“Pray the gay away” is a slogan often heard in the “gay” rights movement used as a pejorative in order to mock any and all efforts by Christian churches or groups to deal with the problem of same-sex attraction. This reproach against prayer in general, and, specifically with regards to healing from homosexuality goes part and parcel with a larger phenomenon certainly within secular society, and even within the Church, that prayer is wholly passive and inconsequential to the lives and problems of real men; this attitude is adherent among our over-emphasis on various pastoralisms and an obsession with social justice; its Martha vs. Mary; or doing as opposed to being. In terms of same-sex attraction, this became noticeable with an abundance of “discourse” and “dialogue’ usually loudly called for by such wayward quasi-Catholic groups such as Dignity and New Ways Ministry. For these lost and confused souls, their call for “discourse” with Church hierarchy becomes a sort of religion; but, in realty, their thoughts and focus of attention are being misdirected; when, instead of continually conversing with men, they should be talking with God.

Unfortunately, this desire to talk our way in and out of every situation and problem has trickled down to the family; like with rogue gay-friendly Catholic outreaches, such as “Out at St. Paul,” the “dialogue” is centered on a process by which the other side is convinced and then finally capitulates to the other’s demands; in fact, those at New Ways Ministry are quite explicit about their goals: “…we foster dialogue among groups and individuals, identify and combat personal and structural homophobia, work for changes in attitudes and promote the acceptance of LGBT people as full and equal members of church and society.” Of key interest, is the phrase: “working for changes in attitudes;” this is a none-too-subtle code language for changes in doctrine. Although, some were fooled, at the time, the head of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George, wasn’t buying any of it; in 2010, he wrote: “No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice.”

Only, what does all this have to do with the issue of homosexuality at the family level? Well, in the family, these larger ecclesiastical issues can work themselves out between a father and a mother and their “coming-out” son or daughter; often, with the child arguing for acceptance and a change in attitude from their parents. But, unlike a conversation (or dialogue) between say a parent and their heterosexual child who is cohabiting – things usually do not descend into the realm of hurt feelings and attacks upon personal identity; that is because, homosexuality is one of those rare cases in which the inclination “toward an intrinsic moral evil” is also indelibly linked with identity. Therefore the concern or critique about the lifestyle becomes a perceived attack on the self. For this reason, a prolonged adherence to dialogue on the same-sex attracted subject is usually inadvisable. Because, when these scenarios tend to continue, usually an ultimatum is given, on the part of the homosexual: threatening to cut off all contact with their families; broken-hearted, at that point, many parents tend to give-in.

Therefore, the solution is not dialogue – but prayer. Yet, many, like myself who grew up in the Post-Vatican II era of the Church as social crusader – the power of prayer, contemplation, and meditation has been completely lost. Part of this has to do with an excessive fear of the quiet and of a world separated from busyness; for example, even though they are not watching it, many people like to have the television constantly running noise in the background. Even in Church, moments of silence are uncomfortable and we incessantly feel the need to turn to the person sitting next to us and engage in idle chatter; recently, the near fixation many have with incessantly texting is another example of our anxiety about being alone and being disconnected from other men and women. Yet, we must un-plug. Especially, when a son or daughter reveals their homosexuality, the next minute that we are alone or with our spouse – one must pray. Only, this action should not be falsely perceived as a sign of weakness, of failure or of giving-up. In the life of one of the Church’s greatest Saints, St. Augustine, his eventual conversion from a desolate life would not have been possible without the prayers of his mother St Monica. In fact, through Augustine’s “Confessions,” she is a constant presence; often in the background, but the tireless wailing for her son continually remains seen and heard. She never abandoned him; never condoning of his lifestyle, constantly praying – and, in what I think is the model for parents of same-sex attracted children, standing back, and letting her son, although it literally torn her part, make his own horrendous decisions, and, as a consequence, let him play-out his life; hoping beyond hope that he would be alive at the other end; and, that he would find God. Yet, the happy outcome of Augustine was only won by hard work and perseverance. And, prayer, in St. Monica’s case, and with almost everyone I know, is always a fight and an often ruthless struggle:

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” (CCC #2725)

Hence, in order to help save our children from an enemy which they can neither recognize nor fully understand, the burden of obedience, persecution, and self-sacrifice falls directly upon us. As difficult as it may be, we must be like the Father of the “Prodigal Son:” we must distribute the inheritance to our demanding children, wish them well, and send them on their way. As a young man, who spent over a decade in the “gay” lifestyle, during that period of time, I heard several arguments for and against homosexuality – but, because I was personally invested in “gay” as an integral part of my identity: the con-voices increasingly became barely audible; I couldn’t hear it. What happened to change all that – I had to sink so low that I was lying with pigs. The very tactile and easily comprehensible nature of open-faced evil becomes an immediate and shocking look into one’s current situation and the ugly reality of it all. For some, the realization was more subtle, for others, like myself – it was an exercise in near-death. Now, what brought me to that critical junction were my own bad personal decisions, and, perhaps the prayers of my parents who never stopped praying for me. It was the same with Augustine, and, he recognized what his mother went through in order to gain his freedom from death and sin:

“And Thou sentest Thine hand from above, and drewest my soul out of that profound darkness, my mother, Thy faithful one, weeping to Thee for me, more than mothers weep the bodily deaths of their children. For she, by that faith and spirit which she had from Thee, discerned the death wherein I lay, and Thou heardest her, O Lord.”