Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Endings 1

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today I served as lector for the last time at the parish. I turned in my resignation two weeks ago, to take effect on August 31, 2015. I mentioned that I would honor my August commitments. This 11am Mass was the last of those commitments.

I have probably been a member of the Word Ministry (that is what we call our group of lectors and commentators) for more than twenty years. I can’t even remember how old I was when I joined. I vaguely recall that my sister, Ate No. 4, was the first to join the Ministry, then I followed. This was probably in the late 80’s. We were part of the ‘youngblood’ that they were infusing into this apostolate. Till that time, the organization counted Blue Ladies and senior citizens as the majority of the membership. I used Blue Ladies loosely to refer to those matronly older women who go to Church everyday without fail, all coiffed and coutured. c3 would now refer to them as “Titas of Manila”. But back then, they would be Imelda Marcos’ Blue Ladies.

They are also very traditional and conservative, holdovers from a time when the Mass was still said with the priest facing the tabernacle, with his back to the congregation. They went to church with their lace belo (veils) and perfumed rosaries, blessed by Pope Paul VI. Retired or ever-homekeepers, they turned to serving the parish to make the most of idle time.

My sister and I joined the ministry surrounded by these ladies, and a few senior gentlemen. They welcomed having these young’ uns join them as they knew slowly but surely, their membership was dropping simply due to death by old age.

Eventually, more of people our age joined the organization and we grew. As it happens in organizations with two distinct groups of very different persuasions, namely the old ones, ready to defend the old order, and young ones, eager to make a difference and challenge the status quo, a power struggle evolved. I was one of the noisier ones then, and eventually, I butt heads with the president, that elderly woman who could have been a stern, strict high school principal in her demeanor. There was no major confrontation between us, just seething contempt. I abruptly resigned as I couldn’t accept her leadership. This was somewhere in the mid-90’s. That also neatly coincided with my relationship with then-boyfriend becoming open. And we indulged in the pleasures of casual sex in its myriad permutations and combinations.

That president soon resigned, although some would whisper ‘ousted’. I felt a yearning to go back so I re-applied. I was welcomed with open arms, by an organization now a lot younger and more dynamic. It was their desire to put me at the helm of the ministry. I accepted the path they laid out for me. And in about a year or two, I became president. If my memory serves me right, in my personal life, I also transitioned from that open relationship to a new one that was defined as exclusive. I found that alignment pleasing.

I enjoyed being a lector, much more than being a commentator. I honed my craft of proclamation. I practiced dutifully and made sure that I researched on the correct pronunciation of Bible names and terminologies. I would come 15 minutes early to rehearse. I felt I am able to proclaim His Word with justice. Not a few parishioners have come up to me to congratulate my style. Yes, it fed my ego.

My regular schedule would include all Fridays of the month for the 7am Masses, and two alternating Sundays for the 11am service. Admittedly though, that 7am service could be a drag, limiting my night-out options on a Thursday night. The Ministry meets every first Sunday of the month, supposedly for an hour-long meeting. But it would drag on usually for 1 1/2 hours. Again I admit that attending the meeting could be a chore at times.

I am sure everyone suspected that I am gay. I had remained single and unattached the entire time. But it was some sort of undiscussed topic, at least whenever I was around. Nobody dared to ask me anyway. So despite the Vatican's vocal pronouncements of its stand on homosexuality and homosexual acts, I felt that our own parish did not outwardly advocate condemnation. Some would call it 'tolerance' or just plain avoidance, but being quiet about the entire issue cut me some slack to continue serving and still be comfortable being gay, and being in relationships with men.

That detente continued for years and years. I felt I was serving a purpose in the parish by being a member. Beyond just being a 'good' lector, I also steered the organization into being more active, and structured. We engaged in reach-out activities, fund-raising events, apostolates that brought members closer.

But the world as we knew it continued to change, even more rapidly. Many issues Catholics have been grappling with were now being discussed - the reproductive bill, first and foremost. Our parish had to be more vocal of its own position, particularly during homilies. Though I was totally in support of the reproductive bill, I did not feel any cognitive dissonance with my service. Perhaps because I wasn't intending to 'reproduce'. hehe

Then came that SCOTUS decision in June. That issue is so central to me and my identity. I was so euphoric. Though it opened some nasty debates all over, I remained oblivious. I was happy that more and more countries were recognizing the right of same-sex couples to be married.

I was busy during our July meeting so I skipped that. I did, however, attend the August meeting. In the minutes of that meeting, our Spiritual Director was quoted
It is not called marriage because marriage is a union between man and woman with two goals: a) procreation b) foster love between couples; Sexual union is essential - the Church condemns homosexual union but not homosexuals (condemns sin but not the sinner).

I sat there stunned. This was the first time that I have ever heard any priest from our parish vocally express this official position. It felt like he was telling this to me, to my face, telling me that my homosexual union, currently with my partner, remains an abomination.

No more silence. No more avoidance. It was finally called out.

Something snapped inside and made me realize that my time of serving the parish had ended. I could no longer just turn away and act like nothing has changed. I am gay. I am in a gay relationship, with all the man-to-man sex that came with it, yes, but also with all the love and affection.

I turned in my resignation a week after. But I promised to honor my commitments.

Last Sunday was the last of those. I proclaimed the readings of that Sunday. I proclaimed them well and with.. finality. I was nostalgic throughout, knowing that I was not going to be at that rostrum again. I knew I was still going to serve Him, but in another manner perhaps. Bittersweet it was, for a moment, but in the end, I also felt so peaceful..

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1 comment:

joe said...

Just keep grappling with your God. I salute you Sir.