Member Testimony: Jim B
As I approach this season of Lent, I'm making a checklist of the things I need to improve in my spiritual life. I still need correction, but I rejoice in where I'm at today. My active role as a member of Courage and supporter of Encourage, along with my prayer life and participation in parish activities enable me to live a good, wholesome and chaste Christian life.
It wasn't always this way! When I was twenty-two years old, after recently leaving the novitiate where I stopped short of taking vows as a religious brother, I was forced into my first sexual encounter. I was in a quandary - in spite of my conscience, I wanted to explore this new world that I thought would be the answer to my emotional needs. I was a scared, lonely and shy kid. I began looking for sex, but I was actually searching for a "Mr. Right", who would be my father, mother, lover, comforter, and ardent supporter. Six years after my first experience, I thought I'd met him. We had our own friends, hang-outs, organizations, theatre, and even began attending a church where I eventually became a minister. This lifestyle allowed me to strive for the attention and approval which I desperately wanted.
Many in the "gay" community dream of a long-term relationship like this one, which lasted twenty-one years, for so many are searching for Mr. or Ms Right and that person never comes. But even if you find that dream world, you're still fostering a Peter Pan mentality. It might feel loving and carefree, but it certainly is not growth inducing. You never grow up emotionally, and therefore it is a lie. Let's face the fact - God never intended it for there is not true physical or complementary union.
I knew and dreaded the inevitable - when my "partner" Leo would die and I would be left alone. He was approaching eighty and I had just celebrated my fiftieth birthday. I loved him and I always will - he is in my prayers daily. With the demise of the congregation that I pastored, we joined Christ Church Unity, a metaphysical group which served as a bridge for me from the "Gay" church to my eventual return to the Roman Catholic Church. These people accepted, encouraged and supported us before and during Leo's illness, and they accepted my ultimate decision to return to the faith of my youth and a life of chastity.
During the entire month of May, 1988, Leo was dying in the hospital. While I was ministering to him using positive affirmations from the Unity Church, a prayer came to me that I hadn't said in over twenty-five years, the Memorare. I recited most of the prayer but couldn't remember the ending. After I left Leo's bedside and approached my car in the parking lot, the final lines came back to me. It wasn't just the words, "O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions but in thy clemency hear and answer me, Amen" that came back to me, but Mary whom I had shut out of my life for many years - She came back and brought me to her Son. That night, I found my set of rosary beads and started on my journey back home. The date was May 13th, which was the anniversary of Mary's first appearance at Fatima.
A few days later, a copy of a Murillo painting depicting Jesus and John the Baptist as children eating bread crashed to the floor - this made me think of the sacraments. During my hospital visit that evening, I realized that a priest hadn't seen Leo because he was now listed as a member of Unity, although he had a Catholic background. The nurse sent for the chaplain and, after some persuasion, Leo was administered the Sacrament of the Sick. I quickly told the chaplain my story. He suggested that I go to the pastor of my local parish. Fittingly, the name of the Church was Holy Spirit.
In the late evening of May 31st, the feast of the Visitation, Leo passed away. On my way home, I had to wait for a long stop light. A still small voice told me, "Jim, you're free. Now you can do anything." The following evening, the pastor of Holy Spirit spoke to me and assured me that there was nothing keeping me away from the sacraments. He heard my confession after twenty-three years. It was a very emotional time for me - although I had lost my best friend, I had regained a lost treasure: the Roman Catholic Church. It was Christ who brought me back to the Church through the influence of His mother and through the power of the Holy Spirit in the series of events prior to my companion's death.
The power of the Holy Spirit has constantly brought me to new horizons. In 1989, while recuperating from a broken leg, I read a book: Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones by Rev. Benedict Groeschel. Courage was mentioned in this work and I decided to find out more about this organization. I attended my first meeting nine years ago, and I've been an active participant ever since. Through the years, many men and women have shared their struggle with me. I have developed several close, chaste, and wholesome friendships which have deepened my relationship to Jesus.
Last May 31st, I professed my vows as a member of a secular institute where I can remain in the world, sharing Jesus' message through Courage and other apostolates. I've been shown a loving, caring and forgiving Jesus who has led me to new heights of peace and joy. These are the gifts of the Church which did not condemn me, but welcomed me back into the fold.