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For this gay Catholic, a moment of rejection became a sign of spiritual strength

Views Vincent Corcoran / March 24, 2024 Print this:
Photo courtesy of Pexels/RDNE Stock project

A Catholic who happens to be gay has a challenging relationship with the Catholic Church. These days, it is more like a dance that takes two steps backwards rather than three steps forward. The only way to live a LGBTQ life of spiritual equilibrium is to know yourself and to reinforce the God-given value that you possess.  

For the last five decades, the celebration of Pride has been part of the local landscape in Hollywood and nearby West Hollywood. Rainbow flags have been furled as a proud symbol of tolerance. Even the local churches have become more embracing as they intentionally welcome the baptized yet estranged faithful.

The Jesuit parish in Hollywood, Blessed Sacrament, has been a Catholic presence since the beginning of the 20th century. The church is proud of its star-studded past; its beautiful architecture reflects an impressive golden age now in the rearview mirror. But even in this friendly community, the tensions of two churches prevail—one that self-righteously imposes itself and another that promotes an expansive vision of inclusivity.

Even in this friendly community, the tensions of two churches prevail—one that self-righteously imposes itself and another that promotes an expansive vision of inclusivity.

While the parish neighborhood has gentrified, Blessed Sacrament has embarked on an outreach program to invite the LGBTQ community and a younger generation of Catholics. Hollywood is a majority single and never-married community, representing a modern and alternative take on family life.

At Blessed Sacrament, I’ve witnessed the dichotomy of being gay in a Catholic church. When I was invited to attend a Pride Mass last June, I had no apprehension. I arrived early and found a comfortable pew. As Mass proceeded, I enjoyed the beautiful liturgy, even as my neighbor in the pew scowled at me more than once. My spiritual challenge intensified during the Eucharist when my neighbor refused to let me pass into the aisle. I politely said, “Excuse me,” yet there was no response.

What was I to do? Suddenly, a rush of thoughts ran through my head. If I push her out of the way, an incident might erupt, and I certainly don’t want to cause a disruption. Why me? Was I so obvious? All my life, my appearance has never been overtly gay. Why did this woman pick me?

So, I did the most rational thing and turned around to the pew behind me. At this point, a second woman appeared in my path, and she invited me to go first. She was affable and encouraging. This stranger appeared like a sign from heaven, and I proceeded to receive the Eucharist.

As I returned to my pew, I prayed for the first woman who had blocked my way. I also asked God not to allow me to internalize her homophobia. For the remainder of the Mass, I attempted to avoid her sneers. And before the Mass concluded, she had walked away. I felt as if I’d dodged a bullet.

This stranger appeared like a sign from heaven, and I proceeded to receive the Eucharist.

Leaving the church, I stopped to thank the second woman who had shown such grace and mercy in a challenging moment. She acknowledged what happened and even asked how I was feeling. “I am okay,” I said.  

Following the Mass, there was a social gathering for LGBTQ parishioners in the beautiful garden behind the church. As I entered, I felt I had been invited into a warm and welcoming space. An abundant spread of antipasto, cheese and crackers, wine and non-alcoholic beverages had been laid out for the guests.

Parish priests greeted their guests and displayed a hospitality that really welcomed everyone. Noticeably, a diverse crowd attended: young and old, single and married, straight and gay. I met some new people, and we engaged in pleasantly thoughtful conversation.

As the event drew to a close, I won the door prize (to my surprise). Inside the gift bag was a mug and a Pride flag. The mug read “Blessed Sacrament,” and Hollywood appeared bursting from the Eucharist in rays, with rainbow colors in between. What was this day trying to tell me? Somehow, I felt like the incident and the following gathering had presented me with a providential sign from a loving God.

My years of wrestling with homophobia had finally come to an end. No feelings of shame, guilt or self-blame invaded my personal space.

Days later, while staring at the mug and Pride flag I had won, I had a moment of clarity. The woman who challenged me had selected the wrong victim since she failed to disrupt the Pride Mass. My years of wrestling with homophobia had finally come to an end. No feelings of shame, guilt or self-blame invaded my personal space. My sense of spiritual progress was quite liberating. I could lay down the sword and turn it into a plowshare. 

I had come home to myself, and my Christian journey continues now with greater conviction. Sipping coffee from my new favorite mug, an American Quaker hymn played in my head, “No storm can shake my in most calm…how can I keep from singing?”

Vincent Corcoran

Vincent Corcoran has been a parishioner at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Los Angeles since 1995. He has been involved in LGBTQ ministry for more than 40 years.

All articles by Vincent Corcoran

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1 Comment
  1. For the past several years in April in Toronto the Jesuits hold a large fundraising dinner. In 2023 at my table of eight people, a first timer to the annual dinner mistakenly thought that my female friend with me was my wife. When I told her I am gay she replied: “Well I hope you’re following the magisterium.” I have attended these dinners for several years, and even facilitated retreats for catholic parents of LGBT children. But I was gobsmacked by her confrontation. I turned to the jesuit priest at the table, and quietly told him how upset she made me feel. He promptly told me that I was on the cutting edge of ministry. A few minutes later after he spoke to her privately I heard her say:”I guess I’m confused.” This incident is yet another example of our call to witness to truth. It was painful, but there’s consolation as when recently my jesuit pastor unexpectedly said: “God loves you John.”

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