Hello again, dear readers. I know many of you are very interested in what happened with my Pride outreach. The account is my lengthiest post to date, but I feel it’s needed in order to give a full sense of the lead up to PrideFest, the events that took place that weekend, and my thoughts and reflections. Find a comfy chair now. I promise — it will be worth it.
A matter of business first. I believe it important to be above board about income and expenses for this venture. Please click here to request access to a Google Sheet listing all income and expenses. I will grant viewing access to anyone who wants it. In the end, there is a small deficit of $2.50. When I begin to raise funds for my efforts in 2019, I will carry over the deficit into my accounting of income and expenses, and it will hopefully not grow.
Part I: Sancte Michael Archangele, Defende Nos in Proelio
Three weeks ago, I had no plans to attend this year’s Pride events in St. Louis. For some time though, I’ve felt the need to reach back into the community of those who identify as LGBT. I’ve watched others in my circle of friends, particularly Joseph Sciambra, do outreach to these people. I had an idea in my head of what I would do based on what I felt was needed and what I have seen others do successfully.
As I was writing my last post, it began to turn into a reflection on how Catholics could include and perhaps bring about conversion to those who identify as LGBT. I realized by the end that I could not post what I had written without taking action myself. The most concrete action I could take was to dive right into a community of people I had once called friends, and to minister to them in whatever capacity I could.
My vision was bold yet simple: go to Pride, capture people’s attention with free water on a hot day, and invite them to prayer, particularly prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as Christ’s Sacred Heart is celebrated in the month of June. I shared this vision with the men in my bible study, and it was well received, and they greatly encouraged me. I shared it with the wider St. Louis Young Adult community and a lot of other Facebook groups, and it was also generally received well. I set up a page to raise money for the funds needed to carry this out.
As Pride approached, I had increasing anxiety about what I was going to do. I thought to myself how rash I was in making this choice two weeks before Pride and posting about it on the Internet so as to make backing out an embarrassment. I had knots in my stomach. I felt nauseous. I lost sleep. I was raw and emotional. I experienced this as Satan trying to make me weak.
I wasn’t entirely sure who would go with me to Pride, even the day before. There were text messages flying around, people being added, people telling me they were nervous or didn’t want to come at the last minute. It made it even more difficult and anxious. I had not had any time to get my materials together. I bought rosaries and water on Thursday. I got together all of my printed materials late into the night on Friday and spent hours printing and doing laundry (because I hadn’t had any time for that either). Early Friday morning, I had another small heart attack when my car’s oil light come on, signaling that I was in fact overdue for an oil change. Thankfully, I was able to work things out with my mom to use her car for the time while my car was getting worked on.
On Saturday morning of Pride weekend, I sang at a Mass for Juventutem Saint Louis, which happened that day to be at my regular parish of St. Barnabas in O’Fallon. Going to Mass brought me some initial peace. As I approached to receive our Lord in communion, I began to feel the knots in my stomach again. I felt the anxiety. I thought I was an idiot. I wasn’t sure how I could go through with it. I wasn’t sure it was fair to involve others. I was terrified. I was on the edge of tears.
However, I was heartened to see that three of my friends from my study would be joining me. Originally it was Mason, then Mason said that Matt would come too, and Matt said that Gavan would come. I look up to all three of these incredible men of faith, and I was comforted that they were along for the ride.
I picked up my car from the shop, I went to Sam’s and picked up ice, changed, and got all of my materials together at home. At this point, I was entirely focused on logistics. I didn’t have time to have feelings. First Gavan arrived to my house, and then Mason and Matt came in Matt’s truck, which was our vehicle for the day. We loaded up and drove off.
As we drove downtown, I told the men how I envisioned this would go. My nervousness was slight but not overwhelming. We parked, unloaded, and began to walk towards the grounds of PrideFest. We happened to park by a piece of artwork that I have often noticed when downtown, and the men found significant. It is a small mosaic above the door of an old building, appearing to depict a monstrance with the Eucharist enshrined within it.
We came upon a corner just off the grounds. On one side there were picnic tables, on the other the shade of a small tree. We decided to stop under the shade of the tree. I noticed a commotion to the south towards the grounds and went to investigate. I discovered a group of men, proclaiming the eternal punishments that attendees could face. They held signs, had amplification, and the air was tense as PrideFest attendees screamed in their faces, “Love is love!” I returned to the men, and we decided to have Matt and Mason stay with the coolers while Gavan and I explored the perimeter to find a good place to set up our operation.
As we walked, Gavan and I talked about a lot of things. It was a lot of me sharing my feelings about what I was seeing. I was sad. Incredibly sad to see these people enslaved by lies. I also spoke out loud about where I thought it would be bad to stand and distribute our things. Not by an entrance, so as not to ruffle the feathers of organizers. Not too close to groups proclaiming eternal punishment. Not here, not there.
The perimeter was somewhat vast. It felt like it took 20 minutes to walk around. My sadness increased as I saw these beautiful humans enslaved to a lie disguised as love. We passed another group proclaiming eternal punishments, and Gavan pointed out that they had a sign which made it appear they were Catholic. They were across the street, so we didn’t approach. I paused. The moment felt expansive.
In that moment, I was nearly overcome. Thoughts swirled in my head. Yes, the eternal punishment is real. We ought to be afraid. It is absolutely the truth. In Dante’s Inferno, the gates of hell proclaim this:
I am the way into the doleful city,
I am the way into eternal grief,
I am the way to a forsaken race.
Justice it was that moved my great creator;
Divine omnipotence created me,
And highest wisdom joined with primal love.
Before me nothing but eternal things
Were made, and I shall last eternally.
Abandon every hope, all you who enter.
Inferno, Canto 3 lines 1-9
Yes, hell is perfect justice and perfect love. But Christ has given us the keys to heaven. And as Catholics, we have the fullness of the truth of redemption and salvation. It makes me sad to see anyone telling those who identify as LGBT what they have already heard from religion. They have been told they are scum. They have been told they are unworthy. No. No. No. No, my friends. While we are here on earth, there is hope. Until the very moment of our death, there is hope. Christ came to call sinners to repentance. To see people who may have been Catholic making these proclamations made me angry. The church has given us the sacraments, without which there would be no hope on earth for us miserable sinners.
Wherever there is a confessional, there is hope for fallen man. Wherever there is a tabernacle, there is hope for the human race. Wherever there is a priest. There. Is. Hope. As Pope St. John Paul II said, “We are an Easter People.” We must share the hope of the resurrection of Christ with all, and proclaim Alleluia instead of damnation, hope instead of despair, and — for me — the love of the Sacred Heart instead of the ruin of Satan. That, friends, dear readers, is the message that will bring down the prison bars of gender and sexuality theories that are not the truth.
As we continued to walk, I let Gavan in on a couple of the hidden secrets of the gay community, such as how people often post about being 420 friendly on hook up apps, and my previous experiences at Pride. I gave him an insight into the mind of a practicing homosexual, the identity politics associated with it. He asked a few questions, genuinely curious.
We arrived back to where we had left Matt and Mason. Gavan and I had not found a better location in our search. We started to hand out water and talk to people.
My image of what would happen clearly was not going to happen. A few times I had the gumption to ask people if they needed prayer for anything in their lives. Once I had the courage to ask people to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart with us. Not a lot of flyers got handed out that day.
I think perhaps I thought (and how incorrect a thought it was) that all of us would have the courage to speak to people. But I quickly realized I had to be the one. It was my idea. It wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to carry it out but myself. And I did a few times. And the fruits were evident. As I’ve already said, there is hope for every lost soul, and I think some souls might have walked away from us with hope that day.
For the most part on Saturday, we handed out water, and left people with a “God bless.” Some people asked what we were really there for and that generated some conversation.
Overall, I think my volunteers, myself, and the people we encountered on Saturday all grew, even if just a little bit, in authentic love. Not bad for a day’s work.
Part II: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
At 9:37 AM Sunday morning, my phone buzzed twice and a notification came across on my iPad as I was rehearsing music for Mass. It was my dear friend Padrick. Padrick had previously told me he wouldn’t be able to come and help me. The message read, “What time are you going out there today?” I replied that I was unsure, but gave an approximate time. He replied with a thumbs up.I ask him, “You wanna come? Or at least donate a cooler? Yesterday worked out great having two big coolers but I only have one so far today.” He replied in the affirmative to both questions, and I was put a little more at ease about going out there in the afternoon.
Another friend joined Padrick and I for the day. He asked that his name not be used because, in his own words, he is, “a repentant gay man who doesn’t feel ready to let people know.” We will call him Robert for our purposes. Robert lives very far away from the rest of us and didn’t have a car for the day. After Mass, I sped down the highway for nearly 45 minutes to pick Robert up from his house, and we drove another 25 minutes to get to my house to pick up all the stuff and for me to change clothes.
Padrick was knocking on the door as I pulled up. I gave three honks to indicate my presence, and my mother opened the door and greeted him. Padrick had a new cooler in his car, and I had one already filled with water. We quickly departed after that as the day was getting late already. Padrick went to pick up some ice, and Robert and I went downtown to find a good spot.
It was clearly busier on Sunday. The parade had happened earlier in the day, and Robert and I decided to go to a busy corner to attract more people. We started praying a rosary as we were walking, and we ended up stopping on the corner of Tucker and Pine, right by the main stage and a main entrance. Padrick arrived a few minutes later with a cooler full of ice. We distributed it between both of our coolers and began to hand out water.
Robert immediately grabbed a handful of fliers and began handing them out with each bottle of water. I realized quickly this allowed people to engage if they were receptive. We developed a script after a while, along the lines of, “June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
We quickly ran out of water and ice, so I made several trips to Culinaria to gather more resources. While I was gone, one interesting interaction occurred that I saw the last few seconds of upon my return. Robert was talking to a Catholic woman, who had two sons who identified as gay. Wanting to be faithful to the church, she wished they would not be involved in the gay community. Wanting to love her sons, she came out to Pride with them that day. Robert encouraged her to continue praying for her sons.
Now, some of you might be thinking that she isn’t doing enough to bring her sons to the faith, and that may be so. Consider for a moment, though, the times we are in. As I stated in my previous post, the world is giving our children a message now from an early age that people who identify as gay are born this way; and, if they believe in God, God made them this way. And if they are born this way, or God made them this way, then they should fully embrace these feelings by dating members of the same sex, marrying them, and sharing a bed with them. The church has largely hidden the issue in the closet, dealing with it in unhelpfully vague terms, or they have flat out gone against what is true. Parents of children with same sex attractions are unsupported. And, let’s be honest, lots of clergy are in their own battle with homosexuality. So by all means, blame the parents for not being strong, but if you do, you should also horsewhip the bishops and priests who refuse to deal with one of the biggest issues–if not the biggest issue–facing the church and the family. Those who identify as LGBT need truth and love.
Truth and love.
This is the reason why I speak, and why I reach out to those who identify as LGBT. Because I love them. And when you love someone, you tell them the truth when others won’t. When you love someone, when you really, really love someone, you fight for them and you stick with them when other people discard them. You lift them up when they need help.
But as much as I love those who identify as LGBT, my love is nothing next to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. God took human form, suffered, and died, for love of every sinful man, including those who identify as LGBT.
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto, ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.
And by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
Et verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.
And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
When these words are said in the Traditional Latin Mass, we kneel. When the sacrifice at Calvary is represented on the altar, we, Mary, and all the saints and angels, kneel. We kneel before Love Himself. When priests and bishops fail, when we fail, when those who identify as LGBT are abandoned and lied to, there is one thing that will not fail, that will not give up or give in, that will comfort the afflicted, that will heal every ill, that will bring truth and goodness into an ever darkening world, and that is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the ultimate manifestation of Christ’s love for the world. I can say and do anything I want to and try to love. I can write blogs and books about all of the problems in the world and how to fix them, but (to paraphrase Corinthians), if I do these things without love, without the Mass, I am a resounding gong. Before you try to do anything in love, go to Mass. If you want authentic love to touch everything you do, go to Mass often. In all truth, I can write about loving those who identify as LGBT until my fingers fall off, but we cannot underestimate the power of having Christ’s beloved see his sacrifice for them in the flesh.
Alleluia, alleluia. Pascha nostrum IMMOLATUS est Christus.
Alleluia, alleluia. Christ our Pasch is SACRIFICED.
Alleluia for the Sunday of the Resurrection (Here as performed by Westminster Cathedral Choir) (Emphasis added)
I will close with this biblical quote, which relates to the featured photo for this post.
I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.
2 Timothy 4:1-7 DRC1752
My friends, may we continue to fight the good fight, run the course, and keep the faith. Next year, I plan on being at PrideFest again to try to give authentic love to those who identify as LGBT. I hope next year to have a Mass associated with my outreach. And I hope some of you can join me.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine.