Contemplating the Nativity Narrative as a Gay Catholic
In 1993 I had the privilege of spending forty days doing the Spiritual Exercises of St.Ignatius, at Loyola House in Guelph. The first ten days went well until my spiritual director Father John Govan asked me to pray over the Nativity story in Luke.
I just couldn’t get into it. “What’s the problem?” Father asked. “I don’t feel accepted as a gay man. They are a heterosexual family, and I feel outside it.” John suggested I go inside the barn on their farm and imagine what the stable where Jesus was born would smell like. It didn’t work.
After three days, Father John said we would have to move on. The rest of the retreat went very well, and I consider it a milestone in my life.
For several years after this retreat I wondered why I had so much difficulty with the contemplation of the Nativity. I know that in some places in society I am not accepted.. Even now at seventy four years of age, I know where I’m welcome, and where I’m not.
A few years ago, while contemplating the mystery of family, children, and the Nativity again, I had a deep sense of Mary and Joseph speaking with me in prayer. “Let us love you,” they said. This was a turning point for me. I realized in prayer that I was the obstacle, not the Nativity narrative, not society, not even the institutional Church.
I put myself in the story once again as a bystander beside the shepherds. Finally I felt I belonged too in the hay, amongst the Holy Family,, kneeling in contemplation of the Mystery.
As the hymn goes: All Are Welcome, in this place.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.