Monday, September 14, 2009

One Thousand!

.
The heart is first a reed.
All that we experience makes it

a flute that can be used by God
to make God’s beautiful music.


- Adapted from Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes
by Shems Friedlander (p. 38)


While it’s certainly no big deal in the grand scheme of things, I nevertheless want to acknowledge that this is the one thousandth post since I began The Wild Reed in May 2006.

For the past couple of weeks I’d been aware that this milestone-of-sorts was approaching, but, to be honest, I was unsure how to actually mark it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to do so is by thanking the many people who visit The Wild Reed, leave comments, engage in dialogue, and/or e-mail me personally with words of both gratitude and encouragement. Without such interaction, I doubt I’d still be maintaining this blog.

And that’s really what this one thousandth post represents: my gratitude to all of you out there who have in some way reached out and engaged with me through this online forum. By doing so, you have strengthened my dedication to this creative endeavor that is The Wild Reed.




As regular visitors would know, there are two main types of posts here at The Wild Reed. The first is comprised of my sharing of excerpts from the writings of others that I find of particular interest. These writings are usually concerned with theology, sexuality, and/or politics. The recent series, James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth, is a good example of this type of post.

The second type of post is what I call “original writings.” They’re made up of my own thoughts on all kinds of things: films I’ve seen that have moved me; current issues in the Church (generally regarding homosexuality); and topics of personal interest - ranging from Sufism to Sarah Jane Smith. And then there’s my semi-autobiographical Journal of James Curtis, and the homilies I’ve delivered over the years.

If there’s one common thread that runs through all of these diverse writings, it’s my striving to be true to my experience of God in my life and journey as a gay Catholic man. Through these writings I seek to embody integrity, compassion, and the awareness I’ve gained of God’s transforming love in my life and relationships.

I strive also to dispel certain stereotypes that some hold of gay people who, like me, are dedicated to positive reform of the Roman Catholic Church. We’re often dismissed and maligned as “homo-activists,” “dissidents,” “heretics”– labels that, in the final analysis, seek to dehumanize and thus silence our very human experiences and insights, hopes and dreams. I try to counter such dehumanization by sharing images and stories of my family, my childhood, and my coming out journey. I also document my life here in the Twin Cities through my monthly Out and About series. And I offer what I hope are measured and informed posts that document the reform work that I and others within the local church of the Twin Cities are involved in. (See, for example, here, here, and here.)



It’s all of these types of “original writings” that I enjoy doing the most. Of course, they take the most time and energy, and, as I’ve discovered over the years, they’re the ones that are most often put on hold due to work commitments. Having said that, I really believe that these types of writings are, in fact, an essential part of my work. They’re certainly the pieces that generate the most feedback from people. And best of all is when they inspire other people to trust and share their own story – with me and/or others. Of all the types of feedback I receive, it’s this type that most energizes me and helps keep this blog going.

And so I close this one thousandth post with an example of the type of response I find so energizing, and for which I’m always incredibly grateful.

________________________________________


Dear Michael,

I hope you don’t mind me e-mailing you. I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some searching on the Internet, and I have to say I’m quite glad I did. I guess I was also looking for “gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith.”

Without boring you too much with my life story, I am a 23-year-old woman from Ireland, who identifies as both gay and Catholic. This hasn’t always been easy, as you can no doubt imagine. When I first began the coming out process about 7 years ago (yikes am I that old!) I struggled terribly with trying to reconcile my faith and sexuality. Despite being lucky enough to have a very Catholic but very progressive mother who tried to convince me that God loved me as I was, I still suffered greatly with the whole thing. Unfortunately, my explorations of the subject, especially online, exposed me to many conservative evangelical Christian literature, which was far from comforting! I spent many sleepless nights praying for God to make me straight, which the likes of Pat Robertson et al assured me was all I had to do. However, it didn’t quite work.

Well to cut a long story short, I began to stop praying to be straight. Instead I just prayed for help, for comfort. And eventually, with a lot of other things along the way, I began to accept myself and my orientation. I firmly believe God led me to this acceptance, that this is how he answered my prayers. There are many things in my life which I feel I would never have been able to get through without His help, and I defy any conservative to tell me how He can have helped and comforted me, if I were committing so great a sin by being gay? Surely if I was such an abomination in His eyes, He would have forsaken me? So that’s the abridged version of how I came to reconcile myself with God.

A less easy task, however, has been reconciling myself with the Church, as in the Roman Catholic institution itself. Like many gays, I feel hurt and ostracized by the hierarchy. I have always been lucky enough that any of the priests and nuns I have known in my life have been truly wonderful people. My chaplain in college is one such example, a fantastic man. But as for the hierarchy at large, well . . . I’m sure you understand. For years I told myself that one doesn’t need the Church to have a relationship with God; that organised religion wasn’t necessary. And I still believe that, in a way. The thing I came to realise over time is that I didn’t need the Church, I wanted it. I once described the Church as being like a cranky old family member: you disagree with a lot of what they have to say; they drive you completely crazy at times; but you still have a hell of a lot of respect for them, and can never completely cut them out of your life. Please excuse my slightly irreverent sense of humour, I’m afraid that’s just me. That really does sum it up though. The Church infuriates me at times, but I still love it. I have a huge respect for the Protestant Church (over here that means Church of Ireland/England, or Anglican), and on many occasions considered converting. However, much as I hate to admit it, I’m a Catholic at heart. I respect the Church and their opinion, but I accepted my sexuality long ago. I don’t want to be lectured or converted. So reconciliation is a slow but ongoing process.

And that’s how I came across your blog, because I was searching for like-minded Catholics who could maybe help me on my journey. Your blog has certainly contributed to that. So I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you, and keep up the good work.

Take care,

Cleo

__________________________________


You might be interested in . . .



Images: Michael J. Bayly.

14 comments:

Terence Weldon said...

Congratulations, Michael, and many thanks for everything you do. May you go from strength to strength, continuing to inspire us all by your example.

William D. Lindsey said...

Michael, congratulations on an important anniversary. You set a standard for many of us blogging about the connection between religion and politics-culture.

Your posts are well-researched, carefully written, and measured in perspective. You model a charity and civility in your response even to nasty critics that puts me to shame.

I pray for continued blessings on this important ministry.

brian gerard said...

Congratulations, Michael! Mr. Lindsey put it just right in his comments. Thanks for your joyful efforts with the Wild Reed.

Jayden Cameron said...

Congratulations, Michael, on such a milestone, which is a testimony to the rare service you offer all of us (gay) folk, some of us wandering in the wilderness. Your site is like water in the desert.

Michael D. said...

Michael, congrats. I guess I'll never catch you (not, that I'm competing in any way -- mind you :]). It goes without saying that the next step is a literary collection that should be self-published. More exposure for the masses to your cogent thoughts and musings! Now. get to it!

colkoch said...

Michael I can't begin to tell you what finding your blog has meant to me. I laughed when I saw your most popular post was the one on Michael the Archangel. That's how I found Wild Reed.

Michael, that pesky angel, not you, seems to be putting together his own little squad of pesky gay bloggers, and yours has been the one we are rallying around. Probably has to do with your name.

Anyway, congratulations on number 1000 and may there be 1000 more.

Mareczku said...

Congratulations on 1000, Michael. I am a relative newcomer here but want to say how I admire you and thank you for sharing the beauty of you. I have been sampling your back writings and have been touched and inspired.

I found the Progressive Catholic Voice first. I was interested in how a progressive Archdiocese was dealing with a traditional Archbishop. Personally, I find your Archbishop somewhat scary. Keep up the good work and keep them honest.

Peace and love to you - Mark

Phillip Clark said...

Congrats Michael! Since I discovered your blog I have felt so much more encouraged and inspired knowing that I'm not the only gay guy in the Catholic Church trying to balance my Faith and my sexuality. Continue being a beacon of hope and a guide to the future within our Church! May God's be with you now and always. :)

crystal said...

Michael,

Happy 1000th post!

Your posts about Catholic issues are always informative and well researched, and I especially appreciate your photography and the personal posts about your own experience. I'm very glad I found your blog and that I've had the chance to get to know you :)

kevin57 said...

I gladly add my congratulations. I cannot claim to be an expert on Catholic blogs, but from what I've seen, The Wild Reed ranks among the very best.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks everyone. I greatly appreciate your support and your kind words about my blog.

I respect each and every one of you beyond measure, and am honored to know you via The Wild Reed and, in many cases, your own blogs that never fail to inform and inspire me.

I wish I could have a big dinner party and have all of us meet in person! Wouldn't that be something?

Anyway, thanks again.

Peace,

Michael

Mareczku said...

Michael, I have to say that I am so discouraged at where our Church is headed. Here is a comment that a man made to me in a discussion. I have been a faithful Catholic my whole life, this man recently returned to the Church after a 30 year absence. He said, "Please move on away from the Church. Please, leave us alone. Complain about us all you want, but please don't get involved in a Church you have no understanding of." I never realized that there was such hatred in our Church and I fear that it is getting worse. What does one do when sometimes you feel like they don't belong? That if people knew who you were that they would want you gone?

kevin57 said...

Michael, let me say I would be more than open to some sort of "Wild Reed" dinner/weekend. It would have to be planned a bit in advance, but, if able, I'll commit to being there.

kevin57 said...

Mareczku, you didn't ask for how to respond to comments like the one you received, but that has never stopped me in the past.

I would reply to the person: "Do you imagine that Jesus would tell me the same thing? Where in the gospels does he ever tell anyone to go away?"