Our Semana Santa Fabcast (the third and last part will be posted very soon) made me reminisce about my own spiritual journey.
When I was young, everything I believed about God, the Church, religion, and anything spiritual (including the concept of hell, ghosts and the Devil) came from the teachings of my parents, teachers (including priests) and from the homilies during Sunday mass. It never occurred to me to go against the teachings of the Church because they successfully brainwashed us that going against the Church meant going straight to Hell. My faith then was based on fear.
My awareness of my homosexuality, and my struggle to accept that part of myself (and eventually of myself) was what also triggered my crisis of faith. I had to figure out a way to reconcile my faith with my sexuality. At the start, I already had trouble with the “Being gay is not a sin, but acting on it is; love the sinner, hate the sin” way of thinking; it didn’t make sense.
What pushed me over was actually a Jesuit priest who heard our confessions during a high school retreat. He was a fairly young priest (I think he was in his mid-to-late 30s). Our confessions were done at the garden of the retreat place, so we had to address the priest face to face; there were no confessional boxes to shield ourselves. I felt naked in front of him; maybe that’s why I didn’t try to hide anything from him. And out came my worries and fears and confusion and insecurities about being gay. I felt unwanted by society, by my church and by my God. The last part was what puzzled me the most; it didn’t fit my image of an all-loving God who created me in His image.
The priest quietly listened to my outpouring; at the end of it, he gave my my prayers of penance and admonished me to not sin again. But before I could stand up to go, he held me back. “That’s what I’d say to you because I am duty-bound by my vow to tell you what the Church believes,” he said. “But this is what I believe. I believe that God loves you unconditionally, no matter what. He made you that way, so rejoice and embrace yourself. Love yourself because God loves you. There is nothing wrong with you.”
That was the very first time I heard a man of the cloth actually tell me that there was nothing wrong with me. That was life-changing; it altered the way I thought of the Church. It made me fearless in questioning the teachings imposed upon me as a child; I learned how to think for myself. It changed the way I looked at the Church; far from a monolith, it had cracks all over. And it can be wrong--they were wrong about Copernicus and Galileo before.
From there, there was no turning back.