Spirituality


For me, there are three mutually complementary pillars on which I rest my personal formation of conscience, and its application to my life.  Of these, the first two are well known – study and contemplation of the Holy Word as found in Scripture, and the formal teaching of the Church as found in the unfolding Magisterium.  The third, I think, is less commonly recognised, but for me is the key to healthy integration of my Catholicism and  my sexuality.  I refer of course, to the development of an interior spiritual life – learning to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us directly, through the Holy Spirit, in our hearts.

Writing about sprituality is tricky.  Not only must I once again declare my lack of particular expertise, as elsewhere on these pages, but it is inherently deeply personal. It is impossible to anticipate another’s experience of prayer, but to speak of own’s own experience will, all too easily, come across as preachy, as Holy Joe, as holier than thou.

I assure you, that is far from the case.  My own prayer life is erratic and inconsistent- veering from virtually non-existent, to regular but undisciplined.  Nevertheless, my experience has been that where I have attempted to engage in serious prayer, the result has always been an abundance of riches. Most importantly for the present context, whenever I have taken into my prayer questions of sexuality, I have always come away with the profound conviction that for me, my sexuality is given to me as a gift of God, which I cannot and must not deny.

I am not a spiritual teacher, but I will in these pages share with you from time to time some of my own experiences, and more importantly lead you to some writers that I have found helpful – beginning with Daniel Helminiak.

Above all, make a start  If you have not yet done so, embark on the journey of prayer.  It is not important how you pray – but just that you do so.  Begin.

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IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY AND ME

(First posted on 11th September, 2009)

Earlier this week I was delighted to meet up with old friends from the CLC group I was in, before leaving South Africa 6 years ago.  The CLC (Christian Life Community) could rather simplistically be compared to a faith-sharing group – except that when I once used that verbal shorthand within earshot of a Jesuit parish priest, he became very angry.  “CLC is not a faith-sharing group,” he snapped. “It’s a way of life.”   And so it is – or so it may become.  More realistically I suppose, most groups and individual CLC’ers begin much like simple faith-sharing groups, or as outgrowths of those, before growing over time into true Christian Life Communities, in the fullest sense.  The process is something like  starting with simple sharing on faith and lives, learning about the tools and techniques of Ignatian spirituality, applying those tools and techniques to the faith sharing, leading to ever-expanding awareness of God in our lives (“finding God in all things”), leading to discernment of the movements of the Holy Spirit within us, leading to the identification of our personal and group mission (or “sealed orders”), leading to acting out that mission, and then to mutual support in living out that mission – by sharing and reflection on our lives and prayer experience, so continuing in a never-ending Ignatian spiral.  (Read more here)

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THE INTIMATE DANCE OF SEXUALITY AND SPIRITUALITY

(First posted on 2nd August, 2009)

I would expect that most of my lesbian & gay readers have known the liberating growth experience of coming out:  at least to themselves and to close friends, or (where realistically appropriate), to family and colleagues.  But how many, I wonder, have found the even greater joy of coming out to God? I mean here not just superficially, but fully and frankly, taking your sexuality deep into your prayer life, giving thanks for the joys and satisfactions, even the exhilaration of orgasm; sharing the pain of the frustrations and disappointments; even building the Lord into your sexual fantasies, or turning your fantasies into prayer?

This appears to be heretical, sacrilegious, but is not.  It is an old idea, going back at least to the Song of Songs, and to the great mystics: St John of the Cross, St Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich.  Modern writers who have discussed this idea from a gay perspective include Daniel HelminiakMichael B Kelly and John McNeill.  (Jim Cotter and Jack Dominian are just two I know of who have done so from a more traditional heterosexual perspective).

Now I have come across another who has done so directly – Chris Glaser, who has put together a prayer collection under the title “Coming Out to God.”

Coming out to God

(Read more here)

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HOMOEROTIC SPIRITUALITY

Jesus Christ, in His recorded words, said nothing at all about sex.  Indeed, He spoke against adultery – which in Jewish eyes was a sin against a man’s ‘property’ (as women were viewed), not against sex.  He spoke against lust – at least, against lusting after another man’s wife; and He spoke against divorce.  But as far as we know, He never spoke a word against sex itself:  not inside marriage, not before marriage, not between unmarried partners, not between men, not between women.  Nothing.  Zilch.

How is it then, that the Christian Church, and  Catholicism, in particular, have become so firmly linked in the public mind with the idea of sex as sin?  For Catholics, all sex outside marriage is officially taboo.  Even inside marriage, sex is viewed with suspicion unless it is open to the possibility of procreation.  It is only recently that grudging recognition was given to the unitive value of sex – even inside marriage.  Yet it is clear to all that few Catholics pay any more than lip service to the official catechism on sin.  Whether as jerking – off schoolboys (or girls, or adults), as horny teenagers, engaged couples, cheating spouses, as faithful loving couples choosing to limit their families, as lonely divorcees, as gay men and lesbians, or as priests and other religious ignoring their vows of celibacy, the overwhelming majority of us are, in one form or another sexual transgressors in the eyes of the Church.

Is it any wonder that in the public mind, the equation “sex=sin” goes hand in hand with another:   “Catholicism = Guilt”?

(Read more here)

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