I was at college, I had a professor (a Benedictine Monk) tell us that homosexual
acts are not condemned by the Bible. Although I had only been involved with
guys in the past (on a dating basis), I had also sometimes struggled with
homosexual thoughts. Once I heard this from the monk, I allowed my curiosity
to go further and was involved with a girl for about 7+ months. Our physical
relationship never got to the point of even a kiss, although we did cuddle
often. After that ended, I again opened the door to correspondence with a
lesbian via e-mail, which ended after the first couple e-mails sent. There
was nothing in these e-mails that wouldn’t have been written between
two “normal” friends—only superficial chat. Since that time,
I have confessed all this and have had a major conversion experience. (Certainly,
I know the Bible does condemn homosexual acts—and I understand the
Church’s teaching on it as well.) . . . Now it has been about two years
since I’ve been going to daily mass, praying my daily rosary, and spending
a daily holy hour with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I also pray Morning
and Evening prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. I feel a calling to
the contemplative life, and I currently have a spiritual director. I have
shared my past with him, and he thinks that it should be no deterrent for
me to enter religious life. However, I wanted to ask for your input on this
. . . at least for the sake of getting a professional’s opinion.
It has been over one year since I have had any serious temptations to have
lustful thoughts about a girl (or even a guy for that matter), and it has
been about 2 years since I have given in to that sort of temptation. I know
I am weak, but I trust in His grace and in Our Lady’s intercession for
me. Please let me know what you think—could I be a candidate for religious
life or not?
ou have a spiritual director, so,
assuming that he knows what he is doing (more about this in a bit), you
should follow that guidance. I, then, will offer you some added psychological
insight into your concerns.
The Desire of
This whole issue really isn’t
so much about sexuality as it is about
desire—or, more specifically, the desire
of the Other. This can be a complicated psychological concept, one that
has been well-defined in the secular sense by the psychoanalyst
unconscious—a side-effect, so to speak, of our
use of language—is primarily governed by “the Other.” And
by “the Other” he meant the social world around us.
Now, the original
source of all desire is God. God, in His unfathomable love for us, gave us
the ability to desire Him as the source of all our good.
world, in its state of Original
Sin, desires sin, not God. And so all of us are always vulnerable to
temptation from the self-serving desires manifested by the social world around
us, for we are surrounded by the unconscious influence of a world given over
to a culture of narcissism by which “feeling good” replaces the
discipline of seeking all good in God.
seek the way of
we need to detach ourselves from slavery to the world’s desire and turn
back to a pure and ardent desire for God alone.
As a very simple example of how
this desire of the Other plays out in everyday life, consider how
a child might see another child eating ice cream and then declare to her
parent, “I want ice cream!” Psychologically, seeing the other
child’s desire for his ice cream arouses this child’s
desire for ice cream. He sure looks like he feels real good about himself!
Give me some of that ice cream so I can feel good about myself
As a more subtle example, consider
the issue of fashion. We will seek out (i.e., desire) just the right types
of clothing that will make us feel accepted by our peers so that we can feel
good about ourselves. Notice here that other persons (usually neurotic fashion
designers with their own
to be noticed) set the standards,
and we, to satisfy our need to feel socially accepted, will desire those
standards. In fact, this whole concept fuels the success of
advertising: we see an item held up to us as an object purportedly representing
qualities we believe we should possess, and so we
end up desiring that object with the idea that, if only we possess it, we
will be socially accepted.
Well, that monk who told you
about homosexuality probably has considerable
unconscious anger at the hypocrisy in the family in
which he was raised, and thus he acts out this anger
by trying to feel good about himself through his
disobedience to Church authority. You saw
the “image” of his disobedience, and feeling the need to be accepted
by him—and by the religious life that he appeared to
represent—you fell prey to the desire of the Other and set out to
“possess” homosexuality for yourself. Still, you did not get absorbed
into the disobedient identity of a homosexual lifestyle.
Ultimately, then, rather than
remain content with mere validation through common desire, you sought out
the truth about the necessity for chastity in a genuine
Christian life, and you now recognize your mistakes.
Slavery to the
Desire of the Other
So how, then, should you interpret
those mistakes? Well, as I said before, this isn’t really an issue about
your sexual feelings per se. Your real concern
should be in regard to your vulnerability to falling prey to the desire
of the Other. And this should be a concern for you as a Christian, regardless
of whether or not you choose to enter a religious order.
Understand, then, that you are
vulnerable to being manipulated by the “desire of the Other” in
so far as you seek your
is, your feeling of social
acceptance—in other persons around you. As long as you crave the feeling
of approval and belonging so as to feel good about yourself, you will be
susceptible to desiring whatever the Other shows you as an image of
approval and belonging. And that image can be anything: a physical object,
physical or emotional pleasure, an ideology, or even
There is only one way to inoculate
yourself from this slavery to the desire of the
Other: desire must be raised to the level of
the divine. In fact, that’s the essence of the Catholic mystic tradition:
to desire union with God as the supreme desire. As the deer longs for
streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God (Psalm 42:2). Learn,
therefore, to die to yourself, as a Christian.
Stop seeking to feel good about yourself and seek instead to have your entire
“self” transformed in Christ. If you can do that, there will be no
impediment to religious life for you.
And if You, my God, should
desire to please me by fulfilling all that my desire seeks, I see
that I would be lost.
It’s that simple.
Dying to the
Still, this can be a very hard
thing to do in practice; many so-called Christians intellectually accept
the concept of “dying to the self” but they fail to pursue it from
the depths of their hearts as a genuine lifestyle. Why? Because dying
to the self means surrendering your quest for
personal pleasure and learning instead to seek only the will of God; it means
to love God with all your heart and with all your
soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to dedicate your
entire being to serving God through sacrifice and
suffering for the sake of others; it means the end of social acceptance
and the beginning of a life of social persecution
for your Faith. In short, it means death to the
imaginary realm—that is, death to every
“image” that sustains self-identity—and the birth of a chaste,
ardent desire for the glory of holiness
itself: the salvation of your soul.
world, it has become fashionable, especially among liberal “Christians”, to run from
the Cross and seek the Resurrection. It’s a bit like what Saint Peter
did (in admiring the Glory and denying the Cross) before his eventual
confession and repentance.
If you are really ready to die
to yourself on the Cross, though, you are ready to be a Christian. As for
what sort of vocation you might have as a Christian, that is up to
your spiritual director to help you decide—if he or she knows what he
or she is doing. Let me explain.
If you were to enter religious
life, you would take a vow of obedience to your
superiors, doing whatever they tell you to do, whether you agree with it
or not. No one can command you to commit a sin, of course, but even if your
superiors make mistakes in your guidance you still have to follow their orders.
You will not, however, be held culpable for those
mistakes; your spiritual life will depend solely on your love for God that
grows from your obedience.
As a lay person, though, you
do not owe obedience as such to your director—to a priest confessor,
yes, but to a spiritual director, no. You should cooperate with the director,
or it wouldn’t make any sense to be receiving direction in the first
place, but ultimately, regardless of the guidance you receive, the progress
of your life, and your growth in faith, is still your personal
responsibility. So, it’s important that you be able
to determine whether or not your spiritual director is capable of guiding you
into the depths of real faith. And how do you tell that? Simple. Just look
very carefully at the spiritual director’s life
and see for yourself what he desires. Is it sports, entertainment,
cigars, and the pride of intellectualism? Or is it humble, contemplative prayer
of the heart? Remember:
You will go where you desire.
1. Psalm 101:1-3a, 6.
My song is of mercy and justice;
I sing to you, O Lord.
I will walk in the way of perfection.
O when, Lord, will you come?
I will walk with blameless heart
within my house.
I do not set before my eyes
whatever is base.
I look to the faithful in the land;
that they may dwell with me.
Those who walk in the way of perfection
shall be my friends.