In 2006, when I was 33 years old, I was fortunate to have been given a chance to travel to Rome. A tour of the Vatican City was of course included. During that time, St. John Paul II just recently passed away and my friends and I asked to see his tomb. It was at the basement of St. Peter’s Cathedral at that time and so we went. In front of his tomb, I did a typical Filipino custom of “bulong”, that is, mentioning a wish to a dead person to carry it with them to Heaven. My wish to St. John Paul II was for him to take away my homosexuality.
My job then required me to travel a lot. And aside from the business portion of the trips, I try to make it a point to have casual sexual encounters for every foreign destination I get to by going to bath houses, to cruising places or hooking up via the net. This trip to Rome included a trip to Amsterdam, one of the gay capitals of the world. Engaging on a homosexual encounter there would be a sure highlight. But somehow, I did not feel like having a homosexual encounter in this trip. It must have been the grace of the Church via the Vatican that was preventing me.
Fast forward to Dec 2013, when I was 40 years old. In a family reunion during the Christmas holidays, a cousin of mine gave me a prayer booklet on the Divine Mercy. She explains that she has been a recent devotee and would like to spread the devotion to the Divine Mercy. I found it interesting but I just left it in my car to pray it whenever I remember to. I never did.
On Jan 2014, I attended my annual retreat and during Spiritual Direction with the Priest Retreat Master, who I had as retreat master too a year prior and who already knew of my same sex attraction struggles from last year, suggested that maybe I need a support group for my struggles. It was he who introduced me to Courage. At first, I was surprised to find out that there actually is a support group and a Catholic one at that. So after the retreat, I set out to contact Courage and found out more about it through this blogspot. I sent an email and I got a reply after a few days. We exchanged our contact numbers via email and set up a meeting. Our first meet-up was on Valentine’s day, Feb 14. Picture that: two men with same sex attraction meeting up on a Starbucks on Valentine’s day! My old self would have called this a classic EB; but God has a way of renewing things.
Joining Courage made me realize in a substantial way that I am not alone with my struggles. I have a lot of gay friends but all of them seem to not be bothered with pursuing the homosexual lifestyle. I was well adjusted to my condition, i.e., I did not hate it, but an overwhelming feeling that I was not doing God’s will was ever pressing as I have always been prayerful and pious. Courage also increased in me the desire to pray more. The more I know about my condition, the more I realize that there is much more to be done, and the more graces I will need to call upon, so I pray some more. I decided to commit to one hour a week Blessed Sacrament Adoration as part of this deepening prayer life. I have attempted this so many times before but the one hour was just too much for me. This time, I decided to use the Divine Mercy prayer booklet that my cousin gave me as my starting point of the adoration. Suddenly, by God’s grace, since then, one hour was a breeze.
Much more than that, the weekly adorations were blessed with so much revelations and enlightenment. Praying to the Divine Mercy, Jesus said that His Divine Mercy seeks homosexual sinners. I asked how. He answered that He wants to use me. Then He made me look back at all the many homosexual encounters I had in the past. My guess estimate is that I have had sex with about 700 men. I felt much shame and sorrow with how I have defiled all these souls and I am forever connected to them because of my homosexuality. I had a strong urge to make atonements for each of these souls that I have defiled; to heal our vicious relationship. Then the Divine Mercy told me to receive one Eucharist for each of the souls that I have defiled as atonement. It was then I understood how he wants to use my weakness for His glory. I am forever connected to each of these souls because of my homosexual acts with them and Jesus wants to use all these connections to reach them too and heal all of us. Jesus’ words: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12: 9) became flesh for me.
I have been a regular mass goer for some years now (Sunday and weekdays). So this instruction in my mind was doable. Still, it was two years’ worth! But I said yes. A few days later, while reflecting on May as the month of Mary I was made to realize that I was actually skipping Saturday in my daily mass. (Please note that the exchanges with the Divine Mercy summarized above was a series of weekly adorations and did not necessarily occur on one session. As is typical with a dialogue with the Lord, it is not time bound as we understand time to be.). I found this silly especially because Saturday is a special day dedicated to the Blessed Mother. So, starting that month, I decided to also hear mass on Saturdays as proof of my devotion to the Blessed Mother. Since then, by God’s grace, I have been a daily communicant. It is very interesting to see this interplay between Jesus and His Mother Mary. And how when Jesus asks you to do something, He also sends the means to do it, in this case, His beloved Mother. This made real for me: “for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11: 30)
Being a daily communicant was a most powerful grace. I consider that a major turning point in my redemption. Graces, mercies, understanding, consolation, and deepening of virtues came successively since then. Whereas I would often lose in my same sex struggles before, I was winning more and more frequently now because of the Eucharist. What I would like to point out though is that some days / weeks prior to becoming a daily communicant, towards the end of April that year, St. John Paul II was canonized together with St. John XXIII, during Divine Mercy Sunday. I read some more on St. John Paul II and found out that he was a Divine Mercy advocate. He has heard my “bulong” 7 years prior and sought the Divine Mercy to help me. It is also during his visit on World Youth Day 1995 that he emphasizes: “Do not be afraid.” Which is courage actually phrased differently that is quoted on the Courage shirt. Divine Mercy, I trust in You.
One of the activities that Courage does, and which I enjoy, is doing mission work with some kids in Antipolo through the Missionaries of Charity. These kids come from poor neighborhoods which the Missionaries of Charity sisters regularly visit. They saw that these kids, mostly teenagers, are already manifesting homosexual behavior…they were boys wearing make-up and blouses and acted flamboyantly. They will gather them once a month at the Missionaries of Charity house in Antipolo and will invite Courage members to meet with them. We are now giving them catechism classes and more importantly, developing friendships with them.
Then, on another occasion, the Missionaries of Charity house in Tayuman invited us to give a talk on homosexuality there too. During this activity, some of us were discussing and wondering in amazement how come the Missionaries of Charity has been helping us tremendously in our apostolate. Their dedication to this apostolate was a mystery to us.
(Witnessing or apostolate is the fifth goal of Courage. As I am being slowly enlightened, it is an integral part of our healing.)
Some weeks after that discussion re the generous help given by the Missionaries of Charity, while surfing Facebook, I chanced upon a video posted by the Marian Fathers of the US on a lecture on the Divine Mercy. It was about an hour long but since I had this growing devotion to the Divine Mercy, I wanted to know more. The priest speaker was talking how the devotion to the Divine Mercy can be summarized in the acronym FINCH --- feast, image, novena, chaplet, and hour. Then he proceeded explaining each. When he got to “image”, he explained its background and how it is printed in their office by themselves to manage the cost. Then he shares that part of the proceeds of the sale of the image goes to the funding of their seminary. He goes on saying that a tenth of the images printed are sent as donation to the poor through the Missionaries of Charity. When it got to this part, I cried uncontrollably. I cried because I suddenly felt the weight of the seriousness of His intent that He wants His Divine Mercy to reach homosexual sinners. I cried because this was the answer to the mystery on why the Missionaries of Charity are helping us in our apostolate. The Marian Fathers are doing a charitable thing to the Missionaries of Charity in the US. Somewhere miles away, in another part of the globe, the Missionaries of Charity in turn are helping us reach homosexual sinners so that all of them will experience and encounter His Divine Mercy.
We do our best to be faithful with our monthly commitment to visit the kids of Antipolo. Since then, by God’s grace, He has been showing to us His hand of Mercy transforming them. The heavy make-up has been replaced with face powder; the blouses with regular shirts. Sure, the flamboyance is still there, but their sharing sessions and their Gospel and teaching reflections are showing a deepening of faith that surprises us including the Missionaries of Charity sisters.
This month, the schedule we have with them is on Apr 12, the Divine Mercy Sunday. The plan is to talk to them about the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Of course, there is nothing else that would be appropriate to teach the kids that day; this is expected. But, judging from the providential turn of events, it looks like we are in for something wonderfully unexpected. Divine Mercy, we trust in You.
"Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold over it." (Diary, 1075)