August 11, 2013
Family Memoir Sparks Reflection at Retreat for Gay and Lesbian Catholics
Retreatants ponder a poignant passage.
PHOTO BY FRANCESCA TAYLOR
AS KEYNOTE SPEAKER for the 2013 retreat hosted by the Gay & Lesbian Outreach group at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, California, author John Paul Godges recounted key moments in his family’s life, as described in his book Oh, Beautiful, and encouraged retreat participants to explore their own narratives of faith and family.
“I’m going to share four passages from this book about my family’s origins and about how four of us in the family found a way to remain true to our Catholic spiritual roots despite difficult times in our lives,” Godges began his presentation. “Each of the passages portrays a struggle either to reconcile our Catholic faith with our identities and experiences or to locate the saving grace of redemption where one might least expect to find it.”
The book passages encapsulated different kinds of experiences—a traumatic event, a direct confrontation, a provocative conversation, and a communal reflection—designed to inspire introspection among the retreat participants about their own moments of spiritual crisis, doubt, or awakening. Each passage concluded with a pointed question for each participant to address in his or her retreat journal.
The presentation “helped us identify our spiritual roots and reflect on how the people in our lives have shaped us,” Arthur Fitzmaurice, a retreat participant, wrote in the St. Monica Church parish bulletin following the retreat.
The participants came from a diversity of backgrounds, ages, and life experiences, including a lesbian couple who are students at nearby Loyola Marymount University, a man whose family has lived in the same Louisiana parish for 150 years, and a man whose mother is the eldest of 22 children and who has 100 cousins. Hailing from a variety of cultures—Mexican, Puerto Rican, Acadian, African-American, Filipino, Irish, Polish, Italian, and others—the participants incorporated cultural mementos into their retreat discussions about family origins and directions.
“Our lives all have different stories,” added Fitzmaurice, “but certain excerpts from John Paul Godges’ book brought home the universality of our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with God.”