I always knew I was different.  
I could never quite put my finger on it but I always knew that I was not like the other boys. I always felt disconnected from my same-sex peers like I somehow just didn’t belong. 
From a very early age I can remember feeling attracted to men, even before those feelings became sexualized at puberty. 
Once those hormones came raging in and I figured out what was happening to me and that I was sexually attracted to men the way other boys my age were attracted to women, I closed down and emotionally shut everyone out, determined that no one should ever find out my dirty little secret.  
During my high school and college years, I was so consumed by my suffering, pain and shame that I began succumbing to the darkness and walling myself off from other people. I was so angry at God for having “made me this way” (or so I thought then) that I took all my pain out on Him and started to lose my faith and my hope. It was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who constantly kept me close to her during those dark days. 
As I walled my heart off from other people, I also closed my heart off from God. Although I never stopped actually going to church or receiving the sacraments (I am a lifelong Catholic), it all seemed meaningless to me because I was so consumed by my own suffering. Thus, I began to question my faith. This is when I knew I had a problem and needed help. 
So, I did what Christians have done for centuries; I cried to Our Lady from the depths of my being and made her a promise that if she would help me and show me the way of peace and healing, that I would do whatever she wanted to help all my brothers who struggle with their sexuality. 
He sent her for me. Of this I have no doubt.  
To make a long story short, Our Lady arranged for me to come to her shrine in Fatima, Portugal and told me that she would take care of all the rest.  
And she did.  
She literally arranged an all-expense-paid pilgrimage for me. All I had to do was show up with my packed bag and passport. 
To this day I am humbled by this.  
In the words of her own kinswoman, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) 
​Who, indeed, am I? 
Surely there were other worthier and more deserving men out there. 
Nonetheless, for whatever reason, it was for me that she came. 
Our Lady, since ancient times, has been known by the title, Maris Stella, Latin for Star of the Sea, the star which the sailors followed to find their safe harbor across a dangerous and sometimes terrifying ocean.  
So, I followed that star all the way across the Atlantic into a strange and foreign land and found myself in the village where Our Lady appeared in 1917 to three shepherd children who were tending their flocks. In October of that year, through her intercession, the Lord worked a miracle of Biblical proportions witnessed by tens of thousands of people. 
It was also there that she worked the miracle of breaking my stony heart and re-introduced me to the love of my life, her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through her I realized that He was the real man I had been looking for all my life and though I had always tried to love Him, I never realized that He loved me passionately, personally, and intimately. Perhaps I never really knew Him as well as I thought I did. That is what changed my life. After that day, my life was never the same.  
Or a more practical note, how this actually fleshed out for me is that from that day, I turned my focus entirely on Jesus Christ and cultivating a personal relationship with Him, especially through the sacraments. I attended daily mass, received the most Holy Eucharist as often as possible, and I made sure that I was always in a state of grace through the sacrament of confession.  
I read the Bible daily and supplemented it with the teachings of the Church and the Saints throughout the ages on how to pursue holiness and a deeper relationship with God. 
Through all this, I made a soul-searching, sometimes painful, journey to freedom and wholeness. Gradually, through the grace of Jesus Christ and through the power of His cross, I experienced the true healing of my disordered desires. 
About seven years after I started my healing journey, I fell in love and felt called to marry a woman with whom I had been friends for many years. Honestly, I think I have one of the best marriages a man could ever have because I am truly married to my best friend and Jesus Christ is at the center. After almost 20 years, we now have three children and  I thank God every day for this wonderful life He has given me which I never thought would even be possible! 
The Blessed Virgin of Fatima has fulfilled her end of the bargain and has now come to ask me to fulfill mine, which I do with a full and grateful heart. ​My journey is a long and complicated one that has ultimately led me here. The time has come for me to share what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me and the great healing that He has worked in my life. Thus, this website and this  book  are born.  
As the angel Gabriel once told the Virgin Mary and he now tells us all, “Nothing shall be impossible with God!” 

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Courage member AJ Benjamin is a forty-something, east coast-dwelling, happily married father of three wonderful children. He is a public high school teacher and a lifelong Catholic Christian who is very active in the Church and is passionately in love with his wife and with Jesus Christ. You can learn more about AJ at his website thesilentknight.net. AJ is also the author of the recent book published by TAN Books, When the Son Frees You.

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.