“The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness.” This quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church was the central theme of the Eden Invitation Fellow Travelers presentation given by Raquel Storey at St. Therese, Little Flower Church, South Bend, June 3.
Eden Invitation is a lay Catholic apostolate that seeks to walk alongside Catholic and Christian young adults who experience same-sex attraction or gender discordance and are striving to live lives of faithful discipleship in the context of the Church. This mission is meeting a deep need within the Church since individuals who identify as LGBT frequently leave the Church for relational reasons, rather than for disagreements over doctrine. Some of these relational reasons include not feeling safe, relational disconnect with leaders, incongruence between teaching and practice, and an unwillingness to dialogue.
Through the Fellow Travelers presentation and other resources, the team at Eden Invitation is inviting churches and individuals to enter into authentic relationships and dialogue with their LGBT brothers and sisters. Firmly rooted in the teaching of the Catholic faith, Eden Invitation is demonstrating that faithful Catholics do not have to choose between orthodoxy and authentically loving those members of the body of Christ who experience same-sex attraction and gender discordance.
Storey, who serves as mission engagement coordinator and is a member of the local Eden Invitation chapter, began by providing context for the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Storey then invited the audience to explore how Christ is “the master at the art of accompaniment” through Gospel accounts of His encounters with Zacchaeus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
“When people saw Jesus, they saw a man with an incredible capacity for relationship, for compassion,” she noted.
In keeping with the model of loving receptivity offered by in Christ, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that those who experience same-sex attraction and gender discordance are to be “accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Storey offered ways to dig deeper into these three responses through Eden Invitation’s Mission Movements: Receive the whole person, grow systems of mutual support and empower for creative discipleship.
The Church emphasizes that when a brother or sister shares their experience of same-sex attraction or gender discordance, the necessary compassionate response is to seek to respect and receive the whole person. Examples of how to honor and respect the sacredness of a person include practicing active listening, exhibiting positive nonverbal cues, allowing for pauses, asking questions, avoiding interruptions and staying focused on the topic at hand.
To show compassion, Christians should work on developing systems of mutual support and having the courage to suffer with those who suffer, she said.
Dr. Mark Yarhouse, a Christian psychologist with the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute at Wheaton College, used the phrase “your costly obedience is my costly obedience,” as a guiding principle for accompaniment. In order to build authentic communities, individuals must be willing to enter into the sacrifices of others that result from their obedience to God’s will for their lives. There is great personal sacrifice involved for those experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance who choose to live in line with Church teaching, he said. “We need to ask what cost our brothers and sisters are paying and then ask, ‘What cost am I paying?’” said Storey. “Consider that the cost of obedience for someone experiencing same-sex attraction might be a house full of children and grandchildren, someone next to them in bed at night or rides to the doctor or the airport; for someone experiencing gender discordance, obedience might cost them acceptance from the secular trans community. And there is the daily costly ‘yes’ — of living into one’s biological sex instead of pursuing alternatives.”
LGBT individuals can find themselves overwhelmed by the process of vocational discernment. Others are called to be sensitive to the fact that this process can be even more daunting for young adults, as many of the traditional vocational options may not be possible for them.
“For lay singles, emphasis on traditional life paths leaves them feeling adrift. We need to keep this in mind when accompanying LGBT people. We need to start looking at singleness as a gift to the Church. It is a life situation to be embraced, not endured,” Storey emphasized.
Eden Invitation seeks to provide space where young adults can creatively live out their discipleship and lean into the “diversity and complementarity of vocations and states in life, of ministries, of charisms and responsibilities,” which characterize ecclesial communion, according to “Christifideles Laici,” an exhortation of St. Pope John Paul II on the vocation and mission of the laity.
Abby Kyle, director of evangelization at St. Therese Little Flower, expressed gratitude for the work Eden Invitation is doing in the Church and particularly for the way the Fellow Travelers presentation added to the parish’s Year of the Family initiative.
“All are created with the purpose of belonging. We want to help every member of our parish learn how to be a ‘fellow traveler.’ After all, we’re all fellow travelers on the road. There is no ‘us vs. them’ in God’s family. There is only ‘us,’” Kyle said.
Eden Invitation offers a variety of gatherings for those experiencing same-sex attraction and gender discordance: initial one-on-one meetings with a member of the Eden Invitation team, book clubs, retreats, encounters and local accompaniment or “Hearth Groups,” one of which is local to South Bend. To learn more, contact the team via the form on the Eden Invitation website: www.edeninvitation.com.
Anyone seeking to grow in solidarity with their brothers and sisters experiencing same-sex attraction and gender discordance may also want to review the blog posts, videos and other resources offered by Eden Invitation on the site.
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