I did warn you that I wouldn't whitewash things.
Not so long ago I posted an essay, drawing on some time praying and journaling, in which I talked about reconciling myself more deeply to celibacy. Like most of my posts about growth in virtue, it was ambitious, hasty, and overrated my ... well, most things.
It's been a year and a half since I had any serious belief that celibacy was a viable option for me. I believe as firmly as I ever have that celibacy is right; but that is a rather different matter. Perfection is always right, and always unattainable; save by the strange graces granted to those who, in some fashion, seem to compel the generosity of God in a way that I do not understand.
People will say that such graces are available to anybody who wants them. I shall say boldly that in my experience, that simply isn't true. To be blunt, I think it is wishful thinking, not sound theology. I challenge anyone to do as much as I did to bolster my chastity -- Mass, daily prayer, Confession, the Rosary, scapulars, icons, the Angelic Warfare Confraternity -- and lose as much ground, and as persistently, as I did at the same time I was doing these things. I was told that chastity would become easier as I formed good habits, and that prayer and the sacraments would foster these habits and transform my life. I was told I'd get stronger. I got weaker instead -- more and more exhausted, more and more unable to cope with the pressures of sex and loneliness and misunderstanding. And, because of that, increasingly confused and in pain that God was not helping me like I was told He would.
This is the part where I'm supposed to say something about an epiphany in the confessional, or discovering the saint whose intercessions finally changed everything, or the indispensable support of my friends, or joining Courage, or a light about God's mercy not depending on my efforts breaking on me. And after that everything was (apparently) easy. I have nothing of that kind to offer.
I try not to resent those who do have such things to offer; I am glad that their pains have been relieved. And, while I dare say some of them are being dishonest, I don't automatically assume that about anybody -- it is a very terrible thing to accuse someone of lying, especially about a matter of such grave importance as their relationship with God, and I don't do that lightly. But I would be lying if I set forth a pious conventionality instead of the naked truth, and the naked truth is that, in the thirteen years since I realized I'm gay, it has gotten gradually harder the whole time, no matter what I have done, and no matter what I have asked for from the Lord. And I do think that, whether it is intended or not, the message that those sorts of conventional Aesops send -- that if you just do this one thing, regardless of what this one thing is, you'll experience victory -- is a false and pernicious message.
Nevertheless I don't doubt His goodness. Nor do I seriously doubt the Church's teaching about homosexuality. Is it so very shocking that an infinite being should choose to do something I don't understand? He's done it before. When the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, it was with terrible irony and not with answers. Why, I don't know; but Job was strangely satisfied, and I don't find that answers are what I need to be satisfied as Job was. Not right now, anyway.
St. Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite saints, and one of my favorite quotes from her is also one of the quotes I hate the most in the whole world. She said -- I don't know when -- that You must learn to bear for God's sake the trial of being displeasing to yourself. I've been wrestling with that sentence for the last two years, with ferocity and anguish; it has dislocated my hip with a touch. I can't understand it, or am only just beginning to. I can never make up my mind whether it's pride or just a lack of wisdom that makes this saying so dark to me. Maybe it's both.
And where does that leave me, exactly? If what I'm really being taught through this agony of failure after failure is patience -- with God's timing, and with myself, since I suppose I haven't much call to be impatient with me if God isn't -- then, with respect to chastity, what should I be attempting? A celibacy I know already, from a decade of bitter experience, I cannot do? If I'm going out and sleeping with men regularly anyway, is it really better not to get into a relationship, that would at least have the merit of being a humanized experience of sexuality? Why is that a compromise, but years of fruitless attempts are somehow heroic, despite the damage it does to other people -- that damage being exactly what a relationship would avoid? Is it even psychologically possible to try to do the impossible? I don't try to fly by flapping my arms, nor could I, because I know I can't (no seriously, trust me, nobody wanted to fly more badly than I did when I was little).
I have no answers. Therefore I offer none.
Introit for the Third Sunday in Lent
Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net: look thou upon me, and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and in misery.
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: my God, in thee have I trusted; let me not be confounded.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.