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“Who Are 

In the early 00’s, my then-lover moved to San Francisco and I wept with sadness and joy. Ultimately all the things I was doing were for him. In December of 2003, I hit the proverbial rock bottom. I dropped to my knees and after being away from the Church for a solid 12 years, prayed the most honest prayer, “God, I don’t know where You are, but this cannot be what you wanted for me. I don’t know what it looks like to put You in charge, but if You are, and You love me, please take control of my life; get me off the drugs and I’ll obey you.”  Within six months, I had weaned myself off the drugs. I had taken to reading Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain” (even to my happy hour clientele) as well as Scripture. I came to Proverbs 16:25 (RSV): “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”   

*That* was it, a moment of grace. I quit my job at the bar & walked out of the gay community on July 4th, 2004.  My permanent-Deacon brother introduced me to the Liturgy of the Hours and I established a strong prayer life. Monastic spirituality became the vehicle for my reversion and in 2005, I joined the Courage Apostolate. The first years back were not easy. Fr. Knapp, S.J., our former Chaplain, was fond of saying that “we long for the flesh pots of Egypt.”  That became my image of the gay world: flesh pots. But when you’ve spent so many years being affirmed as gay, and in the depths of your being that just feels “right,” how do you let go of that? I kept asking the question, “Who am I?” I thought I was a good Catholic. A model cadet. An Officer. A talented mixologist. Now an insurance adjuster. None of it and all of it seemed to be true. But if I wasn’t gay, then who and what was I?  A friend told me once that alcoholics and self-centered egomaniacs suffer from “terminal uniqueness.” (I’ll leave it to my friends to decide which of those apply to me.) In the gay world, being unique and fabulous is the stock-in-trade.   

It was a psychologist friend who woke me up when she coldly queried, “Who are you? Who do you think you are? What makes you so special?”  Our conversation was in the context of my clinging to all the things I’d done wrong in my life as well as the question of identity. I had gone to confession numerous times but my past clung to me like tar. How could Christ really forgive me, especially if deep down inside I still secretly *wanted* to do all those things I’d walked away from?  What I still had not grasped in my heart was the fact that sin resides in the will, not one’s feelings. And it doesn’t matter that I may have the tendency towards something sinful; what matters most is what I do about it.  And it doesn’t matter what my occupation is. My identity is “Child of God.” THAT is who I am. And this child will fall down and get up…fall down and get up…fall down and get up.    

Nunc Coepi

It’s amazing how pride can cloud the perception of one’s true state. “I can’t be one of those.”  What, you mean a homosexual? Or a sinner? Yeah, I’m one of those, and a sinner. My sister Cheryln and I were talking about the long road traveled; moments of grace that flashed just when I needed it, how one day I was deep in the muck and the next, miraculously restored.  She reminded me of the long nights in prayer my Mom and Dad spent over me. When I had seemed so far away and entrenched in ‘the life,’ Mom and Dad were praying the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, daily Mass, offering weekly devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. God stored up all that grace and dumped it on me, right when I needed it. It was evidence of what St. Augustine mentionsthe exchange between St. Ambrose of Milan with Augustine’s mother, St. Monica: “When that woman implored him to consider speaking with me, to refute my errors, …he refused her…(he) responded that I was yet indocile…’but let him be. Only pray for him to the Lord: he will discover by reading what his error is…’ She would not acquiesce…but continued imploring… ‘Go away,’ he said, ‘while you live, the son of these tears of yours shall not perish!” (The Confessions of St. Augustine III, 12). I take great comfort from that, now more than ever since both my parents have passed on.  I see each day as a new opportunity to begin again. “Nunc Coepi.” Words to live by. Take comfort, all you parents of EnCourage, and don’t give up on your sons and daughters. Because of your long-suffering and prayer, Jesus comes to us. We are redeemed and restored.  Over and over. As much and as long as it takes. 

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Jeron S., aged 50 from St. Louis, Missouri, has been a member of the Courage Apostolate since 2005. He has a varied military and civilian history including Protocol at Andrews Air Force Base, adjuster for worker’s compensation in the moving and storage industry, Benedictine Novice, and licensed mixologist. Currently he is supervisor for Military Funeral Honors at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.

The opinions and experiences expressed in each blog entry in “The Upper Room” belong solely to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Courage International, Inc. Some entries have been edited for length and clarity.