often find myself in a valley of sorts after a long trip away from home, when the reality of daily living sets in and the responsibilities which I gladly left behind make themselves known to me in stark reality.  After five weeks from home, after an amazing trip across the country, it’s back to the reality of the daily grind.  I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of humanity, but for me, after a vacation I’m less likely to feel a sense of rejuvenation than I am to fall into a bit of a funk for a few days–or longer.

I’ve lived long enough to know that this is the pattern of my life, but I only seem to recognize it after it happens.  I don’t seem to have enough memory to know preemptively that it will happen, but every time it does, I recognize it.  With the inevitable post vacation funk comes a swirl of temptations, focused on all of the ways in which I have tried in my life to find earthly consolation for the spiritual desolation I feel.

Of course, these means are always insufficient.  The thing to do in times of desolation is to take it to the Cross.  The only real answer that has ever been a salve for the times of desolation in my life come through the grace of God, when He seems to whisper to me, “take it up, on behalf of so-and-so.”

The temptations for me that have the greatest pull for me in times of desolation are, and always have been, related to my flesh.  I want to feel good, somehow, right now.  My rational mind knows that none of the sensual pleasures of the world satisfy, but the temptations that call to me with a siren song during times like these so often can overcome my reason and my resolve.  How comforting it is that one of the cornerstones of our faith, St. Paul said of himself in Romans 7, “the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

It’s easy to follow God in times of consolation–which is exactly why he brings us into desolation.  It’s there where we truly understand our need for Him.  What makes it clear to us is when we see, as St. Paul did, a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”

It is in times of desolation where we truly realize what Christ says in John 15:5, “apart from me, you can do nothing.”  Though it goes against my nature, I’ve realized that the times of desolation are the ones I need to be truly grateful for, since it’s then that I realize my true need for God.  It’s times like these that I echo what St. Paul said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

As I walked through Costco today, restocking after my month long trip away, I realized I was walking around in the malaise of a blue funk.  I felt a little sorry for myself, like Jonah did.  I felt some pretty keen feelings of loneliness after spending a few nights with couples who are very much in love with each other.  Our Enemy likes to whisper to me thoughts of envy when I see how nonchalantly a boyfriend caresses the arm of his girlfriend in a restaurant, showing quietly the power of touch to convey love and caring, something that  those with same sex attraction, desirous of following the Church, probably won’t experience.  The tender caresses of people in love I think are the easiest means by which Our Enemy desires me to envy for others, because it genuinely fills me with an aching longing to have that in my life.  (I am reminded of the wise quote of C. S. Lewis:  It is quite useless knocking at the door of Heaven for earthly comfort:  it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.)

Shopping for groceries for one can be a painful experience when one is in a desolation.  But sometimes, as today, the grace of God shines down through the blanketing clouds like a momentary ray of light, saying, “this way.”  As I walked around, filling my cart, thinking about the temptations that have been assailing me, thinking about the funk I’ve been in, it seemed God said, “For whom are you willing to carry this?”

I’m convinced God views our times of desolation as invitations.  Not merely to understand our entire need for him when temptations assail us, but to unite our spiritual funk to the Cross.  Literally to lift the depression we feel, willfully, onto our backs, on behalf of someone.  I immediately thought of the nephew of one of my friends, who I just found out lives with same sex attraction and is right now living a secret life addicted to pornography and cruising online for guys.  God brought him to mind, and through His grace asked me, “So…are you willing to strap this funk on your back, for him?”  Yes, Sir, I am!

The only means of peace and joy I have ever found in times of desolation comes when God gives me the grace to carry it for others, to willfully choose it, rather than be subject to its whims.  This is a powerful tool for redeeming times of desolation.  The desolations of same sex attraction can be profoundly painful, and these periods of desolation in the life of so many of us, especially our experience of profound loneliness from time to time, seems to fly in the face of Christ’s words:  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” and yet this is our call:  to take it up, even if it doesn’t always feel easy or light.

I have come to think about his yoke and burden in different ways than we naturally think about, in light of the saints.  St. Aelred of Rievelaux has changed my entire view of Christ’s yoke.  He said the profoundly beautiful words, “His yoke is charity, his burden is brotherly love.”  It’s not that the yoke and burden are easy–they become easy, because of the love of Christ flowing through us, when we choose to offer them up on behalf of someone else.

I’m reminded often in times like this of the beautiful scene in Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series where he points to one of the most horrific portrayals of the Crucifixion I’ve ever seen.  He points to the Cross, and says that here is a picture of the most joy filled person who ever lived.  This, I’m convinced, is what it meant when Christ says His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.  The pains of life become easy and light, when we choose to accept and embrace them, with our will, out of love for others.  I think this is what is meant by becoming “living sacrifices.”

I don’t know how long this funk will last this time around.  But through the grace of God, I’ll carry it for my friend’s nephew.  It doesn’t make it less of a funk, but I’m convinced, through God’s economy, it does great good. And it makes it much more bearable.

(But I’d still like it to go away).

On Truth, Love and Happiness

By Daniel Mattson

May 16, 2012

This morning, I wrote a rather lengthy response to a troubling blog entry, with the rather provocative title, “How To Win A Culture War and Lose a Generation.”

This was my response:

Let me start my comments by saying first, that “I’m one of them.”  I’m a guy who likes guys.  I’ve been attracted to guys for as long as I remember, but have always believed the unified teaching of the Christian faith on this issue.  So much so, that at a time when I really wanted to be with a man, I didn’t modify my beliefs like those at the Gay Christian Network who are Side A do, I instead willfully said to God, “I’m done living by your rules.”

The question that I always come back to when it is concerning love is this:  what does it mean, to truly love another?  Is love whatever we say it is?  It seems that the definition of love we have now has essentially become exactly that.  I say what love is, and no matter what that looks like, then it is love, because I define it as such.  C. S. Lewis wrote about St. Augustine’s view of love and virtue this way, in Abolition of Man:  “St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it.”  The classic definition of love in Christian philosophy through the ages has been, “to love is to will the good of the other,” which is akin with Christ’s definition, loving others as we would love ourselves.  The caveat, in that, of course, is that we don’t always love ourselves in the ways in which we would if we could see ourselves through the eyes of God.

The call to love, I’ve become convinced, must be determined not by our particular concepts of love, or the way others may want us to show love to them, because in some cases, to acquiesce to the way some want to be loved is to actually not love them at all.  I will tell you this:  I recently went to a priest (I’m Catholic) and out of compassion, he told me to find a man and settle down with him, so that I can be happy.  That was not love, though the priest believed he was loving me.  His compassion towards me, and my loneliness, was not love, in the truest sense, since I know that my subjective concept of what I think might bring me earthly happiness is not the way that I will be happy, ultimately.  Some aspects of my life which make me unhappy could be mitigated:  I could have a companion to come home to, other than my dog; I could have a sexually active life and enjoy that aspect of the human existence; I could have someone to travel with and plan my life, but ultimately, those forms of happiness are not worth the cost of disobeying God.

God says no to us, and to me, in particular, because he loves me.  The younger generation needs to understand that God’s commandments lead us to the blessed life, and one of the hallmarks of showing our love for God, as Jesus told us, is to “keep his commandments.”  If you are a Christian with LGBTQ friends, and you urge them on in believing that God is “Side A,” or ever has been “Side A” concerning this subject, you’re not doing them any favors.  You’re urging them on in believing a lie about themselves, about God, and about what will make them happy.

Look to the life of Dan Savage as a case in point.  We now live in an age in which openly gay men and women readily admit that monogamy in gay relationships doesn’t mean faithfulness in sexual fidelity–it means you live in an open relationship, which understands that one’s “needs aren’t being met,” and so though you share a life/home together, from time to time, one needs to go taste the waters of a distant shore.  Is there anything about that which resonates with God’s view of love?  “Our needs not being met?”  Love is “laying down your life for one another,” right?

Or do you think that because a man is a gay Christian, he will be able to be faithful?  There is something inherent in homosexuality that is never satisfied.  The common experience of other gay men reveals that to be the case:  just google the phrase “gay monogamy.”  Serial infidelity is now expected to be the norm, and it’s not a secret–it’s become a part of the culture, since gay men have readily admitted that it’s nigh on impossible to stay sexually faithful.  Why is this?  I am convinced it is because there is a hunger within someone like me which can never be satisfied in the arms of another man.

We live in a day and age where we have chosen to believe that everyone’s happiness will come to them in the manner and ways in which they have decided they will be happy, and that the most important virtue now is to defend and celebrate whatever means it is that they have chosen for their happiness.  Marriage is now being sacrificed on this altar of “happiness by whatever means a man decides for himself,” and somehow this has become the greatest virtue, and the greatest expression of love, and indeed, the greatest sign of Christian virtue.

Our love for others must be guided by the truth about humanity, and that truth comes to us through Christ himself.  Distilled to its essence, as he taught us, we need to love God with all our hearts and souls, and to love others, as we would love ourselves (if we knew the manner in which God would have us love ourselves).  God isn’t opposed to homosexuality in Scripture because he wants someone like me to be lonely:  his commandments are a seal of protection against the false belief I have of what I think will make me happy.  His commands, telling me not to fulfill my desires, is the path to peace and happiness–even if there are moments where I may shed tears over the loneliness I may feel.

When I see how much the younger generation encourages their LGBTQ friends in embracing a man-made label about themselves, and when they encourage Churches to change the 2,000 year teaching on marriage, I don’t see love.  I see a mockery of love, a love which encourages others in a false notion of what will make them happy.  The younger generation who is weary of the culture wars has been duped, and are in my mind, victims of the war.  Seek out those who have lived this life, who will be honest with you, who will share with you the scars of infidelities and jealousies which are rampant in this way of life.  Don’t just be guided by Glee, or by Ellen DeGeneres:  seek out the lived experience of those who once lived this way, and found it to be empty.  Be objectively open to the possibility that society has gotten it wrong, and the Church, and Christianity has been right about this forever.  I’m one victim of the world’s view of homosexuality–it has only brought me pain and sorrow, and I am grateful that God’s commands provide me a hedge of protection.  Though it causes me loneliness at times, it is not onerous, but rather it is an abundant and precious loneliness, filled with peace of soul.

St. Ambrose on Chastity

By Daniel Mattson

Recently I was reading some of the letters of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan who helped bring St. Augustine back into the church.

His writings are filled with pithy wisdom, like this short sentence on chastity:

Chastity is increased by its own sacrifices.

What more can be added to that? No matter where we are in our journey towards chastity, the little efforts that we are able to make build up the strength of that virtue like exercising builds the muscles of the body.

Sometimes all we can do is a little bit. But over time, those little bits add up to big bits. By the grace of God the virtue of chastity can be built up in us , one little sacrifice at a time.

The key is to keep trying. As so many of the saints have said before, God doesn’t put a premium on success. Any success we have in building any virtue is by his grace alone, but he wants us to at least want to grow in virtue, and to keep trying the rest of our lives, with a firm intention to try to overcome whatever weaknesses we have. Where we fall short, he delights in giving us the strength to overcome.

It’s good to remember that God is pleased with even the “widow’s mite.”

Maybe someone reading this is addicted to porn–even choosing not to turn on the computer for one evening is a sacrifice that leads to chastity. Perhaps someone reading this is caught up in the thrill of hooking up each weekend. Even one weekend of not hooking up is a sacrifice God is pleased with, and it is a sacrifice that leads to chastity, and to freedom and peace.

St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, who famously said, “give me chastity–but not yet, Lord!”, pray for us.

June 15, 2014


On Depression, Same-Sex Attraction, and Advent

Daniel Mattson


Last week I was on the phone with a man who lives with same-sex attraction. He told me the worst part of the day was getting up. The best part: going to bed. Each day is drudgery for him. He loves God, yet every day he wishes God would call him home. Just getting through each day feels like the greatest act of love he can give to God right now.

Another friend wrote me this past weekend, telling me she is experiencing bone-crushing loneliness. She too lives with same-sex attraction, lives alone, and is doing her best to be faithful to the call of chastity. Yet she is weary of living alone, always coming home to an empty house.

A man who lives on the other side of the world told me just after Thanksgiving that he has sex with men so he won’t feel so alone. His favorite part of being with a man, he says, is being held by the man he is with, after the deed is done. The sex is the key that unlocks the door for sharing intimate moments with a man who he can pretend, for a moment, loves him. He is profoundly lonely too.


Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm

In the cold of winter, as the days grow shorter, and the clouds fill the sky with dreary monochrome, loneliness can freeze over the soul. Advent, we’ve always been told, is a season of waiting–but waiting for what, exactly? The life of the single person often feels like a perpetual Advent, a life filled with waiting, watching, and hoping that somehow, someway, someday, “life” will finally begin. The single life can seem like the waiting room to happiness, especially in one’s twenties and early thirties, as friend after friend gets married and starts a family, while the question one fears to ask grows like a thundercloud, (felt so heavily in Advent, with each Christmas card received, featuring pictures of smiling, happy families, next to a Christmas tree): “What about me, dear God? What Joy to the World is there for me? ‘No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground?’ Bah, Humbug!”

This is not an essay where I will turn the corner from the thorns and sorrows, to visions of verdant and green pastures. Part of Advent is painful. It’s a time for sorrow. For waiting. For recognizing that we live in a valley of tears, “in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.” This is a post for the lonely, the heartbroken, the tired and the hopeless. I won’t offer here something to take away the pain, except to say that this Advent, I desire to enter into people’s loneliness, and carry it with them, since I know how heavy a burden it is. Sometimes, the wisest thing we can do is to sit in silent waiting, alongside those who are in profound pain and suffering, just like the friends of Job did. This, I’m convinced, is part of what we are called to do while we wait for the coming of Our Lord.

Pray for lonely people this Advent. Pray for single people. Pray for the divorced. Pray for the widow. Pray for women who wished to be married and have a family, but are still single, with no hope of ever being a mother now. Pray for men and women with same-sex attraction who dread the specter of living alone. Pray for the misunderstood, the betrayed, the abused, the sick and the dying and the bereft. Seek them out. Sit with them. Walk with them. Perhaps most of all, think of them as if they were Mary and Joseph, with no place to lay their heads, and in the painful and cold waiting of Advent, invite the lonely and heartbroken into your home.

Perhaps what they have been waiting for is you.


What do you do when you’re attracted to a friend?

I haven’t kept up with my blog that much since I began writing my book, so this little corner of the web has remained a bit dusty but I hope to start posting here more often, particularly responses to correspondence I receive. The emails I receive I think often reflect the experience of a lot of people, and so today I thought I’d post an email I sent to a young man who recently wrote me, asking me how to respond to a close friend he’s become attracted to, and when I do, I’ll adopt “Christopher” as the recipient of the email. The key here is the Catechism’s discussion of disinterested friendship:

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Dear Christopher,

It seems to me that the great fear you are living under right now is the growing attraction you have for your close friend, and what that might mean to your friendship with him and perhaps with others with whom you will grow close to over the years. This has certainly been something that I have had to contend with over the years–and it is a real battle to keep things in perspective. I’m happy to say that these sorts of conflicts don’t really happen to me anymore. I only share that with you to give you hope that it’s very much worth battling for your friendships, and that life will not always be like this.

What do I mean by battling for your friendships? The key here is to moderate our passions by reason and our intellect, and by the help of prayer, the sacraments, and good advice from people we love and can trust. It is very easy for someone who lives with same-sex attractions to “fall for” a close friend. I write extensively in my book about one such situation in my life. We can easily find in a close friend the hoped for answer to all of our loneliness and deepest longings. For me, I found myself fantasizing about time spent with my friend. Not in a sexual aspect at all, but a dream-world friendship where he became the answer to all of my loneliness and desires for deep intimacy.

The key with your good friend is to honor the distance between the two of you. He is he, not who you want him to be. This is the value of what the Catechism says is “disinterested friendship.” Now, that’s not an “uninterested love.” Far from it: Christ had disinterested love for us, and it is the most free of love, for it gives with no requirement of return…yet it hopes for the love given to be returned. In a healthy friendship, two men stand side by side each other, not gazing at each other, like lovers do. For the younger me, I wanted a quasi-spousal friendship, but just with a guy. I wanted to think about him all the time, and be with him because of the warm feelings it gave me to just be beside him, in much the same way you might see lovers walking ridiculously close to each other on a city sidewalk. This placed unhealthy demands particularly on this friendship, and it sadly dwindled away.

But that’s not the automatic future for those of us with SSA! The key is growing in the virtue of friendship–it is a lost art, and one of the keys to a healthy relationship with other men for men with same-sex attraction is learning what friendship really is and means. A few books I’d recommend you buy and read are these:

The Feast of Friendship by Paul D. O’Callaghan.

Also this one:

These could even be great studies to do with Catholic groups, including your own closest male friends. They long for deep and healthy friendships too, but so often we settle for mediocrity even in our closest friendships. I once knew two mutual friends whose sole relationship consisted of their ability to recall and share Simpsons quotes with each other. It was the only thing they had in common, really, but sadly, it seemed to suffice for them. That’s not enough for me!

I would add this too: usually our friendships disappoint us at some point or another. They always will–thanks be to God. It is a gift from God that no earthly relationship will ever so fully satisfy us that we don’t feel a deep longing for more intimacy, and of course that unscratched itch for intimacy can only ever be filled by God the Father. Many marriages end because the two spouses expected each other to be the answer for the deepest longings of the human heart, but since the deepest longings of the human heart for God himself, no man or woman can ever make us ultimately happy.

Recognizing this truth gives us freedom in our friendships. Just yesterday friends and I had plans to get together to talk about my trip to Italy. One of my friends texted me and said, “I can’t get together–I’ve got a project I’ve got to finish today.” I was angry and irritated–what project is so important that plans with friends are put on the shelf, especially with a friend who has been overseas for two weeks? I was angry, but of course my anger was motivated ultimately because I was disappointed and sad and hurt that a project was more important than our friendship–at least on that day.

So how is one to respond? It’s a battle again–I choose to love him, and to give him the freedom of autonomy, to choose not to get together with me and my other friends (who were also bummed about him not getting together with us.) But in choosing to love him, precisely because he’s a friend, and respecting the distance between us, I can continue to grow deeper into friendship with him, without resentments getting in the way. This is a very small example, but it’s current in my mind, so I thought it worthwhile writing about. (Now, as an aside, part of being a good friend also involves being able to talk about things such as this, in a loving manner, to share honestly sometimes when one feels hurt, but that’s a topic for another post.)

When you feel attracted to a close friend, don’t beat yourself up! 🙂 St. Frances de Sales said that above all else, we must be gentle with ourselves. Acknowledge the attraction, but then with your will, say, “I choose to see him for who he is, as a beloved son of God, not as an object of pleasure to me.” I find many friends and acquaintances attractive. How can we not? God made men and women in his likeness, and God is Beauty itself. The key is how we will respond to that attraction, and this is where our will must enter into the picture. There are certain men I’ve known in my life who were extremely handsome to me and because I wanted to be friends with them more than I wanted to see them as a sexual object, I had to really work to nip in the bud any thoughts that tended towards a romantic or erotic fantasy. These exercises of the will are like any exercises–the muscles of our will grow stronger as we exercise them. And of course, having some others who understand what’s going has been helpful, such as speaking with a good counselor, priest, or my local Courage group about any attractions I might have for friends. Thankfully, this really does work. We can take control of our passions by exercising our will. That’s what virtue does, and the virtue of friendship helps moderate our passions so we can love our friends disinterestedly.

Don’t be afraid of this friendship–rather, I would say to view it as a gift from God, and an opportunity for you to grow in the virtue of friendship, to learn what true and deep friendship with men looks like. If you find yourself attracted to him, have a sense of humor about it with yourself, and be gentle with yourself, but precisely because you love him, make your attractions to him a “living sacrifice” that you put on the altar, and say to God, “Thy will be done, not mine–help me to see him as you see him.” God will honor that, and be pleased with you, and he certainly knows the importance of a close male friendship. John, the Beloved Disciple, reclined at table with Jesus, resting his head on Jesus. Ask Jesus in you to see your friends the way Jesus saw his Beloved Disciple, and he will surely come to your assistance.

Write more when you can.

God bless you!


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.

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

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.