A Prayer When I Feel Hated
By James Martin, S.J.
Loving God, you made me who I am. I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made, in your own image.
But when people make fun of me, I feel hurt and embarrassed and even ashamed. So please God, help me remember my own goodness, which lies in you. Help me remember my dignity, which you gave me when I was conceived. Help me remember that I can live a life of love. Because you created my heart.
Be with me when people make fun of me, and help me to respond how you would want me to, in a love that respects other, but also respects me. Help me find friends who love me for who I am. Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.
And God, help me remember that Jesus loves me. For he was seen as an outcast, too. He was misunderstood, too. He was beaten and spat upon. Jesus understands me, and loves me with a special love, because of the way you made me. And when I am feeling lonely, help me to remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend. Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them. And Jesus encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity, even when others were blind to that dignity. Jesus loved everyone with the love that you gave him. And he loves me, too.
One more thing, God: Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you, that you have a way of making things better, that you can find a way of love for me, even if I can’t see it right now. Help me remember all these things in the heart you created, loving God.
Following are some of the comments left on the website of America in response to Martin’s prayer.
Myrna Ohmann writes: Thank you for that beautiful prayer! I intend to copy it and send it to my gay son and all the wonderful LGBT friends we have met over the years. Unfortunately a voice of compassion such as yours is not heard in many places, especially in our Catholic Church. Please keep writing, and those of us who are parents and supporters will keep spreading the real Good News.
Kay Satterfield writes: As a mother of a sensitive child who was bullied on such a scale when she was a young teenager that it sent her into a deep depression, I think this prayer, meant for the person who is struggling to pray to God for help, is a compassionate response from Fr Martin to show solidarity with those who suffer because they are different in some way. It reflects the face of a compassionate Jesus.
Joe O’Leary writes: As a theologian and a human being I have no doubt that the evil of murderous homophobia will never be purged from our church until the clergy have the honesty to say out loud what so many of them believe: that gay affections are good and God-given and that human beings have the right to live out their sexual destiny in accord with their God-given conscience. I am appalled, horrified, at the attitudes of [those] who seem to have left their consciences on the stony altar of ultramontanism or biblical fundamentalism.
Gillian B. writes: There is no such thing as a ‘homosexual lifestyle.’ It is a pervasive myth, but that is all it is. Roughly half of my friends from college are gay (or otherwise not straight). Their lifestyles vary dramatically, even within our group of friends. Some of them are chaste, and always have been. Others are not. The same can be said for my heterosexual friends: some of us are chaste, while others are (decidedly) not. Orientation is irrelevant.
The idea that gay people are a ‘them,’ can be categorized, can be generalized about . . . it has no grounding in reality. The only true stereotype about most of them is that they are heckled and harassed on account of their orientation. Many (though certainly not all) are uncommonly kind to the marginalized as a result.
Gay people are, like all of us, children of God, and as such uniquely created and called to their individual vocations. Please believe me when I say that their lifestyles are as varied as those vocations.
Tom Nelson writes: Thank you Father Martin for a glimmer of Christianity that too seldom comes from our Catholic clergy. We who proclaim ourselves ‘Christians’ too often let dogma get in the way of acting like a Christian. I am a father who raised six children in the Catholic faith. One of those children, my only son, turned out to be gay. He heard his father pontificate relevant dogma on sufficient occasions that he concluded he truly was ‘disordered,’ and ‘inclined toward intrinsic evil.’ His ultimate conclusion, that God despised him and that his family would also if they found out who he really was, led him to suicide. That was long ago. You who seem to worship Catholic dogma so esoterically – I know about that. I once was one of those unwitting dogmalogists – one who worships dogma.
Listen now to me. I would like somehow to convey to you what it is to live a lifetime knowing that as a father, I failed my son. The grief and regret – the pain is unrelenting. Don’t quote Church doctrine to me. I know all the rules from my sixteen years of Catholic academia. I know the ancient reasons as well. The trouble with all this fine Catholic teaching [is that] it sends a message that discourages critical thinking. It hides the primacy of love. My son taught me about love. Because of him, I came to comprehend those final words of Jesus: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Those words have become the cornerstone of my life now. Love. Everything else is trivia.
God made us all good. Gay and straight. Only a fool would say that God would create some of us gay, then command: ‘During your lifetime, you must never love another human being.’ Such a belief is beyond the loving God. It would be contradictory in the cruelest fashion.
My life’s greatest blessing, my gay son, has transformed my life. My wife and I have been active in PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians And Gays) for more than twenty years. We are currently on the Board of Directors of the Catholic support group Fortunate Families, and co-President and founders of a local PFLAG group. We daily witness the terrible pain and damage to so many families that rote application of dogma devoid of love inflicts. The current discussion is a small snippet of such tragedies.
Lauren Carpenter writes: I am pleased by the very pastoral approach of Fr. Martin's letter, but am sorry to say that it simply does not go far enough. Until the Catholic Church recognizes that gays and lesbians can be in loving and committed sexual relationships, gays and lesbians will feel ostracized by the Catholic Church. Until the church stops stating that they way we express the love that God has given us is, ‘intrinsically disordered,’ the homophobia that leads to bullying will persist. I agree that being caring and pastoral are ‘a good place to start’ but it is only the very, very beginning.
Fr. Martin tells us that, “people-especially young people, especially people on the margins, and especially young people on the margins – should be reminded of the ‘loved’ part before the ‘sinner’ part.” But if the Catholic Church ever wants to fully embrace and follow the loving model of Jesus, they will need to acknowledge that there is nothing sinful at all about the way we as gays and lesbians love each other. You can claim that you love us as much as you want, but you can’t fully love us until you love our whole selves, which includes the expression of our sexuality in loving same-sex relationships.
Again, I am grateful that Fr. Martin is speaking in a way that allows space for peaceful dialog, but it is my hope that one day he and others in the clergy who proclaim such love for the gay and lesbian community will courageously speak out against the hypocritical approach of ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ and will finally acknowledge that our love is not a sin.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
A Parent’s Prayer
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of Gay People
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being “Wonderfully Made”
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
The Gifts of Homosexuality
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Recommended Off-site Links:
What is a Catholic Response to Gay Suicide? – James Martin, S.J. (America, October 4, 2010).
Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue – Jody J. Sanders (Religion Dispatches, October 2, 2010).
Suicide Surge: Schools Confront Anti-Gay Bullying – David Crary (Associated Press, October 10, 2010).