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The Promise of My Faith

Creator:
Published:
January 22, 2024
June 27, 2023
Read how this author found hope from the Church as a gay Catholic.|Read how this author found hope from the Church as a gay Catholic.

The author of this article has requested to remain anonymous as they work for a Catholic organization. In their journey of coming out as gay, they faced a massive question — what did it mean to their faith to take part in Pride and other LGBT+ events?

I was admittedly not prepared to go to Church that Sunday. I had packed multiple outfit changes for the short weekend trip but Mass was not on my mind when stuffing the suitcase — mea culpa! The most respectable pants I brought had rips and tears in them and the most modest shirt had a bold print of pink flamingos. I felt very, very, very out of place walking into the church. I would have honestly preferred not to go at all given my look, but my friends were adamant. It was a Sunday and the Feast of Corpus Christi — a day we should be attending Mass.

So we took a seat in the very last pew, three young men in conspicuously bright attire, and bowed our heads in anticipation. Beside me was Jake (not his real name) and Shane (also not his real name). Jake would put any Catholic grandma to shame with his adherence to Sunday Mass attendance. I once saw him walk five miles down a dusty county highway after a night of dancing with friends, just to attend Mass while on vacation. Shane was getting his Masters in Theology, having recently left the seminary. Nothing would shake his faith, nor deny his way of defining it. Together we had traveled to Chicago for the weekend, intent on celebrations of another sort — Pride. 

It was my first year celebrating. I was terrified on so many fronts. I had come out the year before but telling my parents I was gay had been enough of an outing. Going to a big street parade would take another year of work. What was I so afraid of? My physical safety was first and foremost — I was afraid that some maniac with a gun would mow us down. Or that some zealot would call me a faggot. Then there was the fear of being seen. I had my family firmly behind me, but my job was another matter. You can’t always be sure of your job safety when you work for a Catholic school. Would I appear on some news broadcast? What if a coworker also happened to be in Chicago that weekend? 

And then there was just the fear of attending a “Pride” event at all. Good Catholic boys aren’t meant to take part in such sinful activities! I had only ever seen the parade on television — half-naked bodies, big painted faces, rainbows, rainbows, rainbows everywhere! What did it say about me that I was taking part in something so many called sinful?

Nobody tells you how to be gay. There’s truly no manual and you're left to grasp at scraps of culture and direction. You typically grow up in a heteronormative family, where most of the world is straight, where you’re afraid of telling the truth, and where any sign of your queerness can be met with the hardest and most literal of smacks. And certainly, nobody tells you how to be gay and Catholic. You get told the opposite quite a lot — that you can’t be both, that you can’t be a “good Catholic” and “practicing that lifestyle.” Before most kids have even dared to send their first crush a note, a queer kid knows that doing so could mean being ostracized, harassed, even threatened physically. It’s why we face such rates of suicide, depression, homelessness, addiction, and more. From our youngest days we’re given one option — turn and run.

Was it my Catholic faith that kept me in the closet well into my twenties? In some ways, sure. But I was lucky. My parents were always loving first in matters of faith. We could question the Church, could talk about God openly and with big questions. I never had a priest or authority figure tell me directly being gay was wrong. It just seeped in from every other aspect of our culture. Eminem made “fag” a favorite word of middle schoolers. Gay marriage set politics ablaze. And then there were the “colorful” and “indecent” images on television of Pride parades. 

To be gay was to be “other” — that was the message I got. It meant having to leave your family, usually after coming out in dramatic fashion and having your mom cry and your dad yell, and then getting swept up in the wildest of nightclubs. It meant having to be uniquely and completely “GAY” — wrapped in rainbows louder than you ever cared to be. 

So I was afraid to be there in the pew, flamingos on my shirt, rips on my jeans, the debauchery of Pride waiting just a few blocks north. Would this be my last Sunday as a “good catholic boy”?

A year earlier I was penning a letter to my parents. My therapist had encouraged me to. It was to be my coming out letter, but I was under no obligation to actually send it. So for the first time, I put the gnawing, gnashing, gnarling fears I’d held down deep onto paper:

“I’ve been afraid to be gay because I thought it meant you wouldn’t love me anymore…”

Seeing those words — about my loving, supportive, incredible parents! — in black and white were a punch to the chest. The tears flowed and then the guilt, because for the first time I could see clearly just how baseless my fear was. 

“…and I’m so sorry for ever thinking that.”

The moment I saw that long-held fear for the whisper of deception that it was, it fled without a whimper. They would not. They were not capable of such cruelty. And neither was the God I loved. He would not stop loving me. 

I’m lucky to have such conviction. There are too many parents, too many churches, too many clergy who would indeed harden their hearts. And let me be clear — children kill themselves as a result. It happens more often than we even recognize.

But my God and my parents are full of love. I’d find a way to tell them, and we’d sort out the details together. Details like going to Chicago Pride.

So there I sat, my friends and I in clothes not quite meant for the pew, celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi. The priest began his homily, and revealed a rather modest loaf of bread. He had taken great effort to bake it himself, despite a lack of talent in the kitchen. The Feast of Corpus Christi is meant to celebrate the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, he explained. Not just a symbolic presence, but Christ’s own flesh and blood sacrificed for each of us. He had baked the bread in hopes we might step outside the rut of our regular communion wafers, and awaken our hearts to the real presence of Christ at our hands and lips. 

It was a beautiful homily, and as I took the small bit of bread — careful not to drop a single crumb of Christ — I breathed such great joy. Here was my God, a humble man who loved me so immensely that he would freely suffer and hand over his body for my salvation. A man who loved me then and every day before and after, stretching out into the vastness of eternity. Here was a man who loved me. Here was salvation. 

We returned to our pews and awaited the final blessing, unprepared for what was about to happen next. The priest began his general announcements for the congregation, and then said the following, 

“And I know that for some visiting us, today is also Pride Sunday.”

My friends and I each felt a jolt at the term “Pride Sunday.” Good Catholic boys that we were, we knew Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, and the rest of the liturgical calendar, but never “Pride Sunday.” 

The priest continued, “And I hope that it’s a day of great joy and celebration for you all. I’m sure you’ll have fun.”

It was clear he meant every word of it, no matter how simple a final blessing, and for a second time on the Feast of Corpus Christi, I felt the real, unabashed presence of Jesus. There he was again, welcoming us and untwisting another big detail of this journey.  

What happened the rest of the day? We went to the Pride celebrations. There were food and drink vendors. There were booths selling clothes and art and handing out free corporate swag. There were people dressed more conservatively than me, there were people dressed in less than me. There were performers and music and dancing. There was celebration and safety and a space made by a community pushed to the shadows now out in the open and laughing in the sun. It wasn’t the terrifying scene television news reports had made me believe as a child. It wasn’t the den of sin a tiny group of protesters across the curb were accusing it of being. It was a street festival where many felt welcome.

What mattered about the Pride celebration was that I had friends beside me who cared about me and were willing to walk with me through the many details of being gay, of being Catholic, of being gay and Catholic, of being a person in this world. We had a place where we could dance and celebrate and give thanks that we were alive, real, and present to one another. We had just celebrated the body of our Savior incarnate in the bread and wine of communion, and as we danced our hearts out to Betty Who, I knew he was with me all the same. 

It’s Pride Month again, and being gay and Catholic means I get to see internet commenters throw sticks and stones. I hope it’s sincere faith that motivates these online barbs, because otherwise it’s just hate and ignorance. And if it is — I’m sorry they have to live with the burden of such emotions. 

But if it is their faith, and if they are indeed concerned about the souls of us celebrating Pride and not the Feast of Corpus Christi or the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I hope they know that it’s pretty easy to celebrate both. There are parts of Pride festivities I don’t take part in. There are parts of the Fourth of July or tailgates or Saturday bar crawls I don’t take part in. Feel free not to attend Pride as you would any other celebration in your city. But for some of us, it matters deeply and is a needed lifeline. We too need a special day to celebrate that we’re alive and present in the world. Too many of us can’t. 

I don’t think that parish priest attended the festivities that day, but his gifts were with me and my friends throughout our time at Pride. First the Body and Blood of Christ, as fitting, but secondly the gift of grace. The grace of seeing three nervous new faces at the back of his parish and offering up kindness. I hope that it’s a day of great joy and celebration for you all. It wasn’t just a platitude, it was an invitation. Not only to enjoy Pride, but to return to the table of the Lord again, as we’d always have a place to be fed. 

That’s the promise of my faith, the promise I found when I let go of fear, the promise of Pride, the promise of Corpus Christi. Christ is alive, he loves us without limits, he is with us wherever we go. 

Creators:
Anonymous
Published:
January 22, 2024
June 27, 2023
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