I, a straight married woman with a young child, learned something and got inspired by this book. I mention that right off the bat because I want to make it clear that you don’t have to be gay and Catholic to get this book.
Gay and Catholic written by well-known blogger Eve Tushnet in part chronicles her discovery of her sexuality and her conversion to the Catholic faith. This is not the majority of the book, but it sets the foundation for everything she says later on. She’s been there. She is one of a very few gay Catholics who openly talk about their struggles being faithful in a world that approaches chastity with suspicion or disdain.
As a fellow convert to the Catholic Church, I could relate to the story of her conversion. Like her, I led a very different life prior to becoming Catholic. I, frankly, hated Christianity. When I converted, it put tremendous strain on my relationships and many of them broke. No one in my family understood my new-found faith, they just had to somewhat grudgingly accept that I was Catholic now. Having experienced conversion as a liberal, non-Christian, I can only imagine converting as a gay, liberal, non-Christian.
Like her, the turning point for me was my first experience of Eucharistic Adoration. She says, “I felt that I was, finally, at home; I was in my place.” I had the same experience. I felt like everything in my life had been geared to get me to that exact moment. Although I had never met any of my fellow adorers before, I felt like I had known them all of my life.
Of all of her advice for gay Christians and their friends and neighbors, one point in particular hit close to home for me: the importance of community and friendship. We are all so wired, we are losing fundamental social skills. In all of the battles for the nuclear family, friends and even extended family are lost in the fray. Everyone, gay or straight, white or black, rich or poor, can benefit from being part of a close community. Bonds made by community can be just as powerful as bonds made by blood. As she says:
It’s possible to recognize the importance of marriage and family unity while also looking for all the other places in our lives where we can build a civilization of love.
This leads me directly to her beautiful, open-ended definition for “vocation”:
In my view everyone has a vocation, and probably more than one. A vocation is the path or way of life in which God is calling us to pour out our love for him and for other particular human beings. Vocation is always a positive act of love, not a refraining-from-action.
In Catholic circles, you hear the word “vocation” thrown around a lot. It almost always means the priesthood or religious life, although sometimes it means marriage as well. We are just beginning to understand the vocation of unconsecrated single-hood. This book is a thorough exploration of just that vocation and like all vocations, understanding one better helps you understand and appreciate the others.
Gay and Catholic offers valuable advice for gay Catholics and those who care about them. But I got even more out of it than that. Tushnet helps us to better understand the vocation to love that we all share and the importance of community.
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