Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”(Mark 6:31)
Sometimes I really value the California Catholic Daily: not for its commentary, which is frequently offensive, but for the news and information. Quite often, when they throw up their hands in horror at something they find scandalous, I find the information valuable, and so it is today. This time, it is the notion of gay men attending a retreat that they object to – and that I would like to promote.
As the quotation from Mark makes clear, the Lord clearly invited his disciples to go away with him, to a quiet place, and rest awhile. That invitation is every bit as relevant to us in the modern world as it was in New Testament times – and even more relevant to us who are gay, lesbian or trans than it is to others. The point of a retreat is to spend time with the Lord, deepening in relationship and the spiritual life – which is a wonderful, transformative antidote to the hostility we sometimes receive from misguided men and women in the Church (such as those at CCD).
I have had some wonderful, treasured experiences on retreat myself. Most of these have been entirely silent, directed retreats on the Ignatian model, including a most remarkable six day retreat the advent before I left South Africa for the UK, and which continues to provide me with spiritual nourishment several years later. I am deeply conscious though that it has been far too long since I last made an extended retreat, and am thrilled that in another six weeks I will have the opportunity to make another. Unlike the silent retreats I have made in the past, this will be specifically with a group of other gay men, and will be structured to include time for sharing our experiences, as well as for personal prayer. This reflective sharing, of our lives and of our prayer experiences, is also valuable – and a good reason for gay men or lesbians to consider retreats specifically geared and structured to them.
The retreats that have so upset CCD are by Fr. David Matz, C.PP.S. and Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S. – both members of the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and working respectively in San Francisco and Oakland. Sadly, for all the protestations at CCD, I am unable to find from their article any information on specific retreats that they are planning, but only some fairly innocuous links to work that they have done, for example on Advent and Lenten Days of Recollection. Some of these have featured in “Communion“, the newsletter of Catholics for Marriage Equality in California, which you can read in full at Gay Catholic Forum. Still it is obvious that both are involved in this kind of ministry, for which I thank them. (I also thank them for giving me the excuse to post the link to ”Communion“, and to the very useful Gay Catholic Forum homepage, and to its resources page). Look out for future information on further retreats or single days of reflection that they are involved in.
Other retreats specifically organised for LGBT Catholics are promoted in “Reclaim“, the newsletter of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM). This does not attract the same hostility from CCD, perhaps because this ministry is backed by the bishops – but the principle is the same. Some queer Catholics might be resistant to these retreats for that reason, fearing attempts to foist an “ex-gay” type approach on us, but it is important to note that CALGM quite specifically aims to meet people where they are, and can be safely recommended.
One retreat they are currently promoting is to be held in Tampa, Florida, in July 2011, and will be led by Fr Jim Jim Schexnayder and Maureen Connors, PhD. I met Fr Jim over a light supper with members of the Soho Masses congregation, when he was briefly passing through London, and would happily endorse a retreat led by him. This is the description of this retreat, taken from the CALGM :
The U.S. Catholic Bishops in their 1998 pastoral letter, Always Our Children, affirmed: “You are also a child of God, gifted and called for a purpose in God’s design.” This retreat weekend will focus on the giftedness and mission of gay and lesbian people of faith. It will seek to deepen and integrate personal spirituality in relation to personal identity through reflections shared by the retreat leaders, group sharing, personal prayer time, healing ritual, availability of private conversation with the retreat leaders, and joyful Sunday Eucharist.
CCD is horrified at just the idea of retreats specifically prepared for lesbian, gay or trans Catholics. I say we need many more of them. Support them, wherever, and in whatever way, you can.
Related posts and links:
Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (CALGM Website)
Reclaim (CALGM Newsletter)