Same-Sex Attraction, Porn Recovery, and St. Joseph: Keeping calm in the midst of chaos.

2017-03-10T18:29:54+00:00August 30th, 2016|Blog, Christ, Our Lady & the Saints, Sons of St. Joseph|

A good Catholic priest, who was very instrumental in my recovery from both same-sex attraction and an addiction to pornography, always had the same recommendation for me whenever I talked with him about my great agitation and seemingly endless struggles with impure thoughts, he would simply say: “Stay calm and pray.”

At first, I thought his advice was ridiculous; it was too easy. I wanted some sort of rigorous program which involved a dramatic purging of all same-sex attractions and latent porn images from my mind: I visualized medieval self-flagellation; a strict diet regime of rare berries and herbs; I wanted to walk across cut glass and burning coals in order to get rid of these thoughts. What I sought was a secret formula – a magic potion that would make everything go away. Only, I had already done all of that in the “gay” lifestyle; with the promise of immediate fulfillment and gratification waiting for me in the arms of another man. Though, when that didn’t take away the pain of childhood memories, even back then, I looked for something fast and spectacular. Hence, I tried to literally beat the desolation out of my system by becoming more sexually desperate – eventually entering the world of bondage and discipline.

In those days, I was never calm: the young urban “gay” calendar of activities was a non-stop to-do list of parties, parades, and protests. When I tried to escape that hurried existence of forced showy happiness, I became restless and once again longed for the immediate release found among those who constantly reveled even in the middle of the AIDS crisis. I figured I would rather dance till I dropped dead than slowly die of domesticated boredom.

As a new follower of Christ, I wanted Jesus to be the same instantaneous dispenser of contentment and peace. I thought I deserved that. Hadn’t I suffered enough?

As I continued to struggle, my priest counselor encouraged me to read Holy Scripture. I did, but when I was going through The Bible, I had a great desire to find a role-model, someone I could relate to. Jesus Christ was God; He was a man, but also God; I adored His compassion and Mercy, especially towards the reformed sinner Mary Magdalene, and she became an early inspiration to me. But I desired a distinctly male presence who was also susceptible to Man’s fallen nature. At first, I found that in Saint Paul. Only, Paul was a dynamic and intense figure of action, yet, ever since I was a boy, I had been attracted to what is popularly called: “the strong, silent type. This sort of masculine trope is glorified in “gay” male culture; probably most apparent in their continued obsession with brooding male Hollywood stars from James Dean to Channing Tatum. In my generation, and the baby-boomers before, I saw this type exemplified on TV with the likes of iconic Western stars such as Clint Walker and Hugh O’Brian – men of few words who, by the sheer force of their masculinity, rescued the down-trodden, punished the criminal, and created order out of frontier chaos. Many of us, go looking for this heroic character in homosexuality, and grow wearier and more distraught when we never find him.

Yet, strangely enough, Saint Joseph seemed to be precisely that kind of man that I had always been searching for. But he was real.

What I found most intriguing about Saint Joseph, despite his utter lack of spoken lines in The Bible, was his composure in the midst of utter madness. Although things started out somewhat slowly for Joseph, they reached an utter crescendo in Bethlehem after the Birth of Christ. For instance, when we first meet Joseph, he is happily betrothed to Mary. Suddenly, she is with child and he becomes anxious. Then, I have found it interesting that the Lord always spoke to Joseph in his dreams – when this manly carpenter was unconscious and vulnerable. However, Saint Joseph teaches us that life will never be comfortable or predictable.

After that, life briefly quieted down. Later, Joseph finds out that he must travel a long distance with his now heavily pregnant wife. But, he does it. Once they arrive at their destination, they have nowhere to stay – except a stable. But, he doesn’t complain. Then, he experiences the triumph of Christ’s birth, the visitation of the Three Kings and the Circumcision of Jesus. Except the joy of the “Silent Night” is abruptly shattered by the savage butchery of the innocents. Christ was born at the center of our human chaos. Only, He had a protector on earth – in Saint Joseph. Because Joseph refused to be reduced and ruled by the insanity he was born into, he not only saved himself and the Christ-child – but the world.

Making all the struggles beforehand probably seem insignificant, next, Joseph, with Mary and her newborn son, must trek across the wilderness of the Sinai into the unknown land of Egypt. Once there, the small family thrives and experiences a time of relative solitude and tranquility. One day, Joseph is ordered to leave the security of Egypt and return to his homeland – a place where the infant Jesu was almost brutally murdered.

In Saint Joseph, I found the model of serenity. A man of immense masculine proportions – who said little, but accomplished much. He proved that muscle doesn’t necessarily make the man, but the size of his heart; that the greatest man is not the loudest, but the most silent; that real men do not create a lot of drama and fuss, but work behind the scenes to protect the weak and forgotten. That they perform their tasks, as exhausting as they may be, not with anger and frustration, but with joy. This is not a hollow public giddiness meant to convince ourselves, and others, that we are happy even though we are miserable, but a true inner peace that only comes from perseverance and Faith.

Most importantly, Saint Joseph taught me that you can never become complacent, or even hope for it, nor can you conversely prime yourself to expect the unexpected, but that you must rely on Faith in the Lord to help carry you through those darkest hours. For, it is not in success that we measure the man, but in his undaunted willingness to head out into the unknown and to face his greatest fears. I do not know when (or if) I will ever be free of these unappreciated and unwanted thoughts, but I know that I will be judged, not on whether or not they disappeared, but in the fact that I never gave up trying. That I didn’t define myself by them, but found a truer identity in my unwillingness to let despair and uncertainty rule my life. And, like Saint Joseph: that I met the challenge: in quiet fortitude and strength.

3 Comments

  1. Theresa Thompson August 30, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Joseph.
    Write what brings you joy, which is what is right with the Catholic church. This article is for any person who has just had a conversion and needs guidance.

  2. Charles Ryder September 1, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Excellent reflection on a great man and a great saint. St. Joseph, pray for us.

  3. Steve September 2, 2016 at 12:03 am

    I am a heterosexual and now old but have been attracted to porn and impurity since childhood. Wearing the Miraculous Medal and repeating the prayer on the medal seems to make it very difficult and sometimes impossible for my imagination to move in the direction of impurity. I would commend it to anyone similarly troubled. ‘Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”. I don’t even have to think about what I am saying but merely to repeat the prayer and I am sure that the image on the medal of Mary stepping on the serpent’s head, repels the demons so that they leave me alone.

Comments are closed.