I’ve never posted about controversial issues on here. Instead I seek to provide a window into a God who dwells in all creation, in the extraordinary events of our life, and in the mundane. But finding God in all things means finding God in the depths of our vulnerability, our brokenness, even our rejection. Regardless of the church or community we belong to, we may feel hurt, rejected, or unloved. This is especially true for the gay community. Today, I offer you a guest post by Stephen Fratello, who graciously agreed to address his struggles as a gay Catholic and where he finds God amidst it all.
Whatever your stand on gay rights, acknowledge that these feelings are real. They’re authentic. They’re human. Let Stephen’s reflection be yet another window into the human heart of someone who faithfully seeks God in all things.
Learning to find God in all things can be tricky, but it can get even more daunting to find God in the darkness of rejection, discrimination and prejudice.
Like many other gay men, I left the Catholic Church on a quest to find God and be the man He created me to be. It became increasingly clear that I could not do that and remain in a place that told me there was something wrong with the way that God made me. I was no longer accepted in my own home. I do want to make it clear that there are many wonderful people in the church who have shown me God’s love and acceptance. I was fortunate enough to find a supportive Catholic community near my home and I count it as a blessing, because such a community is truly uncommon today.
I didn’t have to grapple with my gay orientation for too long. I was accepting of who I was from the beginning, which was a blessing and a grace in many ways, though I did feel the sting of rejection from a place that was supposed to be my home. I consider my brothers and sisters who have not been as fortunate and I feel compassion for those men and women who struggle with self-hatred and condemn themselves to a life of secrecy, those who are constantly bombarded with messages telling them they are freaks. I think of the kids being bullied at school who then go to mass with their parents and hear anti-gay remarks. I wonder how many teenagers who kill themselves also went to church with their parents and heard those things. And mostly, I wonder where God is in the midst of all this.
“You are fine the way I made you”
I constantly struggle with the answer to that question, but I do know that who God made me to be has been a gift. I have learned that love has many faces and styles. I’ll never forget watching Chely Wright—the country singer who came out—describe her experience. She said she remembered praying to God to make her straight when she heard a still small voice saying, “You are fine the way I made you, proceed as you are.” Her words resonated deep within me. That is a powerful message for everyone, but especially today’s youth.
We find God in the diversity of creation and we find God in love – whatever form that takes. We can also find God when we are rejected and abandoned. Jesus was rejected because most narrow-minded people have little capacity to receive the all-encompassing love of Christ. Jesus preached of loving your neighbor and accepting everyone as brother and sister. Sadly, many Pharisees found this loving message absolutely appalling. Even more, Jesus made the human sacred. He blessed diversity. He associated with all types of people – some of whom were of questionable character.
Whenever we are being our authentic true selves—the selves that God created us to be—we will meet some level of rejection. But we can find God in the love within us and in communities that accept and affirm us. We can find God in people like Chely Wright who was a voice for all gay people who have no voice. God can be found in that still, small voice, “You are fine the way I made you, proceed as you are.”
The voice of Christ
And we also find God in hope. Hope for the future. That acceptance and change will happen. It already is. There are many voices speaking out in favor of that change. I believe there is hope that we will come together as one big human family and “love one another as Christ has loved us.” I pray that we will be a part of that change and play a part in ending teen suicide over one’s sexual orientation. I pray that all my brothers and sisters would know that they are loved and created in the image of God who has created diversity when it comes to love.
I believe that it will be the small communities that meet outside of the institutional church that will make the difference in this world; the lay people and the clergy who actually follow Christ that will make a difference by their efforts and sacrifices, people like Jeanine Grammick and the late Mychal Judge and many others who are standing up against injustice. It’s the quiet nuns that live in obscurity taking care of AIDS patients and the small welcoming communities who worship in the seclusion of their own home who are making the difference. The men and women who have the courage to be who they are in the face of rejection and ridicule and those who minister to the ones who cannot be themselves. These people are the true church and the face of Christ for me.
>> An interesting article on gay acceptance issues: Not In Spite of Being Catholic, But Because of Being Catholic