The synod's brief discourse of same-sex marriage is . . . hurtful. It is a cruel hoax to say that the church is welcoming of those of same-sex orientation and yet in the same breath not give any acknowledgment of the poignancy of that human relationship. Is it not an extraordinary act of love for one human being to say to another: 'I want to walk with you, to be your support, to care for you in illness and to share in your joys?' That statement is no less extraordinary when it is made between two of the same gender. When the church declares itself closed and disapproving of such relationship, it separates itself from the welcoming nature of Christ, and instead, sets itself up as judge with a standard that is disregarding of the Thomistic advice not to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
[We must aim] to love unconditionally all families, particularly those experiencing difficulties, since no family should feel alone or excluded from the Church’s loving embrace, and the real scandal is a fear of love and of showing that love concretely.
– Pope Francis Excerpted from the end of the very last footnote
of the Pope's speech closing the 2015 Synod on the Family
I turn 50 today, an event in people's lives that, in many cultures, is considered a significant milestone, even a turning point.
Here in the west, for instance, we often see magazine articles and books about various facets of life "after 50." There's certainly no shortage, I've discovered, of advice about sex after 50, but a recent piece I find to be even more insightful and helpful is one written by David Hudson. It's basically a response to British entertainer Graham Norton, who in a recent interview said he feels like a failure for not being settled down with a significant other.
Being single myself, I can occasionally experience a sense of dejection. Hudson's words, however, give me hope.
Yes, it sucks that the gay scene places such high value on muscles and youthful beauty and it’s little surprise that those who are older decide they can’t compete. And looking for love can be a frustrating and painful experience; rejection hurts. Sometimes it feels easier to resign one’s self to being alone.
But what a prize to turn one’s back upon.
In August, the celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks died at the age of 82. Sacks realized he was gay as a teenager, but remained firmly in the closet. He was purposefully celibate for 35 years but found love late in life – meeting his partner, the writer Bill Hayes, when he was in his mid-70s. They were together until Sacks’ death.
. . . I’ve decided that I’ve not given up on love. My heart will remain open. I may indeed never marry, and am unlikely to ever celebrate a ruby wedding anniversary, but love is not the preserve of any age group.
The only sell-by date is the one you impose upon yourself.
I have to say that I'm feeling very positive and pro-active as I turn 50 and continue moving forward with my life.
There are changes afoot, exciting changes. For instance, I'm looking into forging a new vocation/career as a chaplain in the healthcare setting . . . and I'm moving forward in obtaining U.S. citizenship. Of course, having worked for so long in the non-profit sector and as an activist, my finances are rather meager. (Hence the "Go Fund Me" campaign I've recently established and which I invite my readers to consider supporting.)
And speaking of moving forward, I think the image above is an appropriate one in many ways. A friend remarked, for instance, that it looks as though I'm conjuring up a way across the water as I go! My friend also observed that the line of rocks that comprise this "way" and the angled tree on the other side of the river comprise a continuous trajectory.
". . . And it's my way"
Speaking of continuity, it's been somewhat of a tradition for me to share on my birthday a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful. On my 44th birthday, for example, I shared Stephan Gately's performance of "No Matter What," and when I turned 45 I shared "Where the Truth Lies" by the band Exchange.
In 2012, when I turned 47, I shared a prayer for balance at a very trying time, not only for me, but for many of us here in Minnesota.
And last year, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a "guidepost on the journey."
This year I share "It's My Way," the opening track from Power in the Blood, the latest album from Buffy Sainte-Marie. Regular readers will know that I find great inspiration in the life and music of Buffy. Writer Jacob Blickenstaff notes that "It's My Way" is a "reinterpretation of the title track from [Buffy's] very first album [released in 1964] . . . a reaffirmation of her core principals, a circling back and a step forward: I'm cutting my own way / through my own day / and all I dare say is / It's my own."
In a society that often demands unquestioning obedience and rigid conformity, "It's My Way," writes Sue Zalokar, has "inspired generations of people to carve out their own paths in this world."
And Buffy herself has said the following about this particular song:
Some people who have never heard it before, get it mixed up with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” He puts the emphasis on “my,” but no. For me, it’s about the path. . . . [The song's] talking about me but actually it's talking to you. Each one of us has our own path.
I'm cutting my own way
through my own day
and all I dare say is it's my own
I got my own seeds, I got my own weeds
I got my own harvest that I've sown
Now I can tell you things I've done
and I can sing you songs I've sung
But there's one thing I can't give
for I and I alone can live
the years I've known
and the life I've grown
I got a way I'm going and it's my way
I got my own stakes in my own game
I got my own name and it's my way
I got my own wrong, I got my own right
I got my own fight and it's my way
I got my own peace, I got my own wrath
I got my own path that only I can go
I got my own sword in my own hand
I got my own plan that only I can know
Don't be sighing, don't be crying
Your day will come, your day alone
Years you'll know and a life you'll grow
You got a way to go and it's all on your own
I got my own world, I got my own life
I got my own strife and it's my way
I got my own kith, I got my own kin
I got my own sin and it's my way
I got my own prayers, I got my own fears
I got my own tears and it's my way
I got my own joy, I got my own load
I got my own road and it's my way
The years I've known
and the life I'm growin'
I got a way I'm going and it's my way
Don't be crying, don't be sighing
Your day will come, your day alone
Put down the story of what I've known
You're bound for glory all on your own
Put down the story of what I say
You're bound for glory
all on your own one day
10/25/15 Update: Of course, our discerning and forging of a path is never undertaken in total isolation. We journey with others in many ways, and I have to say how very grateful I am for the many beautiful and inspiring people in my life who are my companions on the journey.
Quite a number of these dear friends helped me celebrate my 50th birthday, as you'll see in the following photos.
Above: I'm happy to say that my birthday week celebrations began with a truly delicious meal at the home of my friends Ken and Carol Masters on Tuesday, October 20. Joining us were our mutual friends Kathleen (left) and Sue Ann (right).
Above: An early birthday breakfast with Pete at our favorite Thursday morning breakfast spot – the Blackbird in south Minneapolis.
Jawaahir Dance Company ignites the stage with “Sing To Me A Little,” an extravaganza of Arab dance, music, and talent that only Jawaahir can deliver. Jawaahir’s 19 dancers perform ancient traditions and stunning contemporary interpretations, collaborating with some of the most acclaimed Arab artists working today: world-class choreographers Sahra Saeeda and Yasmina Ramzy, commissioned by Jawaahir to each create new work for this concert, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Ibrahim, Director of the National Arab Orchestra, coming fresh from a recent Prairie Home Companion appearance. Long-time collaborator and violin virtuoso Georges Lammam returns as Musical Director. All of this – along with new choreography and breathtaking solo performance by Jawaahir Artistic Director Cassandra Shore.
Above: Enjoying a delicious birthday lunch with friends Brian and Rick at the Seward Co-op Creamery. Thanks guys!
Above: Friends (from left) Joan, Steve, Joe and Karla – Friday, October 23, 2015.
On the evening of my birthday, my dear friend Joan hosted a wonderful party for me at her home in Robbinsdale, north of Minneapolis. You may recall that Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia earlier this year.
Right: Pete, Don, me and Kyle.
Left: With my friends Sue Ann and Brigid, two inspiring members of the local justice and peace community.
Right: Lunch with friends Cassie and Angela – Saturday, October 24, 2015. Yes, even after my actual birthday, the celebrations continue!
Above: On the evening of Saturday, October 24, my friends Tim, Colleen, Raul and I enjoyed a performance of the Seán Curran Dance Company. Thanks to Colleen for this great photo of the boys and I, and to my friend Julia for the cravat!
Left: The performance we saw was entitled "Dream'd in a Dream," and featured live music by the Kyrgyz folk music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus.
The Seán Curran Company met the electrifying Kyrgyz folk music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus at the foothills of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Tien Shan Mountains during the company’s cultural exchange tour in 2012, as part of DanceMotion USA, a program of the US Department of State produced by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). In "Dream’d in a Dream," named after Walt Whitman’s hymn to "robust love" in Leaves of Grass, that auspicious meeting bears creative fruit, featuring nine dancers and six musicians in a brilliant collage of American and Kyrgyz styles. Twangy jaw-harp multiphonics, energetic playing on the lute-like komuz, and other traditional sounds directed by composer Nurlanbek Nishanov back Curran’s ebullient choreography, lending a contemporary accent to an ancient musical language.
No, I'm not talking about turning 50 tomorrow (although I hope that too will be magical in its own way!). Rather, I'm talking about the time my friend Pete (right) and I spent last Sunday afternoon on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, just below the University of St. Thomas.
In particular, we explored the deep wooded ravine that's been created by a spring-fed stream that flows into the river. As I hope these photos I share today show, our time in this special place truly was an experience tinged with a very special kind of magic.
Above and below: Pete and I atop the Mississippi bluffs on the St. Paul side of the river. For many years I lived not far from this spot. I would often ride my bicycle down to this exact spot (see here, here, here and here). It was and is a favorite place of mine, and I was glad to be able to share it with Pete.
Above: Pete, standing by the stream as it flows into the Mississippi River. It's hard to believe we're in the heart of the Twin Cities, isn't it?
Above: At one point on its journey to the river, the spring-fed stream becomes a waterfall!
Above: By the spring, bubbling up from the earth through a carpet of autumn leaves.
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
"I believe your blog to be of utmost importance for all people regardless of their orientation. . . . Thank you for your blog and the care and dedication that you give in bringing the TRUTH to everyone."– William
"Michael, if there is ever a moment in your day or in your life when you feel low and despondent and wonder whether what you are doing is anything worthwhile, think of this: thanks to your writing on the internet, a young man miles away is now willing to embrace life completely and use his talents and passions unashamedly to celebrate God and his creation. Any success I face in the future and any lives I touch would have been made possible thanks to you and your honesty and wisdom."– AB
"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!"– Phillip
"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."– Crystal
"Thank you for taking the time to create this fantastic blog. It is so inspiring!"– George
"I cannot claim to be an expert on Catholic blogs, but from what I've seen, The Wild Reed ranks among the very best."– Kevin
"Reading your blog leaves me with the consolation of knowing that the words Catholic, gay and progressive are not mutually exclusive.."– Patrick
"I grieve for the Roman institution’s betrayal of God’s invitation to change. I fear that somewhere in the midst of this denial is a great sin that rests on the shoulders of those who lead and those who passively follow. But knowing that there are voices, voices of the prophets out there gives me hope. Please keep up the good work."– Peter
"I ran across your blog the other day looking for something else. I stopped to look at it and then bookmarked it because you have written some excellent articles that I want to read. I find your writing to be insightful and interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more of it. Keep up the good work. We really, really need sane people with a voice these days."– Jane Gael
"Michael, your site is like water in the desert."– Jayden