Friday, October 23, 2009

A New Friend Comes Calling Again

I Love It When People Think Deep Thoughts

So, yesterday, I responded to a delightful comment from Anonymous. I wish that I knew who Anonymous was, not necessarily his real name, but a better moniker than Anonymous. It just sounds so ... how shall I say it ... Anonymous. But as you will read, I am learning more about the good person that he is, and the deep thoughts that he has.

Originally, he responded to a post the other day on "The Theology of the Body", though his comment was at another post. It was so good, I thought, that I made a new posting about his comment and my thoughts in response here.

In my response, I concluded with the following:
It is a good thing to find out that God/Jehovah/Yahweh exists and loves us, but my new friend was able to do so, I believe, because of the faith that his parents had many years ago, when they baptised him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In many ways, his Baptism took, as that sacramental grace that was imparted to him worked its way into his heart over the years.

I too, was a lapsed Catholic for many years, and then became as Kathy Shaidle calls it a Relapsed Catholic. The Body of Christ needs us all to come home, and so I invite my Commenter above to "Come Home Please." Give the Church a try again. Use your heart, not your head to give her a chance. We all miss you, and are the worse for your absence.
Well, my new friend responded a short while ago with very meaningful input as I published in the comments to the "Bright Spot" post:
Hello, it's me again. I had no idea that my little commentary would have such an impact. My wife observed that it is harder to talk about Christianity than it is to live it - but that's the kind of pithy insight my wife makes.
Well, "A", I used to think it was harder to talk about Christianity, than to live it. But, I have since learned that it is the other way around. Talk is cheap. Following Jesus, even in the tough circumstances of our lives, that's harder because of our conditioning to not trust Him with the details, but I am getting ahead of myself. "A" continues:
On returning to the Church: The last time I attended a Catholic service was when my younger brother married over a decade ago. I have long ago come to terms with the sexual abuse I suffered as an adolescent at the hands of the Christian Brothers, a lay denomination of educators that held many teaching positions when I was a child.
I can relate to the being away part in the first sentence. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But, the second sentence is a stopper, if only briefly. Not been there, nor done that, and I wouldn't want the t-shirt if there was one. I always wonder if when a person says "I have long ago come to terms" with anything if that is really true.

I long ago came to terms with the fact that my mother had abused us emotionally when I was a child, or so I thought I had. But at about 58, I started therapy that allowed me to not come to deeper terms with what what I had "come to terms with" earlier, but to accept what had happened, its impact on my life and my responsibilities for my life going forward.

I have a dear friend, a woman who was sexually abused for many years by her father, who has come to a deep acceptance as I wrote here:
Many years ago, a woman who was a friend of mine had a father dying in hospital from cancer. She was about 50 at the time, and her father has sexually abused her repeatedly when she was young, which she had spent many years learning to deal with. She was a woman of great faith and her faith and her actions at the time of her father's death inspired me greatly, as to her character and as to the character of God. While her father lay dying, her only concern was for his immortal soul and eternal rest. She received permission from her parish priest to take him communion. She visited with him and took him communion regularly. She arranged for her pastor to hear her father's last confession. On her birthday that year, he passed away, peacefully. She knew that he went into the loving arms of God.

She knew something that I often forget. "God's justice is mercy." She prayed and worked fervently in those final weeks and days, while all the others around her watched and many of them scoffed at her actions. I am sure that God answered her prayers and the dedication of her choice to love her father, not for what he had done, but because of who he was.
Now, my heart saddens every time, I hear the story of someone who had their childhood stolen from them, particularly by sexual abuse. It is such a distortion of the trust that kids should be able to have for adults, particularly for those who have authority over their lives. But, "A" goes on to talk about something else in his life that challenges his faith and which in my anecdotal experience actually follows from the sexual abuse of his childhood. He says:
What I continue to have difficulties with are the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality. You see, my middle son Jude (31 years old) is homosexual. Jude informed us of this when he was 18 years old. We worked hard to accept this and support him in his endeavours to become a mature adult. That meant accepting his partner Eric into our family almost a decade ago, which we did.

Jude and Eric are - like Jude's brothers and their spouses - completely committed to one another and building their marriages. Jude and Eric brought us two grandchildren so far - both adopted (one at birth, the other at 2 years old). Seth and Rachel are. like our other grandchildren, the most wonderful treasures in our lives. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church would not embrace my son the way he is as my family and I have. I would gladly offer my life up to save my son's life. With that in mind, please try to understand my reluctance to embrace the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church.
I doubt that "A" knows what the Church stance is on homosexuality actually, just what he has seen, and that is not the Church stance on homosexuality. I have studied the Church stance on homosexuality, because a young woman that I love as much as my own daughters and her partner who I love equally are homosexual. Like "A's" son and partner, they are kind, loving people, who have been particularly kind and loving to my wife and me in our disabilities, when we have needed their kindness and support.

So, I have studied what I can to understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches about homosexuality and how to deal with it. I wrote some of it here in this posting on Bishop De Angelis in his challenges with Jim Corcoran. In summary, the church teaches:
Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behavior—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law.

Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control, but these do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner.
But, there is also a summary statement that is very important:
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" (CCC 2357– 2359).
I don't see where there is any thought that the Church would not embrace Jude and Eric as they are. I have lived in sexual sin, every bit as great as anything Jude and Eric and my young friends could have done, if they have even sinned, which I am not in any position to judge, even if I were so inclined. The Church accepted me back, and I am grateful to be back in Her loving arms.

"A" says that he would "gladly offer my life up to save my son's life. " If that is true "A" come home, and bring them with you. That would be offering up your life. Otherwise, as Mary Poppins says, that would be a pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken.

Of course that is not all, for "A" has his dear love of his life to consider:
Finally, my wife is a "red diaper baby" who has been known to observe that she was 15 years old before she realized that Christmas had nothing to do with Teamsters' events. She became a theist because "...without some kind of God nothing would make any sense whatsoever and would be very depressing and I just couldn't handle it thinking that Humankind was the "bestest most wonderfulest thing ever". You perhaps are beginning to get my drift ...
I had never heard of a "red diaper baby", only brown diaper babies, as in soiled, and after changing a few of my grandson's recently, I know from brown. But, I am not actually beginning to get "A's" drift as it were. I see why "A" drifted away from the Catholic Church if that is what he means. I just don't see why he won't put his heart and soul into coming Home.

But, he goes on respectfully:
What incited me to respond to you originally was simply a wish to point out to you what I had noticed about my own life when I look back. I am thankful for my Catholic upbringing (by a grandmother who converted to Catholicism at age 25). It provided me the kind of grounding that permitted me to release my misgivings and apply what limited intellectual resources and talents I was born with to the task of developing myself as an autonomous, responsible and reasonably fulfilled human being. "Reasonably fulfilled" because it took an intimate, committed bond with another to help me reach my full potential as a human being. It took my wife. When the kids came along, "fulfillment" just got larger and larger.

And what my wife and I know about "how things work" is what we've taught our kids. Maybe we were lucky, but all our kids seemed to "get it". And we include our homosexual son Jude and his partner Eric in that equation. The Catholic Church wouldn't, and there's the rub.
"A" is thankful for his Catholic upbringing, for the grandmother who was a convert at 25, and for the grounding that it provided. As he says, he is "reasonably fulfilled". Of course, the grace of the sacraments he received and the prayers of that Grandmother, who is still praying for his soul and that of his family now.

As he says, he and his wife include their gay son and partner, but he believes erroneously that "The Catholic Church wouldn't, and there's the rub." No rub there, "A". You are mistaken. There are Catholics who do not understand what the Church teaches, who will not accept your son and partner. But, look around you, do you think that the world accepts them now? Don't lay that one on the Church or on Christianity at all. That is a throw away line, with no substance to it. It needs to be looked at deeper. It just comes off as an excuse.

As he says:
I cannot choose to be blind to the commitment, loyalty and devotion between my son and his partner. I cannot be blind to the fact that their children are happy kids who know they are loved and respected at home - are every bit as precious to me as my wife as our other grandchildren are. We simply cannot condemn ANYTHING about our son Jude, including his life as a committed parent and partner in a monogamous relationship. I'm afraid that bringing the Catholic Church into my family and home would destroy both.

I shall continue to live my life as I always have - keeping up a running exchange with Jehovah and doing whatever it is I am supposed to do. Right now, I'm working on a "storyteller" program for children with Down's Syndrome om collaboration with a young teacher-friend of mine. I love working with kids and am indulging myself as retirement approaches. There's a light in their eyes that simply inspires me and I just know I'm supposed to act on it.
All love comes from God. We love one another, because He loved us first, and showed us the way. Here's another throw away, lazy line "I'm afraid that bringing the Catholic Church into my family and home would destroy both." I know it is both throw away and lazy, because I said it myself many years ago. In my case, God spoke to me directly, which showed me how throw away the lines were. He has saved my life, not just here on the earth, but I hope for eternity, because if you care about the hereafter at all, that is what we are here after, to get there.

New friend "A" leaves his best throw away line for his conclusion:
" Remember, if God is in the details, then the details are better left to God."
What a lazy, crock that line is. God gave us a brain to use to discover His love and immense goodness to us, especially the gift of His only begotten Son, who died for "A" and his family, and their loved ones, ALL OF THEM.

"A", I invited you to come Home. We need you to make Home better, to make us all one. You have a free will to choose, but don't choose based on misdirections and lazy platitudes. Explore and think for yourself. Continue to use the intellect that was given to you by the One who loves you more than your wife can possibly do, but gave her to you as a help mate as an example of His Undying, and Dying Love for you. If you would like to move from "reasonably fulfilled" in earthly terms to "joyful beyond measure", come Home.

God Bless You, and your family "A". We love you, and want you to come home. Bring the wife and kids. We are dreadfully sorry that we hurt you in the past. We were ignorant and unkind. Please forgive us.

We miss you, and will pray for you.


Justin Time said...

In your article you write that "New friend "A" leaves his best throw away line for his conclusion:
" Remember, if God is in the details, then the details are better left to God."
What a lazy, crock that line is. God gave us a brain to use to discover His love and immense goodness to us, especially the gift of His only begotten Son, who died for "A" and his family, and their loved ones, ALL OF THEM."

I don't think that its a throwaway at all, I think its an article of faith to leave things in God's hands (In God We Trust, have faith etc). Maybe your interpretation is just that - your interpretation. I think Ananymous is a man of faith and way more Catholic than your giving him credit for.

Michael Brandon said...

Justin Time:

Fair Comment, but in the context of all that was said, it was an excuse for not acting on his faith.

I was not trying to criticize "A" for his faith, but if you have read my blog at all over the last several months, you will see that I have called out others, and apologized for my own use of throw away lines.

Call it intemperate on my part, but I think we are all called to dig deeper in our faith, and not use excuses for "leaving well enough alone"

Anonymous said...

Hi: It's me again - Anonymous. I had no idea I had been "called out", MBrandon. I was unaware that you held the position of judge and jury. I so regret sharing my faith in God with you. I fail to comprehend your aggressive and judgemental tone. I thought I was sharing my perspective, not inviting a sh!tkicking (pardon my language, but there is no other term for it that comes to mind. I'm still on my first coffee of the day.)

God bless you, too.

Michael Brandon said...

Dear "J".

Wow, this is getting hot and heavy, not a place I wanted to go. I have written you personally as you invited me to do.

I call my friends out, as they do me. My friends share from their hearts as you did. That does not make me judge and jury, any more than you are for calling me on my approach to you.

If anything I said is untrue, call me on that. If I have made assumptions that are wrong, call me on that.