From Childhood through Adolescence
I grew up in a large Catholic family. From an early age I felt different, not only from my family but other children. I was labeled “too sensitive” by some. My first and second grades in Catholic school were rough because I experienced physical abuse from some of the nuns. I was terrified and couldn’t process it. As a result, I felt further alienated. Mid-way through second grade, my parents transferred me to public school, but back to first grade. For many years, I believed I was sent back because I had failed second grade, and was just plain stupid. So, my self-esteem was low. Public school was a godsend though. My teachers were kind and my self esteem improved. So, my parent’s decision was a good one and my later grade school years happy.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for public junior high. As a skinny, uncoordinated, sensitive child, I was bullied. When I was transferred to a Catholic high school for boys, I had hopes that things would be better. Although the teachers were for the most part fine, the bullying continued. It was worsened by the fact that I wouldn’t defend myself, having been taught that fighting was wrong. As I moved into adolescence, I also faced the fact that my sexual feelings didn’t align with other boys, and because of my faith, I couldn’t consider that I might be gay. I didn’t really have friends to talk with about this. So, I felt alone.
To survive those years, I escaped into books or television, or threw myself into my studies. Over time, sadly, I came to believe that my value was based on my grades. So, I pushed myself to get straight As. Although I did well, I never achieved that, which also took its toll on my self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy some aspects of those years, as my family went on great vacations and were loving. And my faith did provide some grounding during these turbulent years.
My College Years
My college years had a huge impact on me emotionally, socially, and spiritually. In my first term, my self esteem suffered when I failed to get into a desired program and received a D in Calculus (math was my best subject in high school). Despite studying harder, I seemed to struggle more than my classmates. I did perform well enough to graduate and to get accepted into graduate school. Yet, rather than celebrate that achievement, I seemed to focus on what I didn’t do right, a budding perfectionist.
Socially, I entered college quite naïve and isolated. Two experiences early on stand out that changed that. My first roommate was Catholic, but his primary focus seemed to be on partying and women. A year later, my new roommate was a born-again Christian, and he attempted to convert me. As far as dating, it was non-existent. I wasn’t drawn to date women like other guys, and I struggled to understand why. While having these experiences were very important to broaden my experience, they were confusing.
Through these years, my faith helped me in a number of ways. I had always wanted to join choir in high school but didn’t to avoid further bullying. Now, I felt safe to join. My involvement in choir led me to friendships, attending retreats, and becoming a Eucharistic Minister. As a result of my interaction with my born-again Christian roommate, I set out to better understand what I believed. Through a chance meeting with another person, I joined the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which helped me experience a caring and compassionate God rather than a judgmental one. And, through another friend, I learned that praying can simply be conversations with God.
In my last two college years, my faith ignited. Along with it came a budding belief in my own goodness and a passionate desire to help others experience God as I did. Not surprisingly, this translated into a calling to become a priest. Finally, as a result of some very providential encounters with friends, I applied to and was accepted into a religious community.
These college years were so life changing. Little did I know that religious life would be even moreso.
My time as a religious had an enormous impact on me. As you previously learned, studies in college were a challenge and not just because I had high expectations. In contrast, during my years of priestly formation, studies were a breeze, not because they were easy but because I resonated with what I was learning.
Socially, my worldview expanded exponentially. The other guys who entered the novitiate with me had different backgrounds and experiences. Naively, I had expected us to be similar. I found myself challenged to revisit my very fixed view of life and people.
Emotionally, as a result of my need to fit in, I tried to incorporate my classmates’ personalities. That almost led to an ulcer and being asked to leave. My saving grace was my first spiritual director, who turned out to be a therapist. The thought of digging into my innards was terrifying, but I trusted him. While the therapeutic process was painful, as a result of it, I discovered my goodness, built up my self esteem, and came out as gay. Among other things, I can’t thank my former religious community enough for making therapy available through my entire time with them.
Spiritually, as I began studying scripture and theology, I found myself further reviewing my beliefs. Initially, I approached studies logically. Instead of finding one clear answer, I found differing opinions. Who was lying, I wondered? After much prayer and inner wrestling, I realized that each theologian was writing from their experience, beliefs and studies, and that I had to do the same. This opened a new world for me, deepening my relationship with God and also inviting me to explore other spiritual teachers. My calling urged me to share this experience with others. For the next years, following ordination, I had the opportunity to do just that in my homilies, teachings, and interactions. Then, one summer, while on vacation, I discovered that I needed to look at my sexuality again.
The Software Industry
Ultimately, I decided that I needed to take a leave of absence to have time to determine whether my desire for a life partner outweighed the celibacy commitment required for a religious priest. While my religious community provided some monetary support, I also knew that in order to rent an apartment I needed a job. Providence provided help and I acquired a job in a software company, applying some of my education learned in college.
During the two years of my leave, I met my current husband. I also realized that my calling to serve did not include a commitment to celibacy, and in fact recognized that my relationship supported my calling. One of the most difficult things I did in my life was to break the lifetime commitment I made to my religious brothers. With support from the leadership in the community, I was able to provide an apology to them in the community newsletter.
Through the next many years working in the software industry, I realized that while the job enabled me to pay my bills, it did not enable me to live out my calling to the extent that I wanted. During those years, I did get a degree in counseling, but even it did not fully reflect my calling to serve. Also, during this time, I attended retreats and workshops, and at one of them, I realized my calling to be a healer of the spirit.
Healer of the Spirit
In January 2021, I created this website to essentially put myself out there as a healer of the spirit (aka spirit healer or spiritual coach) and dedicated to helping people remember their divine essence. As mentioned in my About topic, I am still learning what that looks like, and continue taking workshops and training towards broadening my abilities. This journey has been a wild ride and has taken me in unexpected directions. I expect a few new directions will come my way in the years ahead, as I live my passion and calling.