Daniel Mattson writes to those who have children struggling with same-sex attraction . . .
The most challenging questions I’m asked when speaking about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality come from parents who desire to remain committed to the teachings of the Church, and yet have a child who has “come out” and identified as gay or lesbian. This is what I tell them.
Express unconditional love. When a child comes out, he needs to know that you won’t reject him, and that your love for him will never change, regardless of his choices. Love can’t be blind to the truth of the Church, naturally, but before you speak of the truth, a child needs to hear and feel unconditional love.
Listen. Then listen some more. Then be silent. Then listen some more. Unless a parent has lived with same-sex attraction (SSA), it’s not possible to fully understand how much inner turmoil, isolation, fear of loneliness and rejection their child has painfully borne. He will know your love is genuine by your attempt to understand what his experience has been — without dialog, interruption, or condemnation.
Preaching about the immorality of homosexual acts has rarely, if ever, changed a person’s mind. If you are a devout Catholic, he may fear that your first response will be to tell him that this will lead him to hell. Hearing such language will usually lead him away from you and the Church. It will lead him to embrace a community that will affirm him in his newly claimed identity and confirm in his mind what others say: that you and the Church are bigots to be ignored.
Before urging a son or daughter to seek the path of truth, educate yourself, listen to others who’ve trod this path before, and seek support. EnCourage, the family support arm of the Courage apostolate, is the best place to find help. Support is vital!
Realize that God has allowed this in your life and your child’s life for your collective sanctification. Complete trust in God’s Providence can often become difficult when a child comes out. Father John Harvey, founder of the Courage apostolate, stressed that the most difficult virtue to acquire is “willing acceptance of the permissive will of God.” God allowed SSA in my life as the path that revealed my complete need for Him. So too, I am convinced, with anyone who lives with SSA. For parents, their child’s SSA is a means by which God invites them to total abandonment to Divine Providence. Remember that God works all things for good (Rom 8:28).
God wants you to be more concerned with your growth in sanctity than he wants you to be concerned with your child’s growth in sanctity. The more we are faithful to Christ and the teachings of his Church, the more effective instruments we will be in his hands for the spiritual good of others. Ask the Holy Spirit for an increase in the gifts of wisdom, understanding and right judgment/good counsel. Offer the merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for your child’s deliverance and well-being.
The greatest means of bringing about your child’s salvation is through the gift of redemptive suffering. In the beautiful paradox that is always present in God’s redemption, that which is the most painful in our lives becomes that which ultimately leads to the most joyous outcome. For example, through redemptive suffering, pain caused by a child’s choices becomes the very means by which a parent can love him with a Christ-like love and ultimately help bring him back to his Father’s house.
“Do not despair, for we are an Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.” Refuse to live in the twin regions of despair — the past and the future. Christ wisely tells us to live in the present, for today is the only place where peace is found and where grace is available to us. Take an honest inventory of your relationship with your child, and seek forgiveness for past shortcomings. But avoid regret or assuming blame for your child’s SSA. Likewise, banish all imagined fears that reside in the unknown future.
Always live with hope. Saint Monica’s answered prayers for St. Augustine should give parents hope. Oscar Wilde’s deathbed conversion should inspire hope as well. I am certain that his salvation was brought about by his mother’s insistence that he be baptized Catholic and by her continuous prayers for her son.
Finally, and most importantly, wait on the Lord. Allow God to act in his way and, in “the fullness of time,” wait with “joyful hope” and excited anticipation for the moment when God reveals his salvific power in your child’s life.
For further support, visit the Courage apostolate’s website: CourageRC.net
DANIEL MATTSON lives in the Midwest where he has a career in the arts. He has written for numerous publications, including First Things. He is occasionally invited to give his personal testimony to groups across the country.