When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”
This reading from Genesis describes Adam and Eve after the committed the Original Sin. Recall that originally they were both naked and felt no shame either in being naked before God or before each other. That all changed after the Fall. Adam used to walk through the Garden of Eden with God and never even gave his nakedness a second thought.
Now, after their sin, the primordial couple is not only ashamed of their nakedness with each other but also before their Creator. When God asks Adam where he is, He is not trying to figure out their physical location. He obviously knows that. Adam has left Him and he almost mournfully asks where His beloved creature has gone, not physically but spiritually. This ancient flight away from the Creator and one another, motivated by fear and shame has reverberated tragically throughout the ages of fallen humanity.
I had taken my first steps toward healing of my shame and next I would take steps toward healing my fear of my own nakedness before other men. It was one of my household brothers who would help me to see this more clearly.
The first time I ever saw Al was at that first Household Life Mass. He was one of the men I noticed there but I really didn’t get to know him well until my second year of household. It was during that year that me and a bunch of other brothers rented a dilapidated old mansion in downtown Steubenville.
In view of being knights, we affectionately dubbed the old stone house, “the castle.” In reality it was really a pitiful, decrepit building with "character" but no one in his right mind would have lived there voluntarily except for a bunch of college guys. So, there were between eight and ten of us living there at any given time and it became the household headquarters off campus. Al was one of the Knights who eventually moved in.
Al is one of those men who is blessed with a truly masculine spirit. He exudes manhood; not “machismo” but true manhood. In college, he was strong, athletic, intelligent, confident and gentle – a true “Renaissance man” with a deep love for God and God’s will in his heart. His spirit is very large and just by his being, he draws other men to himself. It was through my interactions with Al that very tangible signs of my sexual healing came.
One day, as I was preparing for a retreat that I was leading, I became busy with various activities and the night before the retreat as I was packing up and getting ready to go, Al asked me if he could talk to me about something that was weighing very heavily on his heart.
He seemed really distressed. He closed the door behind him and proceeded to tell me of a relative who was currently involved in a homosexual relationship. He was having some difficulty in coming to terms with it and wanted someone to talk to who might be able to offer insight. I assumed he wanted to talk to me because he knew I was most of the way through my MA in Counseling because I had never told him about my struggle nor, by his own admission later did he have any reason to believe that I had struggled with this issue.
After several hours of listening to him share the pain in his heart, I finally let him in on my secret and offered him any insights I could on how best to approach the situation. While it felt good to again share, when I woke in the morning I felt uncomfortable and nervous.
It dawned on me that since we lived in the same house, we would naturally see each other in various states of undress. We had a very large bathroom almost like a small locker room, which made it possible for several of us to get ready at the same time.He is a few years younger, so I worried about how he (or even I) would feel when I saw him without clothes or semi-clothed.
It happened that the next day we ended up in the bathroom at the same time. I had just gotten out of the shower and was about to dress when he came in. We exchanged morning greetings and he proceeded to undress as we chatted. Although the moment was only seconds, a healing occurred then. This man, this brother of mine, trusted me enough to be in the same room, in close corners with neither of us wearing a stitch, with him being fully aware of my struggles.
This was one of the few times during the healing process that I actually felt something give inside me, almost like a snap. The joy that bubbled up almost made me laugh. He didn’t seem aware of how deep this was for me at the time but his gift to me is one that I have never forgotten. Just having him accept me in both my literal and spiritual nakedness was incredible beyond words. Allowing me to do the same for him, was another brick in the divinely reconstructed edifice of my masculinity. It was the most profound of "locker room" experiences.
I still keep in touch with Al. One day, many years after this experience, he called me. It had been several months since we had last talked. We live on opposite sides of the country and with the demands of family life, sometimes we end up playing phone tag for months. We finally caught up and after catching up on old times and getting the updates, I decided to ask Al if he remembered that day in the bathroom. At first, his recollection was vague but then when I described the whole scene for him, he remembered.
“I don’t even know if you were aware of how much that meant to me,” I told him, “I just need to thank you for doing that for me. You helped make me the man I have become. I appreciate the trust you placed in me.”
He answered, “At the time, for a brief second, when I saw you in the bathroom, I did have some hesitation, but something inside told me that God was working in you. I trusted you with my body and knew that you would not do anything to compromise my dignity as a man and as your brother. I just knew that the Holy Spirit was on you and there was nothing to worry about.”
I responded, “I feel the same way about you. I knew I was taking a risk when I talked to you that night and at that time you were the only household brother I had told; I had no idea how you’d react but I also felt that abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on you. I knew I could trust you, too.”
I then went on to tell Al all my observations about him. I told him that he was one of the first Knights I had seen when I arrived onto the campus at that Household Life Mass
“From the first time I saw you, somewhere deep inside, I knew you were my brother,” I told him.
I also told him what I thought about his spirit and his gift more leading men and boys to Christ. I told him that I was especially edified to know that (at the time) he was teaching at an all-boys Catholic school. I knew they had a great role model. He thanked me and even told me that he often used my story anonymously when he talked to his students about sexual issues. Although he is no longer teaching, I know he is now a great model for his kids.
After I had said all this,there was silence on the other end.
I asked him if he was okay and he said he was but that he was a bit humbled by all the things I told him.
“You know,” he said, “All the things that you said to me about my helping you to grow as a man, you have also done for me.”
This was actually somewhat of a surprise to me because I didn’t often see myself as being able to minister to “masculine” men with my own past struggles. There is a tendency that I have to fight in myself that I see myself as “not man enough” or maybe too intense for most men.
But Al continued on, “I have a lot of friends but there are really very few that I have the depth that I have with you. I need you to know that I have messed up a lot on my own sexual life and I’ve done some things that are wrong and I’m not too proud of that,” he continued.
He then went on to explain a lot of his own struggles with his own sexuality. Now it was my turn to be humbled. What Al told me was nothing surprising. I already knew he wasn’t perfect and probably fell into the sins that most men fall into but what was so awesome was that he trusted me enough again to tell me his weaknesses and know that I would not use those against him but rather to build him up and help him walk the walk as a brother as he had done for me. This is what true love between men is. It’s not something erotic or self-serving but rather something strong, pure, holy, deep, unpretentious, honest and intimate.
When he was finished, I thanked him again for trusting me and said, “I need you to know two things. First, none of this is surprising or shocking to me. Second, it doesn’t change my opinion of you. It only makes you more real, more human. Your manhood is not in where you fall but where you rise again and continue walking with the Lord. That’s what I love about you, Al. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves you no matter how you fall and you let that love shine through you. That is what I admire in you.”
After a few seconds of silence Al asked, “You know what?”
“What?” I replied.
“I love you, brother,” he said.
Without hesitation I answered, “I love you, too.”
Al went on to confirm a pattern in my life when I tell my story to whomever the Holy Spirit inspires me.
He said, “Your story and your struggle help me to hang on when my own cross seems so heavy to bear.”
This is what so amazes me about Our Lord. When most men hear my story, they often see a validation of their own struggle and an idea of just how great the healing power of Jesus Christ is. I thought that when I told my story that many men would be turned off knowing what I have been through and where my weaknesses are. Just the opposite is true, in most cases.
Again, the Lord was repeating the same theme in my life that the path of my own personal holiness was not in spite of my SSA but in and through it and that he would continue to lead me and others to holiness through that cross.
Although Al, like most men, never suffered with same-sex attractions, he still found in my story, strength for his own sexual struggles. He told me that if God could heal me so profoundly, then Christ’s grace really is sufficient as Saint Paul says and that chastity and purity are real possibilities for all men. The grace of Jesus Christ really is that powerful and that holy cross really is the instrument of salvation.
My experience with Al obviously had a profound effect on me because it was precisely through trusting another man with my “nakedness,” both physical and spiritual that I grew so much in faith.
Living with my brothers had closed that distance for me and united the body with the spirit in my own mind. As Saint John Paul II taught in his seminal work Theology of the Body, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.”
Not only was I naked and unashamed, but naked and unafraid.
IN MEMORIAM - This post is dedicated to Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a pioneer and giant among men, whose writings on healing same-sex attraction brought healing to thousands of men like me. Dr. Nicolosi died suddenly today and all of us whose lives he touched feel his loss. I will never forget him and hope my life can serve as a validation of his theories and his steadfast knowledge of the truth about homosexuality. Although I never met him personally, I read his books and he was so incredibly instrumental in my own growth. He truly did the Lord's work, facing fierce persecution from all corners of society, both religious and secular. He was particularly ostracized by those in his own professional field of psychology. May he continue to intercede for us before the throne of Jesus Christ.
The Truth will set you free. - John 8:32
Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.