This is part of the Queer Theology's 2017 Synchroblog. This year's topic is "Identity."
Here we go!
So it's been quite a journey, and as part of Queer Theology's Synchroblog, I thought I would share a bit more about what that journey has looked like. First of all, as you may know, I am a priest. I was originally ordained as a Roman Catholic priest but in time, and through much discernment and yes, even pain, I moved away from the RC Church. It wasn't an easy process, but I am glad that I did that. Today, I still serve as a priest in Midland, Texas, albeit on a very different level, a more colorful one! All this being said, I think it's important to share a bit about how I ended up where I am and maybe try to explain the title of this blog. You see, for far too long, I was afraid. I grew up in a home and in a Church that condemned homosexuality, and eventually, as I came to find out, me. It wasn't easy, and instead of growing into a person that was comfortable with himself and his person, I grew up afraid. I was afraid of the church, afraid of my parents, afraid of my neighbors, afraid of those things that would cast me aside because of my sexuality, and the irony of it all was that I had never "chosen" to be gay, I just was. Growing up in West Texas, and in Midland of all places, made all that fear even more real. People here simply weren't gay, and in my world, you didn't have many choices. I remember having met a gay cousin of mine when I was twelve. At first glance, I knew he was like me, I couldn't have named it at the time, but my gaydar was on point, and knowing Carlos was a big blessing for me, he helped with not being afraid, but two against the world was simply not enough. As a closeted gay teenager, I tried to do the best that I could with what I had. Eventually, I found a place of comfort in church, and it was safe to the extent that being celibate meant not having to worry about being sexually active and by extension, being gay. In time, I grew to love my call to the service of God and what that entailed. Things were good, but there did come a point where I had to recognize that my sexuality was not a bad thing. I remember being called "gay" by a fellow seminarian once, because I was putting up the Christmas tree. It was certainly homophobic of him, but I owned it at that moment, and it was then that I started to own and eventually celebrate my sexuality. From then on, I refused to be placed into a box that would hinder my growth.
As of the morning of October 7th, 2013, I was a free man! Due to politics and my growing refusal to be an agent of homophobia, I resigned from my position as a Roman Catholic priest. After that, I moved to San Diego and there, I met the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Loved by some, reviled by others, they helped me understand and celebrate my own inherent beauty and love! They invited me to take all the ill that had ever been placed upon me because of my sexuality, and to celebrate my life today! With them, and through the guidance of some dear friends, I came to recognize a very powerful truth, I am beautiful and I am loved! This recognition was further enriched by the ability to come before God once again. As I grew to love myself and to recognize my beauty, God's love became more vibrant and real and my ministry took on a different shape. Outside of the Roman church, the words I spoke became more real and authentic, and where I had once been blocked by the rules of the Magisterium, I was free to sit with others and help them celebrate their own person. You are beautiful and you are loved were words that rang true and hopefully, helped others in their understanding of God's love for them!
The journey was scary, and for a time, I didn't know what would become of me. I have met so many others that felt the same and maybe even walked away from God because of the false beliefs that had been imposed on them. It took me joining a group of wayward Nuns to recognize who I am before God, and I am grateful for that every single day. As we celebrate this synchroblog, I want to celebrate you! No matter who you are, where you have been, what you have done or any other thing that you may carry, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE LOVED! Cherish that because it is a truth that no one and nothing can ever take away! And so, where I was once afraid, I am no longer. I am strong and fearless because I have seen the face of God and God was smiling at me! Be blessed and remember, you are beautiful and you are loved. In Christ, Father Rick