My husband Damian and I were blessed by Outreach editor James Martin, S.J., earlier this week. Just a day after the Vatican announced that priests could offer “the gift of blessing that flows from the Heart of Christ through his Church,” we sought out Father Martin, who is a friend, mentor, ally and pastor. The New York Times was there to capture the moment.
On the subway to his Manhattan residence, I read Genesis 32:22-32, the story of Jacob wrestling with a messenger of God. In this tale, Jacob’s struggle lasted through the night. As a gay Catholic, I’ve done my share of wrestling with God and the church. Like Jacob, I carry injuries from the encounter, but I continue the fight. I won’t let go of God until I receive a blessing.
Two years ago, my husband and I were blessed to be married at the Judson Memorial Church, a progressive Protestant community in Manhattan, by a friend who is a Protestant minister. It was a small, Covid-era affair, with only the officiant and a witness present. Later that fall, we celebrated our commitment with a beautiful picnic for friends and family. Our trans friend gave an official blessing, and many of our church friends blessed us by attending.
Since our wedding, our love for each has continued to grow. Damian and I are blessed with friends, family and community. As we chart our life together, we see God showing up in our daily routines—from the time we wake up in the morning, to prayer, to walks in our neighborhood, to special trips to the botanical gardens, to shared weddings, funerals, holidays and vacations.
God is with us in the daily grind too—when we are tired from too much work and struggle to be less grumpy with each other; when we are already late for dinner and have a hard time being patient with the partner who can never find his chapstick; when we have been wronged and learn how to forgive each other. Our marriage is blessed.
In light of the Vatican announcement, I’ve been reflecting on my desire for a blessing. Our marriage is real and we are already blessed, so what could a priest’s public blessing add to it? Why does it matter?
I think back to our families. When Damian I were married, our parents and siblings celebrated and supported us. Although we were the ones who made the decision to build our lives together, they witnessed it all, and their encouragement continues to give us strength. We are so thankful they are part of our lives.
The same is true of the Catholic Church. We belong the People of God, who have shaped our spiritual journeys and been a channel of God’s grace to us. Our faith community is central to our shared life, and it’s fitting that the church also be a public part of our relationship. A formal blessing is a sign of the church’s openness to us and our openness to the church.
This is the gift of mutuality in the Christian community and in human relationships, more broadly. Blessings for same-sex couples are powerful signs that couples like us share in the same channels of grace that all people enjoy. God gives grace to us, and we are agents of grace to others, both in the church and outside of it. No one is excluded from God’s abundant love.
As we were blessed by Father Martin, we were also aware of how the image would be received around the world. As a married, gay Catholic couple, we hope that our life is an open book to outsiders. Many are unfamiliar with LGBTQ believers. Some queer folks and some traditional Catholics share one thing in common—they don’t believe the church is a good place for LGBTQ folks.
But Damian and I show that it is possible to be a thriving, married, gay Catholic couple. I hope that we can share God’s light with LGBTQ folks who have only experienced darkness in religious spaces, and I believe that our presence in the Catholic Church is helping Catholics be less homophobic. I trust that God is working through our public witness.
Since our blessing, we’ve received a world of support from family, friends and strangers. There has also been plenty of vitriol directed toward us. Thank God, grace doesn’t depend on what others think! My relationship to my husband is a visible sign of God’s work in our lives. Today, the church is learning to see that as well, and the blessing we received is an important step in the church’s work reconciling all people to each other and to God.