Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Community Support

Along with intimate friendship with a few persons, the person with SSA needs a community of support. He must see himself as a vital part of the Christian community with a sense of vocation, indeed a mysterious vocation, but still real. It is the role of the counselor to introduce the person into some work of the Christian community, where he can serve others with love and receive love in return.

There are other elements in the plan of life that the person with SSA should consider:

(1) The first is the need for regular meditative prayer. Morning prayer should include some kind of regular direction of all the day's actions to God, and an effort to prepare for the day. As the shrewd businessman prepares for his day, so also the person desirous of the love of God must make an effort to foresee each day's demands and significant events. We should think seriously about the contingencies that may arise, of the places we may be required to go, and the like. Thus with the help of God we will be better prepared to face challenges and dangers that would otherwise surprise and overwhelm one. We can not only anticipate dangers, of course, but can often arrange to avoid or prepare to overcome them. For instance, to avoid a tempting location or situation, we might plan an alternate activity that will strengthen us in goodness or be of some positive value to ourselves or our neighbor.

Experience has proven his exercise of preparation to be practical in guiding those beset with special problems, like those of drink and sex. Like the recovering alcoholic, a person with SSA must take one day at a time, and should make it a day of activity combined with trust in the grace of God. Whatever the matter used, meditation every day is necessary.

(2) A plan of life should also include daily examination of conscience. This is not meant to be a sterile self-examination of maladjustment but an analysis of motivation in the practice of Christian virtue. It is difficult because of the human tendency to self-deception, in which the person with SSA is usually proficient. The basic motive for the examination should be the desire to please Christ, and not to foster self-righteous satisfaction. Through honest probing one seeks to love God better: "How stands my heart before God?" (St. Francis de Sales)

Here it will be useful to sum up the basic elements in a plan of life:

1. Morning prayers, with at least 15 minutes of meditation.
2. Mass as often as possible during the week.
3. Examination of conscience at least once a day.
4. Some spiritual reading every day, especially the New Testament.
5. Carefully select a regular confessor.
6. Some form of devotion to the Virgin Mary and to the saints.

To be sure, other elements could be included in this plan of life, and thus it may be criticized for being incomplete. But, to avoid misunderstandings, it must be said that it is not enough that if one performs a certain number of external exercises, one will perfect the life of Christ in self, and will be cured of any ailment. No! It is important to stress the conversion of the inner person by appealing directly to human affections. External exercises are proposed as helpful in learning how to love God. St. Francis de Sales reiterated that the way to love God is simply to love Him. There is no secret art. The person begins by loving God; one progresses to a greater love by repeated acts of love. This is not to gainsay the value of reason, prudence and faith, which become more insightful as love moves them.

However idealistic this plan of life may seem, experience will prove that it is also practical. Love of God must be the dominant force in the life of the person with SSA, who otherwise may yearn for the kind of fellowship found in the homosexual subculture. In place of this attraction something better - something infinitely better - must be found to fill the void. In an ascetical plan of life, under the guidance of a spiritual director, with a community of support the person with SSA can find that better way.

(Source: Same Sex Attraction: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice by Fr. John F. Harvey, OSFS)

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