Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Jason woke with his clock radio tuned the local soft-rock station. The Band Perry track If I Die Young, one of Jason’s favorites despite its somber topic, played and made him smile as he fully woke and slipped from under the covers. He sat on the edge of his bed and decided to listen until the track finished. He wondered why he liked this song so much. He didn’t like Country music, but for some reason he liked this one. It ended, and with minimal talk the next track played. Another of Jason’s favorites, Bruno Mars’ Grenade. He continued sitting until this song ended.
It seemed KKDV was intent on interfering with Jason getting up and getting ready for his meeting with Father Darcy. The next track turned out to be yet another of his favorites, Drops of Jupiter by Train. So he sat and listened to it as well. Then the station went into a news and weather segment and that encouraged him to shut off his radio and get ready for the day.
When he got downstairs his mom and dad were at the kitchen table having their morning coffee.
“Morning Mom, morning Dad.”
“Good morning, Jase,” his mother replied.
“Are you ready for your meeting with Father Darcy?” his dad asked.
“I guess. But you know, I really don’t think that there’s anything to get ready for.”
“That’s a good way to approach this meeting. Just answer his questions and listen to him. Accept what you feel is right for you, and get him to explain what you feel isn’t right for you.”
Jason looked at his mom to see if she agreed with his dad, and her expression seemed to be positive.
“What would you like for breakfast, Jase?” she asked.
“Do we have any strawberries?”
“Yes, there are some left and there are blueberries as well. Would you like those with some cereal?”
“Okay. How about with corn flakes, the unsugared kind.”
“Coming up. Anything else?”
“Yeah, I’ll fix a piece of toast with peanut butter. Oh, and a couple slices of bacon too, if you have any.”
“Your father and I are having bacon and eggs, so there’s plenty of bacon. You want that after you’re finished with your cereal?”
“Uh huh. That’ll be perfect. Where are Jen and Thea?”
“Guess,” she asked.
“In bed. Asleep. Enjoying their first day of spring break.” Jason grinned. “Am I right?”
“Good guess,” his dad said, followed by a chuckle. “How come you got up early?”
“I forgot to change my alarm, and I woke up to three of my favorite songs. Figured I oughta just go ahead and get up and get ready. That way I’ll have time to pack everything I’ll need for Leshawn’s pool party. You know, my swimsuit and towels and a jacket and board shorts and whatever Mom has me bring along.”
Betty turned from her cooking and asked Jason, “What would I have you bring to Leshawn’s?”
“Oh, good, there isn’t anything then.” Jason couldn’t suppress his smile.
“Not quite. Your dad is going to pick up some diet soda while you’re meeting with Father Darcy, and you’ll bring that to Mrs. Cross. You won’t have to pack it, though. It will be several six-packs in our cooler chest.”
“Will there be diet root beer?”
“Yes, Jase,” his dad replied, “we won’t forget that you and Ron are diet root beer fans. Barq’s Diet Root Beer fans.”
“Here’s your cereal.”
“Good. These strawberries look great.” Jason popped one in his mouth. “Wow! This one is so sweet and delicious. Are these from the Farmer’s Market downtown?”
“Yes, they’re the ones I got there last Sunday. I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market tomorrow morning to get some more.”
Jason ate his cereal with strawberries and blueberries, and his mom toasted some sourdough bread for him, his dad, and herself. She served the eggs and bacon, and gave Jason a plate with four slices of bacon.
“I thought you would like a little more this morning since you’ll be waiting for Leshawn’s dad to get the grill going for your lunch.”
“Yeah, I am a little hungrier than I thought.”
Breakfast continued with a few questions about what Jason would be doing during spring break. When he finished he put his dishes in the dishwasher.
“I’m going to pack a gym bag with stuff for Leshawn’s pool party. What time are we going to leave, Dad?”
“Twenty of eleven. That should be enough time.”
“Jase, what are you going to wear for your meeting with Father Darcy?” Betty asked him.
“School clothes. Khaki’s a T, and a short-sleeve shirt, buttoned. No reason to get all dressed up like for Mass. That’s not really me, and I want him to see the me that’s the gay kid who’s a freshman in high school.”
“What you described sounds fine,” she replied.
After Jason went upstairs Betty sighed.
“Tim, I hope Jase isn’t going into this meeting with a chip on his shoulder.”
“I don’t know why he’d be like that. I think he is going into this meeting with a good attitude. The one thing I wonder is if Father Darcy will ask him why he quit being an altar boy.”
“How would he even know? He is at a different parish than Saint Mary’s.”
Jason and his dad talked about school and Leshawn’s pool party during the drive to St. Stephen’s Church. Neither of them had been to this church before, so finding the Rectory proved to be a little complicated. Finally, Tim turned on the car’s GPS and keyed in ‘St. Stephen’s Church Rectory’ and it directed them to an address that looked like an apartment building a block away from the church. The sign on the front wall confirmed the location, and they went to the entrance and Jason pressed the doorbell button.
An elderly lady opened the door. She smiled when she looked at Jason.
“You must be Jason Phillips; am I correct?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m Jason Phillips. I have an appointment with Father Darcy.”
“Yes, yes! Please come in.” She smiled at Tim. “And you must be Jason’s father.” She held out her hand, and they shook hands.
“That’s right,” he replied. “I’m Tim Phillips.”
“Well, come in, come in! I’m Lucille Schilling, the housekeeper for the St. Stephen’s Church Rectory.” She stepped aside and ushered them into a large foyer that looked more like a waiting room in an old office building. “Please have a seat. I’ll let Father Darcy know that you’ve arrived.”
She left the room, and Jason and his dad sat on what turned out to be a rather uncomfortable sofa. Jason looked around. The room was paneled with some sort of dark wood. A small vertical window alongside the outside door let in a minimal amount of light, augmented by a ceiling light fixture that didn’t appear to be turned on until he looked directly at it for a moment. “Why do church building always have to be so dark?” he mumbled. His dad didn't reply.
“Hello, hello, hello!” A jovial man in a Priest’s daily garb entered the room. Jason and his dad stood, and Father Darcy introduced himself.
“I am Father Liam Darcy. You, young man, are Jason. And you, sir, are his father. Good to see you again. Do I have that correct, or have I mixed up the two of you?” He chuckled at his little joke, and Tim and Jason smiled in response. “Please, come into my office. And welcome to St. Stephen’s.”
He led them down a hallway to a small office that contained an office desk and chair and three side chairs. Jason noted the side chairs had seat cushions which he hoped would be more comfortable than the cushions on the sofa. Whether they were or not, they’d certainly be more comfortable than, and not as hard as, solid wood seats.
“Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink, Jason? Is it Jason, or do you have a nickname that you’d prefer I use?”
“My nickname is Jase, but either name is okay.”
“Then I’ll call you Jase. Mr. Phillips, Tim, will you be joining Jase during our little conversation this morning?”
“No, I’m here to drop him off and then pick him up. I’ve asked him to phone me when it’s time for me to come back and collect him. Will that be alright?”
“Of course. He can use my telephone or he can use his cell phone. Jase, I assume you have a cell phone?”
“Very good. Tim, I usually sum up the points we’ve discussed at the end of our meeting. That usually takes about ten minutes. I’ll let Jase know that we’ve arrived at the summation point so he can phone you and give you a few minutes to get here before we’re finished, which should be by noon or even a bit before.”
Tim stood, shook hands with Father Darcy, said “G’bye” to Jason, and left. Father Darcy sat down and smiled at Jason.
“You’ll have to excuse me, I tend to chatter on and forget things. I think I asked if you’d like something to drink. We have a wide variety of sodas, juice, and, of course, water. Can I have something brought in for you? I myself will have a cup of coffee. Or perhaps you would like coffee as well?”
Jason had to smile. Father Darcy had a distinct Irish accent, and he did seem to chatter on. While he might forget things, Jason saw that he remembered them, like the offer of something to drink.
“I’d like a glass of orange juice, please. If you have it.”
“That we do. Let me just ask Lucille to bring you a cold glass of orange juice and me my coffee.” He picked up the phone on his desk, dialed a number, and asked for the drinks. She arrived shortly, a mug of coffee in one hand and a tall glass of orange juice in the other. She smiled at Jason as she put his glass on what looked like a large glass ashtray at the edge of the desk near where he sat, and handed Father Darcy his mug of coffee. She left the office, closing the door behind her.
“Well, Jase, it’s nice to meet you. I met your parents at the PFLAG meeting Tuesday night and had a nice, long conversation with your mother. She is very proud of you.” He smiled at Jason. “My understanding is that you are here to see me today because your mother is still conflicted about her Catholic upbringing and the fact that you are gay. Is that correct?”
That surprise Jason. He thought Father Darcy would focus on him, not on his mom.
“Uh, yes, I guess that’s it.”
“Ah, I can see I surprised you a bit with what I just told you. So let’s get the ‘you’ part of this on the table first, okay?”
“Sure. Yeah, that’s okay.”
“You are gay, not just experimenting with another boy because it’s easier than figuring out how to relate to a girl at your age?”
“Yes. I’m positive that I’m gay, and I have a boyfriend who I met when we were in intermediate school. His folks have known that he’s gay and that we’ve been boyfriends since we were in the eighth grade.”
“And I know that they are accepting of both of you.”
“Really? I mean, you know that already?”
Father Darcy chuckled. “You know about PFLAG, and that Ron Cantham’s mother is one of the meeting coordinators. I’m the other meeting coordinator, and she has kept me apprised about her son and his boyfriend. Of course, I never knew your name, she didn’t out you to me which would have been unprofessional. Tammy Cantham is very professional and circumspect at all times. However, I put two plus two together to arrive at the conclusion that the Jason that Betty said is her son is also Ronald Cantham’s boyfriend.”
“Oh. Sort of like Sherlock Holmes, then.”
“Oh, yes! I love mysteries and Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorites. Do you like to read mysteries?”
“Uh huh. I read a lot, and I like mysteries and science fiction. But most of my reading seems to be for school. English 1, American History and Geography, Spanish 3, and reviewing stories we write in Creative Writing.”
“What kind of stories do you like to write?”
“I like stories that I can include a twist at the end, something unexpected. Sort of like mysteries, but no murders or thefts or anything like that. Just stories about kids in school and at home, what my teacher Mr. Lyon calls ‘Slice of Life’ stories. He says they fit ‘Write what you know’. I’ve written a couple science fiction stories, too.”
“Do you read stories on the internet?”
“I’ve read a few. Two were reading assignments for English 1 and they were on the internet to read for free. I have the Kindle and nook apps on my PC and sometimes they have books I can download for free.” Jason decided he’d move the discussion back to the gay topic. “There’s a website with gay stories and I’ve read some of them. There’s no sex scenes, well, none with any details. It’s called Codey’s World and it’s for teens. Most of the stories are about how gay kids get along in school, what happens when they’re outed or come out at school and at home, about being bullied. And it also has lots of stories that are just general, with nothing about gay kids.”
“I know of that site and I’ve read some of the stories there myself. I think for a gay boy, or girl, it’s a good site because there’s not a lot of sex and violence. How about vampire stories? They seem to be so popular today.”
Jason shook his head. “I think they are stupid. I mean, vampires? Even worse are the stories about zombies. You read one and you’ve read them all. At least in my opinion.”
“Are you a fast reader?”
“I took speed reading in the eighth grade. I probably doubled my reading speed and comprehension. That was a great class.”
“What are your favorite classes at Hillcrest High School this semester?”
“Well, I’m only a freshman so I’m mostly taking required courses. American History and Geography is okay, but there’s a lot of memorization. Not so much dates, our teacher doesn’t push that, but places and how political geography changes with wars. I like physical geography and how it caused populations to settle in some places and not others. I like math, a lot. I’m taking Geometry and next year I’m going to take Algebra 2 and Trigonometry and AP Statistics. I want to go to Cal and major in computer science so I want to get all the AP math… uh, that means Advanced Placement math, that I can take in high school, including Calculus. My electives this semester are Creative Writing and Photography. Besides math those are my favorite classes. English 1 is okay, and Spanish 3 is my hardest class because it’s mostly vocabulary and writing in Spanish. That’s about it, except PE which I love because I’m taking Weight Training to build up my muscles.”
“You think you need to build up your muscles? Are you planning on going out for a sport?”
“No, I just want to be healthy. Weight Training isn’t to become a body builder or anything like that, it’s just to align your body and weight with your bone structure. We don’t use free weights or barbells, we use equipment for upper and lower body strength exercises. We do things like situps but not going for lots of reps in a short time like the regular PE classes do. We do warm-up exercises for five minutes, then we alternate the equipment so we’re on upper body exercises for ten minutes, then lower body exercises for ten minutes, then repeat those again but with different equipment, then we get on the ab and butt crunch machines for the last five minutes. Then we shower and the class is over.”
“Do you think your weight training would help if you were attacked at school for being gay?”
“There’s almost none of that at Hillcrest High. At least, I don’t know of any attacks. I’d say the kids are gay-friendly. That’s been my experience.”
“Are you out at school?”
“To a few kids. This afternoon Ron and I are going to a pool party at a friend’s house and we’re going to tell the kids there who don’t already know about us that we’re boyfriends.”
“Is that wise?”
“I think so. That way we don’t have to always be on guard that some of our friends might guess about us and then wonder why we didn’t tell them. And it’s being truthful and trusting our friends, too. That’s probably the most important part. We’re not going to go around announcing it to everyone we see. After we’ve told our close friends we won’t say anything unless someone asks. Then we’ll tell them the truth. I’ve never liked to lie, and I’ve never lied to my folks. Well, maybe I’ve left a few things out once in a while and I suppose that’s a lie of omission.” Jason grinned, and so did Father Darcy.
“You seem comfortable about being gay.”
“I am, and so is Ron. And as I said we’ve met kids at school who are gay and out and they all seem comfortable about it. You know, it’s genetic, the way God made us. If we tried to not be gay then we’d be lying. In my opinion that kind of lying is a real sin. It’s turning away from the way God made me. He had a purpose in making me gay, don’t you think?” Jason watched Father Darcy to see his reaction.
“I agree with you, Jase. Not everyone in the Catholic Church would agree, though, or they would say that it’s God’s way of testing you. I personally find a God who needs to test his children would not be a God who loves his children.”
“I know. I hate to say it this way, but Father Morton and Monsignor Valle at St. Mary’s are homophobes. In my opinion they preach hate, not God’s love. I was an altar boy at St. Mary’s for about three years and finally had to give it up because I’d sit there during Mass and listen to them preach that gays are the scourge of the earth and tools of the devil. Because I’m gay it’s like they were preaching right at me, accusing me, calling me a sinner. Finally I gave it up and walked away from something I loved to do.”
“You never told them your reason for leaving?”
Jason laughed. “You have to be kidding, Father Darcy. Sorry for saying it that way, but it’s the truth. I would have probably been excommunicated right where I stood. I think they would have refused to let me go to confession or take Communion. No way would I ever tell them.”
Jason stared at Father Darcy. “Is what we talk about today strictly confidential, and that it won’t get back to Father Morton or Monsignor Valle or anyone else like my folks?”
“It is, as you said, strictly confidential and will never leave this room unless you yourself say something about what we talk about.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“So, do you still go to Confession and take Communion?”
“Yes, but not as often as before. I always get a dirty look from them when I go to St. Mary’s because of how I quit being an altar boy.”
“And how did you quit being an altar boy?”
“Monsignor Valle wanted me to be an altar boy every day at seven a.m. Mass. I couldn’t do it and be back at school for my eight o’clock class, and that’s what I told him. I was in the eighth grade, and he said I should quit going to Lomita Middle School and go to St. Mary’s School instead. I told him I wouldn’t do that. He said since it was almost summer vacation I didn’t have any reason not to be one of the seven a.m. altar boys during the summer. I said that wouldn’t work for me, and he said I should pray to God about it and do what he directed. At first I thought he meant what God directed, but I thought about it and what Monsignor Valle is like and decided he meant to do what he, Monsignor Valle, directed me to do. I really got upset with him. It was like he was bullying me to do something that I didn’t want to do, and then he played the ‘God card’ trying to make me feel guilty like I was a bad Catholic for not being an altar boy.
“That Sunday I was one of the altar boys at the nine o’clock Mass. After Mass was over and I was changing Father Morton came in and began pressuring me about being an altar boy on the weekdays, that it was my duty as a Catholic. I said no, being an altar boy didn’t fit into my schedule now that I’d be going to high school, and that I was finished. I walked out with him saying I wasn’t a good Catholic.”
“You still go to church?”
“Most Sundays, with my mom and my little sister.”
“You go to St. Mary’s?”
“Yes, to the nine o’clock Mass.”
“Do either Father Morton or Monsignor Valle ever approach you after Mass on Sundays?”
“Nope. We sit near the back and Mom makes sure we’re out of there before they have a chance to get to the front entrance of the church for meet-and-greet.”
“Have you thought about switching which church you go to?”
“No. I never thought about it, and Mom never mentioned it.”
“I think you’ll find a more welcoming environment here at St. Stephen’s or at St. John Vianney. You might suggest that to your mother.”
“Thanks, Father Darcy, that’s a good idea. I will suggest it to my mom.”
Jason picked up his glass of orange juice and drank part of it, slowly. He thought about what Father Darcy had said at the beginning of their meeting and decided to ask him about it. He set the glass back in its ashtray coaster.
“Father Darcy, you’re very clever.”
“Now, what could you possibly mean, Jase?”
“When we started the meeting you said something about it being about how my mom is conflicted about me being gay. All we’ve talked about is me and me being gay. We haven’t said anything about my mom’s conflictedness. That’s probably not a real word, but it’s what we haven’t talked about.” Jason saw Father Darcy smile and wink.
“You are very clever, Jason. You have ferreted out my modus operandi. Yet, what I said at the start of our meeting is still correct. This is for your mother’s peace of mind that you are still a member of God’s Church despite being a gay teenager. We don’t have much time left, so let me get to the chase, as they say.
“Jase, do you believe in God?”
“Yes, but maybe not the same God that most people think about. I believe in a God who created an amazing universe with billions of galaxies, each of which has billions of suns and billions of planets. Just think about that, Father. We can barely see a fraction of the universe from earth, and it’s all there, God’s creation. Isn’t that amazing? Here on earth we go in the other direction, we are studying the inside of matter and we’ve found quarks and muons and strings and all of the infinitesimally small things that makes up matter. God created all that. Isn’t that amazing? God also created plants and animals, and he created man in his image. He created me, a gay boy, in his image. Isn’t that amazing?”
Father Darcy sat looking at Jason for maybe ten or fifteen seconds without saying anything. That is a long time for someone to sit looking at you, Jason thought, especially when you’re a fourteen-year-old gay teenager. Just before Jason would have started to freak out, Father Darcy cleared his throat.
“It is all amazing, Jase. I have to say, you’re the first teenager I’ve ever talked to who had such an… unusual grasp on the universe and God’s place in the design of that universe. Now, perhaps, a harder question. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord?”
“Yes, but again maybe not the same Jesus that most people think about. I believe in a Jesus who is God’s son, born a man on earth. As a man He had the same basic genetic makeup in His body as every other man has in their bodies, the same genetic makeup that I have in my body. So I share my genetic makeup with Jesus. He’s always in my body.” Jason struck his chest with his right fist, three times. “He’s always with me, right here. He’s always with you, too, Father. Isn’t that amazing? What’s even more amazing is what we make or do not make of ourselves by having that connection, the genetic makeup that we share with Jesus. Some do good, some do evil, some do both. Because I know that I have the same genetic makeup as Jesus in my body, I always try to do good, to do what’s right, Father.”
“That’s very true, Jase. Jesus is descended from David, and that’s in the Bible. I agree that most people probably don’t think about Jesus in genetic terms. Of course, Jesus never had any progeny, so none of us are descended from Him. But we do share His genetic makeup, and that does make Him a part of each of us.
The conversation continued for another twenty minutes after which Father Darcy told Jason that he should phone his dad to pick him up in ten minutes. When that call was completed, Father Darcy summarized.
“Jase, I think you’re a very well balanced young man. You are comfortable with who you are, and you feel close to God and to Jesus Christ. You have a unique perspective on life, one that I would venture to say is much more mature than your age. You are a gay teen, and you are comfortable with who you are as a gay teen. You say that God made you a gay male, and no one can contradict that position because they don’t know God’s intentions, despite what they might say. You have a deep committed relationship with Ron Cantham, one where you two love each other.
“You are walking a tightrope of Doctrine versus Discipline. There is not a definitive Doctrine about homosexuality, about being gay. There is Discipline about homosexuality that is still in the process of being defined and redefined. The tightrope is not knowing how the Discipline on this subject will be finalized, if it ever is finalized. I’m glad I’m not one of the Theologians who have the responsibility to discuss, or more correctly to argue, traditional teachings versus the results of new translations and interpretations of relevant Biblical passages, going back to when they were first scribed in languages that are now long dead.
“As I told your mother at the PFLAG meeting, it’s up to those who are gay and Catholic to arrive at an interpretation that they are comfortable with and that doesn’t prevent them from being gay and from being Catholic. When dealing with a subject like homosexuality, there is on-going controversy along with new translations and reinterpretations. As an individual Catholic, Jase, you must consult your own conscience. You need to walk that same path, and arrive at an interpretation that you believe to be right and that does not violate Church Doctrine and, at best, bends current Church Discipline as little as possible.
“Jase, do you feel that you have an interpretation that meets these criteria?”
“Yes, Father, I do. I’ve always felt that I fit in as a Catholic and as a gay kid. In fact, I’ve never questioned that, ever.”
Father Darcy grinned. “Ah, the absolute positivity of youth! Jase, do you feel that our meeting has been helpful?”
“Do you know what you’re going to tell your parents? Especially your mother?”
“I think so. I’m not going to go through all of these details with her. I’m going to sort of summarize your summary, I suppose.” Jason grinned. “At least what I can remember. Remembering the rest of what we talked about today, maybe, maybe not.”
“Jase, I’d like you to return in a year and we can have another talk. Is that okay?”
“Sure. I’ll write down my name and email address so you can contact me.”
Father Darcy handed Jason a pad and Jason returned it with his contact information. “I put my cell number and home address and phone number too.”
“Thank you for coming in today, Jase. I’ve been stimulated by our discussion and impressed that you’re so well grounded, as is said using current jargon. I wish you the best of luck. Here’s my card. You can contact me at any time, on any subject.”
“Thank you for meeting with me, Father. It turned out to be a lot different than I thought it would, and a lot better.”
They stood and shook hands. Father Darcy asked Jason to join him in the Lord’s Prayer, and Jason did.
A big thanks to Pertinax Carrus for catching my typos!
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