I went to a United Church & Sunday School until age eleven and later in my life consciously decided on atheism. While I always had difficulty believing the stories in both Testaments, the final decision resulted from the homophobia and neoconservatism of the Christian-right in USA and Canada (there’s also matters of evolution and of earth being several billion years older than 6,000 years of age, etc.).
A few weeks ago, we had friends over for dinner and even my non-religious self was enraptured when our friends sang Grace before we ate our meal (Click the box below for a sample of the sound).
I have come to know several community-engaged, accepting, non-judgmental nuns on the island who and have become good friends with one, Sister Anthonia.
When Sister asked if Amanda and I would speak to a group of youth last Sunday, we jumped at the opportunity – I love seeing new places and communities on the island. The youth had anonymously provided questions for us to answer. My questions pertained to parenthood: Why are parents strict? Why do they limit phone use? What are the roles of parents in the lives of their children?
Sister Anthonia picked us up and then we picked up Sister Elizabeth. We were ready for the hour-plus drive to Laborie with much friendly and informative conversation. Country music was playing on the radio – Sunday’s in St. Lucia are country music days. Every radio station plays country and roadside pubs and restaurants play country – it was everywhere.
We passed the Hewanorra airport and stopped in a shanty town area where one of the Sisters used to live. She spoke with several people for a while and then drove on to see some sights.
After sightseeing, we went to Sister’s family home where her mom fed us a delicious homemade lunch complete with coconut water (fresh coconut water is nothing like the kind we get in Canada – it is very tasty in St. Lucia).
Afterwards, we headed to the Catholic church in Laborie. We could immediately hear children singing and clapping from the building we were about to enter. When we entered the building some of the young people changed to a song with the line, “Hello Sisters”. For me, it was all very cool and very welcoming.
When I learned then that our presentations were part of Confirmation lessons for this group of young people, I recall thinking of the irony that I was taking part in this process. As a community worker (and as a fellow human), I knew this day was important and that I needed to respect the Church community AND my own values. I also remembered my own Confirmation as a young boy while actively partaking in Scouts in Manitoba circa 1979-ish.
One of the Sisters started off speaking about careers, career development and how she became a Sister. She spoke of a boyfriend when she was younger (before becoming a nun) that brought about some laughter and a series of questions about a nun with a boyfriend. She welcomed all questions even if they were a bit embarrassing for the adult-aged youth leaders in the room.
I learned that nuns and priests take the vow of celibacy so they can better focus on the community. They are not distracted by their own spouses and children and I thought this was commendable – I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
The next Sister spoke about topics like sexuality in relation to the Church. Of course, it was expected that people wait until marriage to have sex but she did mention that God made humans as sexual beings and stated that we all have urges.
When she got to the part about “Homosexuality and the Catholic Church”, I began listening even more intently. This was when she stated that God makes some people homosexual and that all people should be loved. She paraphrased Pope Francis when stating that homosexual people should not be discriminated against and that they should be accepted as members of the Church community (On homosexuality, the Pope once asked, “Who am I to judge?“).
In my outsider’s view of the Church and its stance on non-procreative-sex, it appears that sexual acts between same-sex couples are no greater a sin than those of heterosexual couples engaging in sex outside of marriage.
While I do not subscribe to specifically religious values of right and wrong, I was enlightened (and impressed) with the progressive stance taken by the Catholic Church on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. On the way home, I even heard the Sister speak the phrase, “love is love” while conversing in the seats behind me.
Once home, I listened to a Blur song from years before “love is love” became used as phrase to defend LGBTQ* rights.
- Before (and quite likely now), neither Sister knew of my non-religious self – it never came up in conversation.
- If you are wondering what LGBTQ* means, here are a few resources: