In this recent post, I wrote that in welcoming homosexual-headed families into our parish, we would have to teach not only the full catechism but also, “the even-greater catechism of transcendent love.”
Reader Glenda S. wrote asking me what that meant, exactly. I meant that the catechism gives us the rules and the teachings; the willingness to dare loving all that does not conform to the text, though, can instruct us on how to really live the teachings, beyond simply “following the rules”. Ideally, our catechism should urge us toward empathetic love, and that love should further emblazon the catechism within our hearts and minds, so that we are not merely managing to be obedient, but truly pastoral to each other, as well.
An evening spent eating and talking with some male, homosexual friends inspired Heather King, in her remarkable new book, Stumble, to write something which, I think, better explains my meaning:
“…even we believers shrink from the radical call of Christianity, which is not only to give our whole selves, but to be ridiculed for it, misunderstood for it; to be charged with a lack of compassion. I thought of all the people who would jeer, “Who cares that you haven’t had sex in ten years; why don’t you picket for gay marriage?” I thought, again, of Flannery O’Connor, who observed, “The Catholic novelist believes that you destroy your freedom with sin; the modern reader believes, I think, that you gain it in that way. There is not much possibility of understanding between the two.”
In The Lord, Romano Guardini observed,
Every Christian one day reaches the point where he too must be ready to accompany the Master into destruction and oblivion: into that which the world considers folly, that which for his own understanding is incomprehensible, for his own feeling intolerable. Whatever it is to be: suffering, dishonor, the loss of loved ones, or the shattering of a lifetime oeuvre, this is the decisive test of his Christianity. Will he shrink back before the ultimate deaths, or will be he bale to go all the way and thus win his share of the life of Christ? What is it we fear in Christianity, if not precisely this demand? That is why we try to water it down to a less disturbing system of “ethics” or “Weltanschauung” or what have you. But to be a Christian means to participate in the life of Christ — all of it; only the whole process brings peace.
That is what we call each other to as Catholics: the highest level of awakening, the highest level of sacrifice, the highest level of participation, the highest level of love.
So, we give all we have. We are like the widow’s last two mites, and like mites, we are unseen, tossed aside, hidden, of no account in the ledger of the world. We give all we have anyway, in our silence, scorned as bigots, ridiculed as nutcases, our hearts aflame with the hope that one day, perhaps not in our lifetimes, another human heart may catch flame as well.
I didn’t tell my friends any of this that night. I didn’t inform them that gay sex is wrong. I didn’t mentally check to assure that my thoughts were in accord with the finer points of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I said, “That must be hard, thinking people are going to accuse you of pedophilia.” I spoke a bit about my own lifelong sense of exilte, of how relationships to me have always meant more or less unalloyed pain.
We went on to speak of movies and books. We ate panna cotta with praline and raspberries. I left the three of them, still drinking coffee, and walked home alone, beneath the moon.
“Save all of yourself for the wedding though/nobody knows when or if it will come,” wrote Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade.
We offer up all that we are as we wait, in secret hope, for the wedding. And receive it back – a hundredfold, a thousandfold, as I did that night from my friends — as a gift.
This book is meant for our days, I think. No coincidence that Stumble has been published at this time. Pick yourself up a copy. It’s a brief but beautiful read for the porch and the rocking chair.
And if you’re not sure you’re “getting” what I’m saying, or you think I am advocating either Catholic Gay Weddings or Ignoring Sin, then, please read my previous post. Funny, I posted this piece to help people understand that one better. Now…some have to read that one, to better understand my meaning, here. This is what I get for writing with a headcold! I might need a vacation. :-)