Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Glory Stories: How to Tell Yours and Make Jesus Known

Nothing conveys God’s love better than telling our stories of God’s unfailing love. Our surrender to His on the Cross has become for us the threshold for a new creation; He broke our low ceiling and opened for us an eternal horizon. Yes, we had other options: gay selves and relationships, even ‘gay marriages’ and becoming another gender. His love summoned our surrender.

As we enter into the last few days of our 40-days of prayer, we realize we can become an answer to our prayers. We can make Him known by making known how He is actually setting us free.

Rocky Delgado and I had the privilege of sharing our stories for a large gathering of Catholic priests. As you may recall, Rocky’s same-sex attraction devolved into him identifying as a woman, winning drag shows and nearly expiring in that culture of death. Christians stood in the gap for him; they prayed and fasted and included him in their community until he was ready to surrender to Jesus. At 20-years-old, he began the long road home that continues today. Rocky is not a Catholic. But as he shared, waves of mercy rolled out upon that sea of beloved black-robed men in a way that they perhaps had never experienced. A well-told testimony of mercy can be more effective than a scholarly catechism.

How do we best tell our stories? After 35 years of giving mine and training the ‘Rockys’ of this world, I offer you 10 points.

1. Use the Cross as your structure; ensure your story lines up with Jesus’. The irresistible love of the Father, surrender to the Cross (many variations here), then the new life that arose and is arising. If you are avoiding the Cross in your brokenness, please do not testify. We want to know Him more, not be confused by your artful dodging.
2. Tell your story only if the gains are time-tested. We are all vulnerable to relapse. Bear witness of self-control only if you have some. Otherwise, the enemy will successfully knock you off your public platform.
3. If you share about other persons, especially family members, make sure they know what you are saying about them. They may not agree on your take of history. But talking it out will soften any tendency to vilify others. You lose people when you speak in melodramatic ways of family members.
4. Balance the gory with the glory. Be clear about the brokenness in your life but do not amp it up. What is evil will speak for itself. Give the corollary of how Jesus is turning around foul things with His just, merciful love.
5. Be specific and share experiences that convey the essence of your pain and your healing. People remember well-told memories more than psychobabble and Christian lingo. This is an art. You will get better at it.
6. Describe a restoration that includes a variety of interventions. No one thing set you free. Consider the host of encounters and disciplines that helped you. Yes we know Jesus is healer. How did He heal you? Be specific.
7. Tell us the benefits of healing. What are you now free for? In other words, make a case for why I should go the way of the Cross with my brokenness.
8. Describe a process that continues to this day. You are never done becoming a good gift. You are saved and getting saved, chaste and becoming chaste.
9. Anchor your hope in Jesus with His body. Of course we all have experiences of the church’s failure. But you would not have hope today if not for some Christians. They are the healing church for you. Unite Head and Body.
10. Tailor your story to context. Trim it according to time constraints. Be led by the Spirit to share snippets to someone in need NOW. You are good news.

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On this Sure Foundation, a Fountain

Report on Family Synod

Last month I addressed a group of Catholic leaders in Rome on the transforming power of Jesus’ love, through His Church, for persons with same-sex attraction. That was on the eve of the Family Synod, a group of 270 bishops from around the world who deliberated for three weeks on a host of family issues with an eye toward pastoral care. I’ve only read excerpts of their final report so I offer you this limited reflection.

Drawing upon Scripture and Church tradition, this concise report will be a helpful document for the Church as she rises up to fulfill a range of responsibilities for the families of the world. No small world, no easy tasks. I am grateful for the clout wielded by bishops from Asia (our beloved Filipinos), South America (blessed Cordoba), and namely Africa, whose Cardinal Sarah opened our one-day event in Rome and whose leadership there mobilized many bishops to refuse the liberalizing tendency of some western bishops. The poor cannot afford to wage ‘gay marriage’ wars or worry about gender reassignment costs; they bring us back to first things–helping a man and woman make it work it for the kids they create.

Alleluia. I joined the Roman Catholic Church because she remains the sole, coherent global institution that upholds the beauty of man and woman as God’s image on earth, and marriage as earth’s immovable foundation that must be restored and strengthened for the good of everyone on the planet.

On that basis, the synod report offered only one paragraph (#76) on persons with same-sex attraction. While reiterating the fundamental principle of respect for persons bearing that burden, with special sensitivity to the needs of family surrounding the struggler, the report stated that ‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ The Church is the Rock. She is immovable in her anthropology and commitment to real marriage.

But her foundations require a fountain, an evident gusher of mercy for persons ravaged by the idolatries of our day. Will we as the Church be Jesus for the Samaritans around us who will keep drinking from polluted wells until we make ‘living water’ real to them? Our truth is sure. Let mercy arise for the lost and least.

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Open Door to Chastity: Beginning Again in Argentina

‘See, I have placed before you an open door that cannot be shut’ (Rev. 3:8).

The free and demanding door to chastity cannot be shut. It remains eternally open because God is the doorkeeper and He loves to usher His children into sexual wholeness. Wholeness is chastity: the integration of our spirituality and sexuality that frees us to accept the solid ‘gendered’ gifts we are, guarded by self-control and thus liberated to be generous and impartial in love for others.

Many people gathered at our ‘Aquas Vivas’ conference last weekend in Cordoba Argentina. Brave men and women filled the Sacred Heart auditorium and dared to hope again for chaste lives. Their innocence struck down but not destroyed, they knocked and Jesus became for them the open door to chastity.

Roderigo confessed a heart of stone due to a dad who fathered three families and left his mother bereft. He cried over her suffering for years until his heart hardened and he walled off the Church and his own commitment to chastity. This weekend a light dawned. Much as he hated his dad, he realized he was following his path. He wants more: he wants the chaste way of life only Jesus can show him.

My part in his process? Roderigo figured ‘if Jesus could help a homo change, there must be hope for him.’ So be it. I was helped by a beautiful team of Cordobans (and three saints from the Vineyard in Santiago Chile) who run Aguas Vivas there, each with a distinct witness of how Jesus made them faithful. Each person’s witness of hope proved hopeful to all. Personal resurrections, well-expressed, inspire new life in everyone.

This open door in Cordoba had special meaning for myself and Aguas Vivas leader Maite Rodriguez. For ten years until 2011, Cordoba had been the base for Aquas Vivas in South America. We relied upon a team of Pentecostal saints there; Cordoba became a ‘home away from home’ for me and I fell in love with its rich history and warm people.

When I became a Catholic over 4 years ago, the Cordobans could not in good conscience tolerate this change. They refused my leadership and the door closed. My last trip to Cordoba—an effort to build an ecumenical bridge–failed dismally. I left in grief and supposed I would never enter her splendid Spanish gates again.

When Desert Stream/Aquas Vivas regrouped to equip Latin America with a more thorough ecumenical approach, the first group to apply for our training in Mexico City was from Cordoba. Notably, one of the priests from a Catholic charismatic community there came with several lay persons and led the way by diving into the healing waters himself. Three years later, the Cordobans have emerged as an inspired, trustworthy team. Maite and I relished the welcome they gave us and look forward to ongoing partnership with our new family in Cordoba.

While we were there, we had the privilege of meeting the bishop who oversees the group. He loves Aguas Vivas and encouraged us ‘to release the waters’ to all persons, not only Catholics.

The bishop understands that chastity is a gift and a goal for all persons seeking freedom. Chastity is an open door for each Christian, an open door that cannot be shut because He is the gatekeeper. How grateful we are to re-enter the gates of Cordoba and make known once more the ever-open door.

‘Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through His body…let us draw near to God with full assurance of faith, having our hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience, our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to our hope, for He who promised is faithful’ (Heb. 10: 19-23).

For a pdf of the prayers for the Return to the Father 40 Day Fast please click here.

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Rome Report 2: The Child is a Warrior

‘In today’s society, we grant adults any kind of sexual freedom they want and insist that children take whatever these adults are willing to give them.’ Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

In the center of Rome, we convened on October 2nd to fight for children—those most vulnerable to adults who now define ‘justice’ as the freedom to assume any sexual identity their feelings demand. The Church is caught between this new ‘justice’ and her own age-old version of human dignity as she convenes for the Synod of the Family throughout this month.

Cardinals, bishops and priests listened intently as our warring band taught and testified to an authentic appreciation of the human person who originates from God as male and female and who reveals Him in that beautiful duality. To describe how Jesus redeems persons who confess the brokenness of that image—well, we had to become like children. In tears and great joy, we marveled at the Father who transformed us from slaves to chaste sons and daughters.

Not surprisingly, our advance began on the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She urges us to not get entangled in the traditions of men and their constant strife (a temptation in the heart of the Catholic hierarchy) but rather to surrender ourselves to the Father ‘who hides Himself from the wise and learned and reveals Himself to little children’ (LK 10:21).

Children need strong, tender fathers who clarify the path to purity and gender clarity. I marveled at Robert Cardinal Sarah from Africa who spoke the truth to us with such gentle authority that we straightened up, feeling at once challenged and protected. The wise words spoken throughout the conference by Fr. Paul Check, Director of Courage, were best distilled by my friend Alberto (coordinator of Courage Rome) who said: ‘Fr. Check extends the arm of the Church to guide us to chastity.’ What the Church asks of us, she helps us to realize.

Children need a mother. For that, the Father provides His Church and the beautiful witness of Mary, whose womb housed Jesus and whose wonder throughout His life invites us to marvel at His desire to dwell with us too. Popes and pot-scrubbers find level ground as the resting place of God. Encircled by Mary, each child can welcome Jesus and nourish the divine life maturing within. Our sorrow lies in our resisting His Presence; joy rises as we yield to His stirrings and enter the dance of life.

As a child, I rejoiced in my fellow strugglers in Rome whose good lives reveal the Father who fought for them and ‘Mother’ Church who enfolds them. We rejoiced together, the shame of our ‘gay’ lives eclipsed by Someone glorious, the Child Jesus who frees us to be both children and warriors.

We fight for the dignity of voiceless children everywhere who need clear markers to chastity, and wise guides to help them realize that wholeness. Pray for the Synod gathering now in Rome. May the witness of the Church liberate the children of God.

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Heading for Rome 1: Passion for a Chaste Bride

‘Always Go Forward, Never Turn Back’ (St. Junipero Serra)

This Wednesday I shall depart for Rome, site of the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family. On Friday Oct. 2nd, I have the privilege to speak (alongside others far more qualified than me) at a conference designed for synod leaders who shall deliberate on family matters, including homosexuality. The synod’s pastoral recommendations will not change church teaching but will influence its pastoral application for years to come.

Please pray for me! I am a seasoned minister but a new Catholic. During confession with my priest last week I admitted tearfully to intimidation (Catholics revere advanced education and in the west are deeply divided on the ‘gay’ issue). While in prayer, I saw an image of a child holding a small cross and joyfully declaring the gift, and virtue, of chastity. My priest then quoted the Gospel reading in which Jesus placed a child in the midst of the disciples and said: ‘Whoever receives one such child as this in My name receives Me’ (Mk 9: 37). Thank You Jesus; I go as I am, simple and on fire with the beauty of chastity.

Friends, may I enkindle that same fire in you? I am convinced that the goal of chastity is the best counsel we can embody and proclaim to all Christians. Though a Catholic term, it has dynamic meaning for all humanity, regardless of their sexual histories (LGBTQRSTUVW…). Simply put, chastity means sexual wholeness: ‘the successful integration of sexuality within the person’ which means human beings growing in the unity between who they are as spiritual beings and as persons with a gendered body and thus a direction for their sexuality (CCC2337).

Such ‘successful integration’ is a lifelong adventure with God and our fellow humanity. Cross-in-hand, let us discover together the beauty of what it means to be beloved sons and daughters of one Father, and good gifts as men and women for each other. Chastity necessitates self-control so that our offering is clean and clear for our fellows; progressively chaste witnesses have power to mirror to one another the awesome gifts we are without clouding the image with robbers like fear, porn, lust, and seduction.

I love chastity! My whole being is aligned with Jesus who made me and who is reclaiming the good gift of my masculine humanity. I cooperate whole-heartedly with His rhythms because I love the fruit of chastity, which is the freedom to love others generously, not confusedly.

As I proceed to Rome, I am cheered on by the saints, and in particular, the first saint canonized on American soil, St. Junipero Serra. (Pope Francis made this ‘Apostle of California’ a saint last Wednesday in Washington DC.) Growing up amid the California missions, I followed St. Junipero’s footsteps up the El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco, and marveled at this 5’ 2” missionary. He left Spain in the middle of the 18th century to Mexico City then travelled hundreds of miles by foot and donkey with an ulcerated leg to what is now California. There he lifted high the Cross in a series of still intact missions; with tender care and much suffering, he introduced Christianity to the first Californians.

His suffered as Spanish soldiers and other opportunists abused his beloved native peoples. I have done mush reading on this subject and am amazed at the herculean efforts St. Junipero exerted to protect the first Christians of California. He helped reclaim their dignity then fought to stave off the cancerous side effects of Spanish colonization.

I love him. I honor him. I am proud to be a California signed by the very Cross he planted on the soil of my birth. May I honor his witness as I go to Rome.

‘Our clear duty is to conform ourselves in all things to doing the will of God, and to prepare to die well. That is what counts; nothing else matters. If this is secured, it matters little if we lose the rest; without this, all else is useless.’

St. Junipero Serra

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