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Monastery, Protest & Home

I have a lot to say about my retreat and the protest against Peter Akinola last week, but really no one to tell it to. Two Gay friends came over last night and I thought I’d find them curious, but they weren’t at all; threatened, I suppose. Oh well, we burned some Holy Cross incense anyway, on the side porch.

My retreat was brief, Tuesday to Friday. Then I flew almost home to Chicago for the Akinola demonstration. The crummy Super-8 Wi-Fi in Glen Ellyn didn’t work Saturday night so I couldn’t post Morning Prayer for Sunday on dailyoffice.org. I’m sorry. I kept up all last week by working in advance and posting from Holy Cross (to the consternation of the monks, who want retreatants to retreat from the outside world), but I counted on the hotel Wi-Fi, which wasn’t at all stable. I was lucky to get Saturday’s office up—but I should have realized the service could go out at any point, and gone ahead and done Sunday’s. Believe me, I hate it when the site is not reliable. If I forget to post the night before, or if the webhost is down (which happens more than I like), I wake up at 4 a.m. to make things right.

Oh well, let it go, I am not perfect. These are my preliminary conclusions from the retreat, subject to change. The bro’s treated me as an Inquirer after the religious life. Even the Superior learned my name; I remember his wishing me peace at Mass. “Who am I, that he should notice me?”

My retreat was a blessing in every way. A thousand stars sparkling overhead at night; the fog-shrouded flowers in the morning; the mighty Hudson River down below; the hugs and blessings constantly bestowed; the catacombs below the church the deepest mystery of all. What hath God wrought?

I slept like a dead man and ate like a live one. Augh!

But something wasn’t quite compelling, and it’s better to know that than to be deluded.

This is not a hasty decision; rather it’s an awareness, mercifully quick, that God doesn’t seem to call me to be a monk. Maybe God’s got better things in mind. (Or maybe God’s got the monastery’s best interests in mind.)

I didn’t have a problem with daily Mass; as the son of a former “Morning Prayer” parish, I wasn’t sure (or much worried about) how I’d feel about that. Mass every day is a good thing.

Imagine learning that from one three-day retreat; it’s major. In the same way that the Daily Office marks time and commits it to God, so does following Christ’s commandment every day: “Do this.”

Christ was right. (Eyebrows dance!)

The only theological difficulty I had during my Anglo-Catholic retreat was minor, and concerned the confession used at Compline. The monks confess to “Mary, all the saints, and to you.” I loved confessing to “you,” everyone else present, but still, the second night I had to go silent. I do not believe in Marian devotion and I don’t confess to dead people, but to God and the living—even though the saints in heaven live too. Mary is not the equal of God, she is God’s handmaiden. I am opposed to any confusion on that point. Queen of Heaven, yes; but saints are mere specks next to God.

I also don’t do Benediction (and Holy Cross didn’t offer it during my stay; now I’m ranting). On that I’m almost a 28th Article man: “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshiped”—though I have no problem whatsoever with reservation, or elevation during the making of Eucharist. But I will not do a Wafer Parade. The Bread is consecrated to be eaten; the act of eating and drinking is our assent and worship.

I’m Gay, kinda Catholic and kinda not. Do I have to return the toaster-oven?

On to bigger issues: I’m not at all sure I have what it takes to be a monk; my motives are wrong. I am, as Br. Jim said, “on a quest for God,” which for some is the religious life, and I have “a strong sense of call.” That was so good to hear; Br. Jim and Br. Bernard were constant Gospellers to me. I’m not fooling myself, God does call. But the question is where, what, to whom.

I greatly enjoyed my time at the monastery, and I loved the people I met, including a Lesbian retreatant from the city and a lay Gay couple who are Associates, guys who live on the monastery grounds in warm weather and help out wherever they can. Those laymen, George and Chet, did as much to welcome me and make me part of the community as anyone else. We were instant brothers. (And they’re such a cute couple.)

But I did not quite fall in love with the monastery; I wanted to, but I didn’t. I did not quite feel the Magnet of God’s love calling me there (I’m the pig-iron, God is irresistible), and maybe this is my own failing; I can pray four times a day but not five.

I loved the Great Silence, and found it hard to talk the next morning; on the other hand my gift is the talking, the words, so what was I doing there?

I was testing a vocation, and finding I didn’t get to first base. I flunked at monkdom. Not a big surprise, but the reason why I flunked is illuminating.

My motives are wrong. I didn’t expect that but now that I’m back home I can’t say I’m surprised. I am not fleeing an unhappy relationship, looking for a retirement home, wanting to lose myself in 24/7 withdrawal from the world, expecting a permanent feel-good lovefest or any of the other typical mistakes Inquirers make. But still, I have issues to deal with here at home, in my regular life—unemployment, health insurance, a mortgage—and those demand my attention first.

God is so intimate; s/he enters into the depths of our personality. S/he finds everything that’s unhealed, still wanting, not-dealt-with. You can’t fool God; s/he smokes you right out.

So I got called to look into the mirror, and naturally turned away. The good news is we all turn away, and s/he loves us anyway. As George-and-Chet said (I don’t remember which one, they were the most adorable butch pod-peas), “God doesn’t call many people to this life.” He was sad about that, but realistic; monks need guys like him. A vocation to live in the world is holy too.

I don’t feel unworthy; no one is, so why should I be different? I feel sorry that at this late date I’m still too enmeshed in The Unfinished.

The brothers were fabulous to me; they gave me so much time in acts of pure love. Please God, bless them! Holy Cross is by far the best order in the Episcopal Church for Gay men; the monks live the Inclusive Church others just talk about. That place abounds in love.

But I am an activist, and I have to get online, and the demonstration against Peter Akinola was the first in human history. THAT is Joshua, not chanting and wearing funny robes in church. A diva without an aria is a talent gone to waste.

I’m a little sad to realize this, but the fact is I’m still a layman. Thanks be to God!

What the brothers gave me was the ability to come home after West Park and Wheaton, have a night’s rest, pull jeans over my nakedness, sit in my prayer chair wearing Stephen’s Lutheran, handmade rainbow stole, eye my newly-bought icon-reproduction of the Holy Cross crucifix, thank God and shut up.

The bro’s gave me back my prayer life. Thanks be to God.

God is the Magnet; my job is to be the pig-iron. Pig-iron doesn’t think, it just reacts. My call may be somewhere else, so the struggle goes on. This hurts a little; I would so much rather be certain, but wouldn’t we all.

Then I sped from St. James’ Cathedral, Chicago, to Glen Ellyn and beyond. I showed up at the Akinola protest knowing I had done virtually nothing to promote it, beyond a few online notices. Would this be an utter failure? Would anyone show up?

I drove to Washington and Franklin, site of the Edman Chapel, and there beheld the sight of my life: dozens of protesters, moved by God to come out. I was behind the times; they were way out in front.

There is nothing God cannot accomplish, even when the organizer is on retreat. God laughs at fools like me.

Peter Akinola, you got picketed in Wheaton, Illinois. We made the Tribune, the Sun-Times, AP, Religion News Service, EpiScope, Thinking Anglicans. I didn’t have to sing an aria, the laity did my talking for me.

Pray for the LGBT Anglicans in Africa. They are who we picketed for. Who are you, God, to notice us?

God touches the Gay people of Africa; he touches all of us, and mere Associates like Chet and George are the greatest reconcilers of all. God love my bro’s Bernard and Jim, but the grace flows from Chet’s house and the mighty river.++

5 Responses

  1. […] GAYTWOGETHER wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI did not expect to find that my motives are wrong; I am not fleeing an unhappy relationship, looking for a retirement home, wanting to lose myself in 24/7 withdrawal from the world, expecting a permanent feel-good lovefest or any of … […]

  2. Howard of blessed memory was ALWAYS a layman, forst and foremost. You find yourself in very good company =)

    I had the privilege of meeting Howard before he died, and of being enfolded in the extended family centered around his household. It was touching to see your blog dedication.

  3. Thank you for saying this, Kit. Howard E. Galley was the most fabulous teacher I’ve ever had. Imagine spending nine full months “at his knee,” learning, absorbing, being entertained and trying to give as good as I got. Thousands of people in the Church knew and loved him, but only a few ever got the opportunity that God gave to me. I only +hope+ I live up to his standards, so help me God.

    Howard Galley was a star.

  4. Hi Josh

    I know this was written in 2007 but I’ve just stumbled upon it in 2009! Just to say thanks – as aformer monk who really misses being one but who left because of the non-acceptance of gay men, by gay (mostly closeted) men.

    I miss the sense of community but unless I found a LBGT monastery, I doubt if I’ll be going back!

    Hope life’s being good to you.

  5. Thanks, Wil. I think there’s something to be said for a LGBT monastery—and also for one that is not.

    Sexuality is central to personality, and God calls us in our personalities to be in relationship with him/her. God does this without discriminating, unlike that order you once were part of. Congratulations for getting out of a toxic place.

    I think you’d find several takers if you started a Gay monastery that practices celibacy. The abstinence does seem important when the central issue is the quest for God; that is, it’s not a quest for human sexual intimacy, but for God.

    That said, one of the best models of the religious life that I’ve seen is the Order of Julian of Norwich, which includes all genders and orientations as part of its Rule. They seek the fullness of humanity in their community. At the same time they recognize in Julian’s own Revelations a sexual aspect; she spoke of Jesus as her Lover.

    I think she was right about that, and that OJN’s setup, with men and women, Gay and Straight, is a mirror of heaven. We’re all going to be there together, so maybe we should start practicing here.

    I hope to visit the Julians sometime soon. Their house is within driving distance, and they’ve asked me to collaborate on a project. I want to see how they live.

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