Friday, March 03, 2006

Life as Ministry

Looking back on the life that I lived many years ago in a country far and away, I can see how different things were then, to how they are now. I remember that Junior High was a defining period of my life. I realized that I was "different" and that labels were something I had to face and deal with. In my minds eye, I don't remember my schoolmates using the word "fag" or "gay" with me or about me. I may be mistaken. It was not the issue of the time - my size was. I favor the maternal side of my family. My grandmother was 4' 5" and my mother was not more than 5' tall, and I now stand at a fine 5' 5"... As a young boy I was short and thin. I loved sports in a round about sort of way, wrestling, swimming, soccer and exercise. Gym was a love/hate relationship. I went to gym, I just did not know for sure I wanted to shower in the same room with other boys, I did not know about sexuality and no one explained it to me either.

I did not get my "birds and the bees" talk until I was 13 years old, and that in itself was traumatic for me. I am slowly coming to realize that I lived a life that was predestined and agreed upon and that no one can be blamed for what happened because it was pre-ordained. Making peace with the past has come at a very heavy cost.

We (my family) lived in a world that kept to their own. our friends had to be white and anglo folk. I oculd not have any dark skinned friends, if I did they were not able to come over to our house, god forbid my father was seen to accept racial diversity. I had a friend from Indonesia we went to school together, and the first and only time he came to our house, my father had a fit. That was that - those were the rules, there were no arguements.

We watched the world go on around us, but we did not get involved in world events. The reason I write this today is because things are becomming clear to me that make me really think about what this life is trying to show me. Watching world news in the U.S. for the whole of my life, gave a real "scenario" to look at and understand. But Miami was as far from wars and unrest and nothing like that was going to happen in our safe little world. And to be concerned about any one else than ourselves was unnecessary.

Growing up, in junior high I found my place in the world. These three years of my life gave me such joy that I cannot begin to tell you everything. I was a science geek, I was a boy on a mission. I made a name for myself, and over those years, in classes, I learned how to cook, sew, clean, and iron. We took shop, typing, graphics and home ec. We had an opportunity to become teachers aides, a class that was beneficial to me because it taught me responsibility. I graded papers, and helped teach classes at times, I was part of a greater organization of teachers, it was a fabulous time for me. I was "useful" to someone and respect and attention was something that I was lacking at home, because of my parents either work schedule or my father's alcoholism and abuse.

I could care less What I was, I was trying to figure out Who I was, in the maze of school and life. It was then that we were introduced to friends who would help me along this path indirectly. so that goes as it went. The story, if you want to find it, is buried somewhere in my archives.

In High School I had fun, I did not do as well as I would have liked, suffice to say I passed, by the skin of my teeth. I found God in 10th grade. Well, maybe he found me. I became part of a community. This is the period of my life where I started to explore the world at large. This is the period of time where God made me aware that there were others in this world that needed to be met and seen. We began this journey on small service oriented projects each weekend. My favorite projects were at Mother Theresa's home in the north end of the city, a convent where we worked with the land, and helped the sisters care for the poor and the sick. I also had the opportunity to work at an orphanage for abused and neglected children. I think this place has been the one "place" that stays with me to this day. I remember one of the young boys following me all over the place and the day he said to me, many years later into this project, "please take me with you!" I remember that little boy in my prayers, I wonder if he ever found a home to call his own?

It was in High School that I started to explore the world on trips and projects that took me out of my comfort zone. After seminary in 1987 I traveled to Europe and saw the cities of New York, London, Munich, Kitzbuehel, Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Zurich. I went to the Vatican and met the men of the church. I attended mass in the Vatican and climbed the cuppola and stood atop the Vatican as a young man. I have seen the late Pontiff John Paul II twice in my life, up close and personal. (there is more about this below) I guess this is one point I am going to cover in great detail below.

Maybe that's why Fr. Ray, on Wednesday night, said to me, "so your life is quite a ministry!" I never thought of my life as a ministry, but I heard it in the good father's voice, I guess life is ministry. I guess I have worked very hard to relate to others and to help the boys in my charge. I talked to Fr. Ray about them Wednesday night. This community is incredibly important to me. I never thought that I would find what I have found writing to you and sharing this journey with you as I have.

This has been an incredible ride. I talk about the "preacher's circle." They are the men of faith that make up the foundation of my writing. Gordon, Chuck, Scott, Eric, Randall, JAYSON, and the great Ms. Dylan. These men and women have been people I read daily. I pray for them and I I know they pray for me. And for you...

These three years in University have changed me in ways that I never knew were possible. I moved here to find a path, and ewach day, after day, after step after step was revealed to me, as God saw fit to show me. This meditation has been the backbone of my journey here in Canada. I came because of God and I live because of God. As the years unfolded I reached new heights in my life. I stayed clean and sober, and by default, I became part of a community. And that community has been the guiding force in my life to this day. I got involved in a community project and I have been a part of that community project for the last 5 years. I have met people who have become guideposts in my life. God has been very good to me and I would be remiss if I didn't say that parts of this journey have really tested my faith and my friendships and alliances with certain people.

When I began this piece I wanted to talk about changes. In this my third year of university studies and my continued interest in people around the world have brought me to a place that I am really not comfortable in. The war in Iraq started a few years ago, and I watched it begin, I watched demonstrations against the U.S. and others take place in my city. I made my stance against the war, and have kept that stance since. I have been able, in the last 5 years, to explore the world a litte farther.

In the first few years in Canada, I had to find my "place" in the world. I had to find my "voice" amid the many, and I had to define what the "world" meant to me. I remember the day I went to see Donald, and told him that i was confused and had no idea what to think or feel about being an American or a Canadian. I was sitting in the middle of a huge arguement of social issues and war bantering. I was in my first year of university and I was having trouble finding my distinct position in the greater "scheme of things." Donald told me that he went throught this himself. And his advice was to sit here (where I was) and look around. Observe the landscape and listen to the different voices speaking. He told me that if I sat here long enough and studied that landscape that eventually the path would appear to me, and I would find my way. It took a long time for that "way" to be revealed, while I lived my life, one day at a time. I went to class, I spoke my truths and I shared with others of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds. If university has given me one gift that is most important it is that within the department of religion, I have been able to share with people who are Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and protestant. I have met people from all over the world by birth and by emmigration.

Because of where I came from, I had to know where I was going. I have many friends of the Muslim background. There is one lady friend who I have not seen in a long time, she had a child and I don't see her on campus any more, but I think about here dialy, as I make my way into the building, I always hope that amid the crowd I would see her. Along with the war, came the writers from all sides writing commentary and real "goings on" in Baghdad. Why this is important is that when I lived in the U.S. in my father's house, one could not question the wisdom or actions of ones country, God forbid. My father fought for his country and the U.S. was all well and good. Never talk bad about ones country of origin. WRONG!

When the Marielitos and the Balseros came to Miami in the early 70's I decided that I would take the second language in school, from very early in my education. I wanted to know them and be part of them, because for over 30 years, I have been a part of a community that was amazingly diverse, wonderfully "faith filled" and ethnically "rich" in ways I never knew before. "soy Cubano por injeccione!" When I was diagnosed and moved from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, I got hooked up with a doctor and HIV care system that was totally 100% Latin operated, staffed and run. I had the most wonderful doctor and I made some of the most wonderful relationships that I would ever make. These people came to work each day and they filled us with Love, they filled us with Food, they filled us with Faith and at the same time they treated our illness to the best of their ability. I don't think I would have survived to this point had the team I was on not done everything possible to make my body strong, my heart larger, and my faith deeper.

My team did more than treat my illness, they treated my pain and fear. They talked to me, and found people to talk to me. I talked to others like me, some of whom are dead now, but at least I have their wisdom to share with you now. God was God was God, and God prayed for us, and we were taught, (some of us were catholic) that if we prayed we would find peace and healing, so prayed we did. The church (La Iglesia del Nuestra Senora Del Caridad) was on the same grounds as the hospital that treated me. For the better part of those many years of my life I would return to that church and pray to "Nuestra Senora" for healing and for faith. You see, in Miami, Latin faith carried with it more power than anglo faith. Add some Latin faith to an Anglo faith and you have a power that is Unmatchable in strength and Unduplicable in size. As long as I stayed within God's good grace, I could stay alive.

Fast Forward to 2006...

Over the last 5 years I have followed the path of Marguerite D'Youville, with the Grey Nuns of Montreal, because of my familial saint, great aunt - still alive and kicking at the mother house where Mere D'Youville rests today. Mere D'Youville is part of my heritage from my grandmothers life. She left me this secret to find when the time was right.

During the time period from 2000-2002 I had several experiences of an "other" form. The night that the Lady in White appeared to me, I had been praying the novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, I still pray that novena today. Anyways, I saw the lady, I smelled the roses, and after that I ran around the building hallways to see if I could find the origin of the smell of roses. I did not find it. When I returned to my apartment I found the crucifix on my windowsill outside my apartment.

I had a picture and relic of Mere D'Youville in my wallet and I never thought about it until that period of my life, just prior to coming to Montreal. I came here and did the pilgrimage and was introduced to my great aunt. My relationship with Mere D'Youville grew into a life journey of faith.

Some form of prayer and religious observance has always been a part of my life, even when I did not follow it openly, prayer remained a large part of my faith base. OK, Let's talk about the "now" the "present" where I am headed with this piece...

Young Catholic boys and girls in the 80's were groomed by the church to live holy and sacred lives. John Paul II was the man of faith that would help us attain sanctity. Following this very charismatic and prayerful man was what were were taught to do, by our parents and our churches. Sexuality was a non-issue for me until I turned 21.

I went to church and I prayed my prayers and ended up in a seminary that fucked me over - literally. I wanted to become a priest, to serve the church and to love God as none other had. I went to Seminary open hearted and filled with faith - with the acceptance and support of my home parish and her priests. I was this young man with stars in his eyes for God and the Holy father. I did not have a problem with the Holy Father's moral agenda. I did not know from Moral theology to Liberation theology to women or to solidarity.

I did not have any issues with the Holy Father. Because I was a normal Catholic boy aspiring to make my family happy and make my grandmother proud, and to continue to line of succession for my parish. I saw things in seminary that made me second guess my vocation, and it seriously jeopardized it for the rest of my life.

I have made many mistakes in my life, I hurt alot of people, and I did alot of stupid things. Over the last 13 years of my life, I have been trying to find God inside the insanity of trying to stay alive at any cost. If men of my past, did not care that I lived (then) circa 1992-95, I surely would be dead right now. But these men took me in when family threw me out. They helped me live a good life, if there was one time I would gladly return to is that period, with those men, in the same spaces, doing the same exact jobs. (but you cannot go backwards, only forwards) thank God for good memory cells in my brain. I can close my eyes and go there in a moments time.

The Pope, I keep going off topic.

When I was diagnosed, the good father's of my parish met with me, they offered me their counsel, their prayers and their widsom. They told me that God still loved me and thatI would be safe inside the walls of the church. And so it was. I never paid attention to the Papal teachings on Moral Theology. I was trying to stay alive and I was still practicing my faith, and that was good enough for the priests. Whether I was having sex with anyone was never broached. Never!!

I was kept within a fine insulated protected blanket by my friends like David and Logan, Ricky and Raphael. No one had access to me unless they went through the security net. That was a really good thing. I was kept on a short leash, and I lived. And I survived and it was good, even when I was at the sickest point of my life, I was never alone. Aside from my medical team, there were people then there was God.

Becoming a gay man, and making peace with my God of my understanding took a long time. BUT, I do have to say, that if it were not for the faith of many around me, I would have died. God was present to me, for me and with me, and that never changed. When the odds are stacked against you in Moral Theology, one must have a foundation in some solid bedrock.

When I move to Montreal, I had not found a church until I started attending mass at the Loyola Chapel on the West Campus of Concordia. That's where I met the good father La Fontaine and father Paul. There were other gay men in that parish so i was safe in that house of God for a long time. I went to mass, and was accepted, reagrdless of the Moral Theology of the Pope. As I began my religious education at Concordia, my faith would be shaken to the core and I would begin to question every part of my life - I would have to find some new answers. I would have to find new interpretations, and find new ways to see my life in the eyes of God.

Over the last three years I have studied biblical history, I have studied the other major religions of the world including native traditions of the Mohawk Indians. I have even studied many aspects of Christianity over the centuries. This year I am in Religious Personalities and Methods of Religion. Two very huge classes for me because once again I am invited to see things in a different light, to think about ideas that were foreign to me. I have written several papers on the person and teachings of the late Pontiff John Paul II. And I am amid another writing for this new class. What have I learned about myself and the late pontiff?

  1. I do not agree with his moral theology
  2. That his stance on women is not reflective of the way he worked with them as a priest
  3. He is a man of many contradictions
  4. He is a man of many problematic issues
  5. He was Cold, Calculating and Political, even if he did not like his priests to be involved in politics
  6. Women played a HUGE part in his life, ministry and his faith (his Mother, Mary the mother of God, and the many women who made contributions to his writings.
  7. He does not waver on Birth Control, Homosexuality, Socialism, Communism or Liberation Theology or his own Moral Theology

When John Paul II died in April of 2005, I was sad, The world had lost a great man, even if I did not agree with him. But you see, the priests (up and until) I met the new rector of the Chapel, always encouraged me to come to mass and to pray because that's what good faithful Catholics do. I went to mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral the day JPII died to pray for his soul, like millions of catholics did on that day. "What I was" did not play into my prayers and observances. I am still and always be a catholic until the day I die.

When Benedict became pope, I was miffed to say the least. Everyone around me was fleeing the churches because of Ratzinger's track record on exclusion and hatred. I chose to sit and wait to see where he would go with his theology and writing. That wait did not last long. I was going to class, Fr. Ray had left the chapel, I know the "new" rectors truth, I was not going to mass any longer. Why? because I could not make peace with the church as an institution. My prayers were still being said. I was still going to meetings I was still following my own theology and ways of life. I was married in a church before God, but after that, there were very few church visits except for the Mother House. I would meet God and Margeurite in the silence of her chapel.

What did I learn about me? That as a young man in religious life, I never questioned the authority of the church. I went to mass and partook in the graces offered by the Holy Father. I met him and he was gracious. He was a saintly man with a charismatic edge for young people, but today I know he was a tyrant and an Authoritarian behind closed doors. He was political and strong armed. I was idealistic as a young man. I did not know anything better or worse. I went to church as a gay man, and eventually as a sick man, to keep myself alive, and not even the Holy Father was going to keep me from the sacraments if the priests of my parish had anything to say about the Holy Father.

Church is about community for many
If one suffers, we all suffer
so would you rather exclude and let die
or include and let live

I have learned a great many things about John Paul II that I find incredibly revealing and interesting. He was a hard man but he was also human, with human issues and human problems. He used people, namely women. He was a solitary man, but he was "of the world" and "for the world" If only IF ONLY you followed his letter to the law. I know for me, that the many MEN of Faith that I knew and worshipped with did not follow the Pontiff to the letter of the law. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe I was important to the priests who knew me. Maybe they wanted to see me live and thrive, rather than be poor, sick and die.

Who was the better man, the priests of my parish or the Holy Father? JPII had his issues with birth control, condoms and people with aids. Meanwhile men of faith were ministering to people with aids with vigor and confidence that we would be saved and kept safe and in the end, funeraled out of catholic parishes, even if we were gay or sick.

I do not in any way follow the Moral teachings of the church. If you want to concentrate of the word "Sex" that is your problem, not mine. I live a good christian life to the best of my ability. My friends respect me because I am respectable. I do my good works every day as I was taught to do, and as I am encouraged to do by the nuns at the mother house. I contribute to the world at large and I care for my boys like a father would his sons. Many of my boys do not have solid father figures in their lives, some have lost their father's too early. I know I have done my best for them to help them along their paths.

I have seen my boys grow up into fine outstanding men in their communitites. Do you know how hard it is for young men to find their way into the world questioning their sexuality and coming out of the closet? Today's world is alot more antagonistic and evil. Christians are mean spirited and unmoving. Christians are unaccepting and unforgiving. That is why I am such an outspoken Gay Religious thinker. Father Ray equates my life as a ministry and so it is.

I have a great readership of men, women, boys and girls, christians and baptists, gay men and straight men, ministers and priests, teachers and professors, students and administrators. So what do I have? I have my integrity and I have my faith and I have my life. What I give you comes from my life, my experience and my faith. I have looked back in my logs to see where I have hands down said, I am no longer catholic and I am no longer going to church because my God is not the God of the church, the institutions.

Father Ray reminded us at mass on Wednesday night that is it Jesus we follow, it is by our faith that we live, it is by our works of faith that we are blessed by God, and it is God we serve in one another. We may not follow the "institution" to the letter of the law, and who does? If every church on the earth lived to the letter of the law based on Moral Theology, there would be alot of empty churches.

The other issue that bothers my spirit is the plight of the men, women and families in war torn areas of the world. I worry for the safety of some of my reads. I worry that I am powerless to help them, and that governments are not doing all they can to stop the wars and killings. People are living without basic needs, no water, no electricity and very little food. They don't have regular electrical services or phones. Their neighborhoods are being raided in the days and nights. Neighbors are being killed in the streets I read a young lady who goes by the name


I read her blog and it pains my heart. I am saddened by what I am reading and I don't know what I can do to life someones spirit and to say anything that she has not heard already. We who live in the world out here have so much, and they have so little. But what they have we do not. They have a thirst for life, they know the odds each day, they live to make the rest of us grateful for what we have, yet we want more, I just am besides myself. How can we let our governments fight wars in foreign lands? We need to get out and we need to help those who have very little rebuild their lives. WE need to stop the wars - before something really big happens and alot more people die in the process.

We need to rise up and call to world governments to stop this before things escalate into full odd world war, apocalyptic proportions. Famine needs to come to an end. Aids in Africa needs to be stopped, Aids around the world needs to be stopped. Diseases around the world can be ended with some world attention. The world can change of world governments stopped starting and propogating violence and war. We need to stop the fighting and the killing and we need to come to the aid of those who need it most, I think that is what Jesus would want of each and every one of us. And that begins in our own churches, communities, cities and states, provinces and countries. We must begin to rebuild a world that has shamefully fallen apart and is broken and if we maintian the ignorance and "not my problem" attitude this broken world will fall into more disrepair and despair. I have become a man who is interested in his world - in the lives of his famly of choice. I am interested in making a difference in my world. I love my neighbor as myself, and I love God and I do his bidding on a daily basis. And that is good enough for me.

It begins with Me
It begins with You
It begins with Us
And it begins with God

What have you done today
to make you feel Proud?


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