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.

John Montague earned his Master of Divinity from Regis College, University of Toronto. He is an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. He has a Master of Social Work, and, until his retirement, provided counselling to individuals, couples, and families. For seventeen years he organized a Day of Reflection for Catholic parents of lesbian daughters, gay sons, and transgendered children.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 03:32h, 28 December Reply

    John, what a beautiful, personal story of your life. It made me think that for many people, in all walks of their lives where they experience personal difficulties, they have to suffer needlessly, and then, comes that ‘Divine Light’, when they suddenly realise it’s not others’ thinking of them, it is their own mistaken realization that they believe ‘I am the obstacle.’ Carry on your wonderful work, John.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 08:43h, 28 December Reply

    Thank you John!

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 09:12h, 28 December Reply

    Thanks for sharing your contemplative story. We tend to be a people who look too long at the closed door even in our spiritual meditation.

  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 11:06h, 28 December Reply

    Thanks John. I am presiding at the AIM Mass this evening. Your words are welcome as we celebrate the Holy Family.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 11:07h, 28 December Reply

    Thank you John for sharing your insight. It helps me love as well, what I have struggled to love and accept in others. It is with the love of Christ, that we can do this.

  • Doris Barrett
    Posted at 12:08h, 28 December Reply

    Dear John;
    thank you for sharing this story. O yes, you were in good hands with Fr. John. I was blessed many years with Fr. John being my spiritual director. And I miss him dearly. But ever so often I continue to be blessed with his short, but so very good directions (in emails). Wish you a very blessed New Year.

  • Rosemary McGinn
    Posted at 16:17h, 28 December Reply

    John,your story was truly the Gift of Welcome.I appreciated how you moved through struggle,and in time discovered the Gift.Thank you for sharing that pathway.

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