The BEATLES and FR. RICH: "Let IT Be!"

THE STORY: So Fr. Rich Toohey, having this knack for WAY-in-advance preparation, texts me- an hour before the Presence for Christmas event: "Can you play 'Let it Be'?"

My immediate thoughts, in no particular order: (1) Our super-talented music leader, Daniel Cabanillas, was going to be absent; (2) There's a reason why I am hanging on to my day job; (3) I've never sung that song before in my life; (4) It's a worship event... the Beatles? (5) It has IT (=Image Trinity) in there... pretty cool!

So, my respectful reply, addressing all those questions: "Are you bringing the hashish?"

Our conversation continued over the phone. There was a sense of something bigger than both of us going on. I recall a good friend, Fr. Mike Najim, once stating, "YHWH means 'One who tears up our plans.'" Little did we know that RCIA candidates would be joining us that evening- many of whom were new to Catholic experience, and inquiring how this faith integrates with the real world. Little did we know that many were coming with heavy hearts and in need of hearing God say, "I've got this. I'm in control. Let it be."

It all came together in this powerful message by Fr. Rich, connecting Beatles' "Let it Be" to Mary's "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word." I gave Louis Nicolia, our violinist extraordinairre, a simple chord sheet just before we began. Along with Mary I was pressed to surrender my music-leading insecurity and say "yes" - make it a prayer from the heart (regardless of the effect on eardrums), with Mary's conviction that what God calls us to, He will provide for.

Let IT Be!

PLEASE PLAN TO JOIN US for the ENCORE- our final stop for what has been an amazing "four week journey into the heart of Christmas." Awesome music begins with Jared Cooney at 6:25 p.m. Faith story by Pastor Rick Crocker of the Erie City Mission. Daniel back in the saddle leading worship. Fr. Rich bringing it all home. NEXT WEDNESDAY, December 21, 6:30 p.m. St. George Catholic Church.

This year let's give PRESENCE for Christmas!

God bless.

Greg Schlueter

Presence for Christmas is an outreach of Image Trinity...  a four-week journey into the heart of Christmas. Please join us on this great adventure of discovering and living out our identity and mission: in our capacity to love, we Image of the Trinity (Get IT?).

Image Trinity is a family-driven, nonprofit organization with a big vision and mission for our families, communities and the world. Please partner with us with by your prayers and (tax deductible/ board accountable) financial support.

Presence for Christmas 2011 BEGINS!

The first video is an uplifting message by Fr. Rich Toohey. The second is a powerful, faith-story shared by Brenda Newport of The Women's Care Center. Presence for Christmas is a four week journey into the heart of Christmas - JOIN US!


Please Help Spread the WORD!

Presence for Christmas (P4C) is a "four week journey into the heart of Christmas."
Ignited in 2010, P4C is Advent journey marked by weekly gatherings comprised of uplifting story, song and prayer. Each week individuals and families bring their "prayer candle" and placed it at the Burning Bush, which will collectively illuminate Jesus Christ in Exposition. Our Living IT Gathering Guide will help keep families talking and praying throughout the season of Advent.

Oh... the magic and wonder of Christmas! Remember looking through the Sears and JCPenny catalogues as kids? Wondering, hoping and praying for that special thing? Can you remember all the lights and colors, all the special decorations inside and out? The aromatic smells of something baking... most likely Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole singing in the background?  How about Rudolph and Frosty on television, along with special gatherings and events....

Sure, for many of us there was the Advent Wreath, and Christmas Mass.  But let's face it, for most of us these were momentary things to endure to get back to the main event.

Life experience is a great teacher.  And it's worth asking: What is the meaning of Christmas? Is it all about the presents? If so, where are those presents today? What enduring, meaningful impact did they have on our lives? How are we different because of them?

Let's keep it real.  Particularly for many of us Catholics, "faith" is often a tedious obligation, hoops you jump through-- that give us a sense of doing what we should. Is there more? Christmas has so much more to do with personal presence than with material presents. While presents are an important part of Christmas, at the heart of it all is the fact that we have been fashioned for God.  We need God. We need so much more than cliche, or empty obligations... we need to know God.  Christmas is a grace-filled season where God offers us His Presence. He is the Present. And He makes us Presents to each other!

Presence for Christmas is a journey into the Heart of Christmas... an invitation for you and your family to slow down, set aside the distractions and tune into God with expectant faith that He will be Present. God wants to be so much more than an obligation. He wants to do so much more than dwell among us. He wants to dwell within us.

Come join us for all four evenings. 
You'll be deeply touched by each of the stories.  Come with your needs,  concerns, hopes and prayers. Come join in a community seeking God together... enlivened by "something more."  God bless!

Image Trinity is a movement of families. Our identity and mission is simply this: You Image the Trinity! (Get IT?)  We invite you to partner with us. Read more about our mission. Help us make our "Living IT!" television program possible. 

To advance this movement, we depend entirely upon your generosity of prayers, involvement, and financial support (to the left). Thank you.

If you are interested in an Image Trinity event in your parish or community, please contact us:

Gerson Article: Obama's Anti-Catholic Bias. Call for Catholics to Step Up.

By Greg Schlueter

Reprint from

A faith removed from lived experience is no faith at all (James 2:14ff). Our faith concerns the totality of the human person, the shape of culture, with a commitment to building a “civilization of love.”  The political arena is a very specific place we are called to “go into the world” (Matt. 28:19).
So it was with great interest that I read Michael Gerson’s piece in theWashington Post  Obama turns his back on Catholics“ which substantiates strong anti-Catholic policy in the Obama administration. In it he quotes Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, who calls the policies an “assault which now appears to grow at an ever-accelerating pace in ways that most of us could never have imagined.”
After posting Gerson’s link on my Facebook page, the comments began to roll in. In general, I think the critics were offering thoughtful representations of mainstream thinking, i.e., sensibilities we need to understand and contend with. In short order, in support of the President’s policies, they invoked a separation of church and state, suggesting the Catholic’s rejection of anti-life and anti-family provisions constitute a breach of contract warranting these policies, and further called Catholics to task for their myopia on abortion and homosexuality, and invoking the question of competency in leadership: “Would you have an incompetent pro-life leader over a competent pro-choice leader?”
Before sharing my response (a slightly edited version of which is) below, an equally important point is the absolute necessity for you and me, right now, to not shrink from controversial, difficult conversations, but to be informed and enter into the marketplace of ideas with respectful vigilance.
Here was my response to this question about “competence”:
“Competency” is not simply concerned with administrative ability, but prior to that, it is concerned with what one is committed to administering.  As a reductio, I’m quite sure it would be morally incumbent for one to vote against a mostly competent Adolf Hitler in favor of a somewhat incompetent candidate against the Holocaust (let’s be honest, in the real world we’re not dealing with absolute competency or utter incompetency).
To sum up in the words of Jefferson – a good source I think for matters of law and policy: “The care of human life, and not it’s destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
Put in a hierarchical-logical framework, an individual’s life rights supersede another individual’s “liberty and pursuit of happiness” rights… necessarily. All law holds this hierarchy in every other regard, e.g.: one is restrained a bit at a stopping light out of concern for another’s life (this example can be applied to virtually every law).
With regard to the subject of what we’re dealing with, it’s a matter of science, not elusive or sectarian “belief.”  Even Faye Wattleton, pro-abortion Planned Parenthood’s former president, said “[W]omen are not stupid… they have always known there is a life there.” Disregard this hierarchy of rights and we are necessarily on the slippery slope. Certain distinguished professors such as Peter Singer have extended this to it’s logical conclusion, suggesting a parent’s right to eliminate his/her child beyond birth!
If we disregard the hierarchy as in the case of abortion, we really have nothing to say; logically, the principal provides a basis for someone with greater power to assert their lesser, liberty interests over our own right to live.
Bottom line, yes — separation of church and state, but as law is predicated of core values — suppositions of “belief” that are not strictly provable (i.e., “self-evident… endowed by Creator… inalienable rights”), we need to recognize the difference between Constitutionally-grounded, common-sense laws that are for the evident good of individual and society that a particular religion may happen to support, and laws anchored strictly in sectarian/ religious preference.  With regard to abortion (and the variety of other policy subjects), we’re dealing with the former.
Finally, it’s a bit more than ironic that the massive organization and resources committed to “liberal” causes in our country (real human needs: homelessness, immigration, hunger, poverty ), proven demonstrably much more efficient and effective than any government program, is under some auspice of the Catholic Church. Add to this the bedrock-foundational imprint our Church has left on Western Civilization in law, science, education, medicine, etc., and we must recognize the critical role Catholicism has played and continues to play in the formation and advancement of a just, good, ordered society for the benefit of all.
All this said, I am certainly not a mindless cheerleader of all matters “institutional Catholic.” Clearly, there have been, are, and will continue to be abysmal failures of leadership so long as there are imperfect humans entrusted to officiate Catholicism (=until the end of time). These deserve to be challenged. With due acknowledgement of these (substantiation appreciated if you are going to accuse), please acknowledge the well-grounded, good points made in Gerson’s article that demonstrate the Obama administration’s own discrimination and intolerance.
Greg Schlueter is an award-winning Catholic film producer, writer, speaker and movement leader committed to building up Catholic family through their nonprofit, Image Trinity. Find out more at Greg lives with his wife and six children in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Stirring IT Up: Day-Care Chain-Gang and the Meaning of Motherhood

Recently I saw a very young "day-care chain gang" and thought, with all due respect for those for whom child care is an absolute necessity- we can not simultaneously hold up the supremacy of motherly presence without seeing in her absence a supreme privation.

Often we've experienced that certain incredulity from others when they discover we are a single-income family, seeking to support a family of eight, on a ministry income (prior to eight years ago), when both of us have graduate degrees. As a father and provider, with many years of working with numerous children and families, and researching the modern family phenomenon extensively in graduate school, this little incident prompted me to share this relatively short reflection on the ideal of stay-at-home motherhood.

Once while navigating the grocery aisles with a few of her little helpers, my wife was offered these words of encouragement by another woman: "Better you than me."  The woman's cynical, stressed, unhappy demeanor prompted my oldest daughter to reply under her breath, "You're not kidding."

This irony says a lot. It offers us a common premise: happiness. The ancient philosophers and Christianity affirm that the end of human existence is happiness.  I submit here that, among other things, if people were tuned into the real nature of happiness there would be many more stay-at-home moms (and stay-at-home moms who are genuinely happy). I submit here that the DNA of human existence, the potentiality for genuine happiness, is revealed in Christ. Happiness is not a function of the "Almighty I," but of the "Sacrificial I for You."  

In my experience, the "working mom question" is hardly ever about what's best for the children, much less a God-given identity and mission.  On the contrary, it often revolves around the Almighty I: "I'd be bored," or "I went to school too long not to use it," or "I can provide a better living for the kids." Ironically, we'd hear from many teachers the problems they were having in classrooms which they attributed to the absence of a home-life, and yet many of these had younger children themselves in day-care enabling them to... take care of a multitude of other children?

For those who think their extra income is more valuable than their presence, consider this anecdote. Friends of ours who are graduates of Dartmouth shared a story of an article about their alma mater where students were asked what they might have done differently as parents. An overwhelming response can be summed up: they would have invested in personal presence.

No amount of "presents" can surpass the value of "presence."

Let's face it, there's no "perfect" situation- but there ought to be a prioritization of values. I'm stating above that the value of motherhood can not be both honored and disregarded at the same time. Either she is principally valued as the one primarily entrusted and gifted with forming her kids (as is sociologically validated, and anecdotally affirmed by anyone working closely with kids!), short of which "motherhood" is diminished as a mere "guardian" or "caretaker" anchored by biological connection.

Have we lost the vision of what it really means to form our children for this life and eternity? What that takes? What's at stake?

As politically charged as this may be, without it being stated we run the risk of a parent-less society-- which I'm of the opinion is the source of every social ailment: the God-designed ideal is for husband and wife in sacramental marriage (seeking to follow God's plan for mutual love), and mother "making home" for younger children (with a husband's full involvement). Everything short of this ideal is not lost- but is not easily replaced (certainly, we all ought to entrust our lives and work to God's grace, but recognize where that work is humanly realized through us).

It's revealing that if anyone on a job-interview were asked the question, "How well will you do at this job? What will you give for it?" the answer would be most emphatic: "I'd strive for the best! I'd sacrifice! I'd give my all!" And yet this is not the same response most parents give to the same question asked of how they will parent. The standard seems to be: "They'll be ok." The simple question- what is more valuable (again, life-sustenance aside), children, or work?

My brother-in-law and his wife make many sacrifices to make ends meet on their single income. Their motivation?: "We didn't have kids for others to raise them."

Now self-employed for eight years, homeschooling and contributing 40% of our time uncompensated to Image Trinity- we kid (pardon the pun) about how many weeks of income we have until  we inhabit a park bench (Steph warmly smiles and tells me it will be a nicely-kept park bench!); we recognize the lack of any retirement savings (in our 401K plan, the "K" is for "Kids") or any education savings (we're investing in their full, personal success and praying to God they receive scholarships or the human-resources to make it).

Yes, there are sleepless nights when our faith is challenged (many where my prayer has a certain resemblance to begging), but all this is a gift of unsurpassed value to our children: Living evidence that what God calls us to, He will provide for.

God has been and will continue to be faithful.  We would not trade a day of financial serenity for formational serenity. We can not put a value on the great joy we have in "being family" - endeavoring to create an environment (albeit imperfectly) where they are saturated in a full, human vision created in Jesus Christ... to strive for the very best God created them to be... for themselves, and for the world around them. [And as I'm saying this, noting that even if it were possible to "do" parenthood perfectly, children will choose. Particularly as they're getting older and venturing beyond the home, we give permission to all to please provide the extra-parental prayer, support, and yes, correction, where it may be needed!]

Recognizing the tremendous potentiality and mission here, fully intended to be realized and anchored in "home"- I really can't understand how anyone could say "what do you do all day?" Nothing is built without sacrifice... throw away everything else, every endeavor, work, ministry-- this magnificent "work of home" is our God-given, sacrificial, but joy-filled call to build a civilization of love.

A Pastor's Letter for Our Times (Msgr. William Biebel)

[Msgr. William Biebel is the rector of St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, Pennsylvania. The below letter appeared in their parish bulletin today. We think it is a thoughtful, powerful challenge to all of us who profess to be Catholic, a real "letter for our times." Please take the time to prayerfully consider and share.]

October Musings from the Rector’s desk… October 16, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Cathedral Family and friends,

The current issue of FAITH Life covered our Holy Father’s teaching during his visit to Germany. He was clearly concerned about the weakening of the Faith there and the fact that only 31% of his own country considered themselves Catholic. His words tell the reason why. “God is increasingly being driven out of our society…Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith?”

As a senior priest and pastor I share his concern that we are losing our sense of identity as Catholics. For many, being Catholic means “Catholic lite”, just another adjective we use about ourselves like our political party or nationality, that surfaces now and then when needed or convenient, but hardly the core of our daily life and personality.

Allow me to mention a few examples. Then let me offer some suggestions that both you and I can follow to light the fire anew if it is flickering.

Just recently we had our annual Eucharistic Sunday. Even though we had information in the bulletin, on our website, a school broadcast to the homes of all our students, a homily or two mentioning it, response was not significant: some loyal members of the Cathedral Women’s Council were here, a few school families with their children, in all, hardly more than ten or fifteen worshippers at any one of the five hours the Blessed Sacrament was honored.

In years past, we had three whole days of Adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament! When I was young, FORTY HOURS was a highpoint in our year in the parish. Four altar servers were assigned to every half hour in church. Moms and Dads would send the children to church right after supper to save seats for them so they could attend the evening devotions. I can’t imagine that today. As a seminarian at Gannon, we often attended the novena devotions at St. Patrick’s that were so crowded, that services were repeated twice each Monday evening. That was then, but would Catholics attend in those numbers now? And at night??

There was a time when a Catholic person would never pass a church without going in to make a “visit”. Everyone had a medal or scapular on. Men always had a Rosary in their pocket, every Catholic woman had one in her purse. And they were used for prayer, not around our necks for good luck. Week nights we gathered around the radio to pray the Family Rosary broadcast from St. Mark’s Seminary. (Little did I realize that I would be staffing that same program as a seminarian there a few years later.) Meatless Fridays distinguished us from others.

After decades of religious bigotry, we lived our Catholic lives proudly and openly. People knew who the Catholics were. And WE knew who and what we were! Proudly, too.

Today, Sunday is fast becoming just another day. Family worship at Mass, the family Sunday dinner and all the special touches that made the Lord’s Day holy are almost foreign to us. We find Catholics slipping in to the shortest Saturday evening Mass, so they can have Sunday for themselves. Or even more frequently, families lose their parish identity by going anywhere Mass is convenient and over in the shortest time. Just to get it in!

Every Sunday, as I read the paper, I find it discouraging as a pastor to read the wedding page and see young men and women from traditional Catholic families being married at the beach, or at a hotel or resort, in non-Catholic church. I read obituaries of Catholics burying their departed without a prayer or without a Mass of Christian Burial. What is happening? Have we become THAT secularized that our most significant moments in life do not need the Lord?

Are we forfeiting our sense of being truly Catholic by shopping at the malls or stores on Sunday? Do sports dominate our weekends? Do we lose ourselves among the several million others, watching what was once a game for high school kids that has become desperately important, and those who play it skillfully get paid forty more times than the President of the United States? We protect ourselves with busy-ness, grooming and security- blanket electronics. The media have made the trivial important, and the important things of life, trivial. But, are we more at peace with ourselves, secure in our relationships, content with those we love, at home in the world? Are we numb from entertaining ourselves?

So what can we do? Well, think deeply and pray deeply to truly BE WHO WE ARE! Recently the bishops of England and Wales have reintroduced obligatory meatless Fridays. Do we need such external reminders to shape us up again? Perhaps. But, if we really trace our worldliness and restlessness, our fascination with things of sense, down to their roots, maybe we will rightly conclude that only GOD can satisfy us. The revisions in our worship at Mass can call us to think and pray more deeply in our worship. We could be on the edge of new discovery of our life with God IF we get beyond the words, to the MYSTERY OF FAITH.

God is calling us, now, and every day of our lives, to conclude that Jesus was right when he said: “Without me, you can do nothing.” Everything YOU and I can do to lead others to prayer and worship, whether toddlers or senior citizens, is strengthening us all as the Church. So, don’t be too busy to seek out the sacred, to talk about it and use the printed word, the Internet and all the means we have today to discover and share God’s life and love.

With Him, all things are possible. The truth of Christ is ours to embrace and live. We need to invite others to “Come Home” to the Church, but we have to know our way around our Home as well! We are Catholic: convicted, dedicated and alive with the Spirit. It is our LIFE! Let’s not give our life and treasure away to dedicate our energy and time to what is not eternal!

Peace to you, and blessings,

Msgr. William E. Biebel, Rector, St. Peter Cathedral, Erie
Monsignor Biebel has been leading our Catholic Men's Gathering for three years and is a pastoral adviser to our Image Trinity. He will be leading our Made2Worship in November, with the story shared by Damon Finazzo, principal of Villa Maria Elementary. Please join us.

In SPORTS We Trust?

This article is brought to you by another near parental misstep.

Having made the traveling soccer team, our older sons have officially navigated us past the "everybody wins" arena and into the "serious sports" arena (Though seriously, anyone who has spent any time at any game at any level knows that "everyone wins" is a Utopian fantasy. Everyone knows the score. Everyone knows that people have different gifts and propensities that factor into the outcome. Without this framework, not only is one deprived of a real context for improvement, but a context of purpose. I'll leave it to my readers to draw the political analogy- a conversation for another time!).

As one of seven children I grew up with a strong faith, and a super-competitive spirit. These were put on a collision course when I discovered that our sons' first practice coincided with our monthly Made2Worship event, which has become a very meaningful "flag in the sand" event for our family. And, I'm ashamed to admit that my immediate, unreflected inclination revealed me to be more decidedly dangling on the end of the "sports-above-all" marionette: "It's a big deal. Great, human drama. Deserves priority. All else shall bow!"

As a matter of perspective, while I certainly love sports drama, competition has always been about something bigger: competitors mutually becoming the best versions of themselves. I'd much rather play a superior opponent who demolishes me but makes me better in the process, than to demolish someone else and have gained nothing.  I'm delighted that my sons have each other in this regard, to help each other become the best versions of themselves. Ultimately, sports are one vehicle among many to help one hone important life skills. This competitive instinct rightly conceived is the mechanism that forged and defines a great America. In short, sports is an important, formative opportunity for our children.

Back to the collision. Something didn't settle right. In the next instant I saw Made2Worship illuminated by the same criteria as the soccer practice: "Is M2W a big deal? Is it a great, human drama? Does it deserve priority?"

And I could palpably hear the voice or Howard Cosell:

"Good afternoon sports fans.  We are gathered here today on this momentous occasion to witness the event of the century, two colossal superpowers in their final date with destiny. In the left corner we have our undefeated and indefatigable super-contender, buoyed by the affection of the masses: Sports Event. And in the other corner, we have our consummate underdog, whose inevitable defeat is a foregone conclusion: Faith Event. Who will win? Who will lose? Stay tuned."

Keeping it real, we tip-toe lightly through these subjects. As my story suggests, we're humbly working them out ourselves. Questioning the cultural comfort zone is not easy. Ironically, it takes qualities honed in sports: vision to see, and courage to do.

More than just another institution, sports has become a thing unto itself. No longer are kids just practicing a month before the season. As early as fifth and sixth grade, and often many months before the season if not year-round, there are expectations for kids to be in training. When you reach high school, missing in action from year-round training often has repercussions for play time. 

Most revealing is the unwritten but unquestioned rule that if sports ever conflicts with any other commitment, sports must take priority. The other thing must bow. This prioritization has become culturally codified: When I was a kid Wednesdays were culturally respected as a day reserved for faith activity. No one would dare schedule an athletic or non-faith-oriented event. Not any more. In fact, now even Sunday has been assimilated - substantially claimed for both sports events and even training!  

The time-benefit ratio reveals the culture to be way out of kilter. Only a fraction will ever become a professional athlete, yet the total commitment requires laying down other good and important things on the high altar of sports. In fact, it seems as a culture we've forgotten other edifying human activities. Simply being together as family. Good conversation. Hikes. Reading books.  In this sense, for many, sports has become a religion, the center around which most everything else spins.

The tough questions are based upon this premise: How we spend our time, particularly what we schedule, reveals what's important to us. When it comes to a sports event, versus faith event, what typically wins? Which gets scheduled and commands our time and attention? Which gets set aside? Perhaps we're not even talking about a game, but "simply" a practice?  What wins?

It's worth asking, amidst all the other activities we commit to, are faith events even on our radars beyond Sunday? Do they compel our prioritization and commitment? How about family prayer - beyond the 30 second, fly-swatting variant?

Ironically, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in sports not shooting for the high-bar. Michael Jordan wasn't made famous for making uncontested layups. Hank Aaron wasn't made famous for smacking his grandma's pitches out of the park. The same analogies could be applied to work, or just about every other area of life. Given the respective end in mind (becoming our best selves "on earth as it is in heaven"), shouldn't we shoot for the faith high-bar?

Clearly, it's not enough to be merely physically present at a faith event; faith events invite us to be totally present to God: heart, mind, body and soul. So much more than mere obligation, when people are aware of their deepest needs, and come seeking God this way... they really encounter Him in an unsurpassing way. Nothing else could possibly take precedence.

Putting God first is practical, far more practical than any athletic event. We may have all the material blessing and abilities in the world, but if we're not putting God first, we're languishing. We may not understand it as such, but this languishing is often contained in wrappers that include phrases such as "my crazy schedule," or "all these activities," or "too busy," or "burnt out."

At the end of the day, our schedules proclaim values we've become beholden to. In a certain way they reveal our "god." And belief in any god always involves sacrifice, often of important things.

Let's be honest. If someone "can't make" a particular event because of something else, they're not saying it's not important, they're simply declaring something else more important. And if God is lower on that totem pole, as He is the Lord of Life, we're pushing real life out of the way. We're languishing.

The assumption here is that you need not unquestioningly "go with the flow." You are in the driver's seat. You're entrusted with the formation of your child's eternal soul.  No, putting faith first won't be easy.  Yes, you may have other parents who look at you funny when you prioritize a faith event over a sports event.  Yes, you will have to sacrifice other good, important things.  But YES!, all this is the heart of our human story, substantiated by thousands of years of human history: Putting God first, structuring our lives around Him by concrete commitments, often requiring sacrifice of other important things, will be a source of unparalleled blessing for us, our children and our communities in this world and the next.

In conclusion, when we discussed this with Joseph and John Paul, we were delighted that they "got it." As excited as they are about sports, they're equally enthused about our Made2Worship time. (We'll take equal interest any day!) We just pray this anchor serves us well as we endeavor to keep the foundational  family anchor firm... as we foray into potentially higher echelons of "sports religion" that are, should we say, not as forgiving.
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Preaching IT: "Would You Stand for Truth?" (Fr. Jonathan Schmolt)

Homily on The Memorial of the Beheading of John the Baptist / Mark 6:17-29

When we remember today the Beheading of John the Baptist, we are challenged by a simple question, “Would we stand up for the truth if it meant our death?” John the Baptist challenged the man in leadership, Herod, because he was unlawfully married to his brother’s wife. The assumption here is Herod’s brother is still alive when this happened. John the Baptist was not afraid to point out this fact, knowing that challenging the governor could well mean his death.

Today, how many times are we willing to challenge others about the faith? If we feel the call of the Holy Spirit to speak the truth, would we respond? I know that I find myself hesitant to challenge others. I feel well trained by our society to keep the peace, don’t rock the boat, and keep my opinions to myself. However, if everyone simply keeps silent when sin occurs, then is it surprising that people take greater freedoms to not follow the teachings of God?

Any one of us can be called to speak the truth. Are we ready to respond? Would you or I be willing to be like John the Baptist and challenge the sinful actions of others? If God is calling you or me to respond, would we speak up? If you or I do not respond, who will?

Fr. Jonathan is parochial vicar at St. George Parish in Erie, Pennsylvania.


We believe that God purposefully designed us for a life of fulfillment in Him.  The Church has the mission of faithfully communicating the shape of this design.  Our acceptance or rejection of these truths is the hinge of life, determining whether our lives are fulfilled, or fall apart. We applaud priests who faithfully proclaim these truths, particularly those that are most challenging. As each of us are incomplete, we invite you to join us in the adventure of seeking and responding to this life-giving truth from our loving God

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Casey Anthony, God and Us. (Highlights from Made2Worship 7.6.2011)

Below are highlights from the Made2Worship on 7.6.2011.

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
(Phil. 4:6-7)

Most people will remember this week for the end to a very publicized trial involving a young mother who was acquitted of murdering her young child. Based upon the dominance of media coverage, this has been unquestionably the public event of the year to date. While at my parents' home just prior to a weekend of Fourth of July family festivity, I was given the skinny; my parents had been following the case every night.

What intrigued me more than Casey's demeanor and the sordid facts of the case was the sheer dominance of this event on all news and talk shows. This was the American "big event" phenomena. The media sets the stage of what's important. You're missing out if you're not on board.

When we're tuned in to any media we delegate command of our souls. How many of us stop to ask: Where is this taking me? Does it "fit"? Am I better off? Is it good?

Many of us remember life before cable (etc.) when you had to precisely adjust "bunny ears" or be left with static. Interesting enough, "static" literally means stationary, unchanging, un-moving. It's not so much what we see on the screen as what's taking place in the soul. Are the various channels and media moving us forward? Do they make us more tuned into what's really important? Are we better human beings?

Seems to me that the prevalence of static has not changed, it's only taken on a multiplicity of other eye-popping, scintillating, mind-numbing, passifying forms.  It's no longer a question of what you're plugged into, but that you're plugged in. And now we can keep this (non) life support attached to us. A constant dose. Have to check my gadget and see who's contacted me. Have to check my information.

It's the sheer electricity of the thing.  In fact, isn't it precisely the lack of peace that keeps us looking for the next fix, only to be left all the emptier and searching for the next?  So long as we're plugged-in, wired, we're good.  For the majority of us, seriously, what really do we have to lose by not being plugged in?  More importantly is what we're losing by being plugged in: the undivided attention owed the people who most matter in our lives.

For many of us, this lack of peace (static) has become such a part of our inner furniture that we don't know anything different. And it all conspires to keep us from seeking something different. The proof? When we're faced with a moment of genuine peace, do we drink it in?  Or do we dive into the next preoccupation, the next thing to be done?

The truth is, from the moment we awake to the moment we fall asleep, most of us are on a constant ride.

Peal back all the layers and we're all pretty much the same. We were fashioned incomplete so we would seek; we were fashioned to be tabernacles for the indwelling Spirit of the Living God (1 Cor. 6:19). And while there are numerous "apples" that appeal for our affections, with Augustine we need to discover that "our hearts are restless until they find rest in [God]."

I thank God for anxiety. It's a built-in indicator that things aren't right. Anxiety is a summons to prayer... God's invitation to resume His dominion in our souls. We're so blessed to have this connection to the God of the universe... which alerts us when He's missing, and points us toward the peace beyond all understanding when we allow Him to return.

I believe we're on the verge of a major revival. The sheer "God-presence" in the human soul is so enduring, so intact, so vital and beckoning that after trying every other channel and finding it wanting, sooner or later people look inside and recognize they were fashioned for more. They will take the chance to really believe again, beyond the hypocrisy and mediocrity that has so dotted "faith." They will consider that just maybe there is a relational God who loves us personally, who wants to make Himself known, who wants us to know the peace in Him that is beyond all understanding.

That's what Made2Worship is all about. A response to the heart of God calling us to know Him. We were made to worship. That's what's going on in the video above. Real people. Real lives. Real challenges. All of us on the great adventure of more fully discovering Jesus Christ in our lives. Come to the next one... tune in and and experience the difference.

Pope Benedict is inviting us to be awakened from the slumber of "ceremonial" spirituality and culture. He is constantly reminding us that faith, our very lives, are about an intimate relationship with our Savior... to know Jesus Christ personally, truly, that He is alive and present. Pope Benedict knows that if we were to really encounter Jesus, we would live for Him completely, not on the order of obligation, but out of a genuine, relational love.

We invite all to continue journeying with us beyond the event. We schedule things that are important to us in life.  Do this... and we promise it will positively change your life: download the fun and engaging LivingIT Family Gathering Guide. Take the 30/3 Family Challenge. Even if you can't schedule three times a week, commit to just once! We know after that one time you'll want to do it more!

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Our next Made2Worship event is July 6. Sign-up now for special updates. Spread the word.  Above all, let's keep one another in our prayers... open our hearts to God's amazing love.

Blessings and peace in Him,

The Made2Worship Team

Keeping IT Real: You!

Help us share IT. Copy and post IT. Join us in the great adventure of discovering and living our identity: Image the Trinity. Get IT? 

Help us reach thousands through dynamic programs, multimedia, web and resources. Your prayers and donations are much appreciated (left).


Believe the Unbelievable. M2W 6.1.2011.

Below are highlights from the powerful Made2Worship on 6.1.2011, followed by the full, amazing story shared by Terry Burbules. Mouse over to select.

"The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."
Romans 13:11

You know that great feeling after spending a couple hours with dear friends you don't see often, sharing a bottle of wine, getting caught up? Where each moment is precious... worth "a thousand years"... you don't want it to end? That's a small taste of what I "feel" today after our M2W last evening. My senses and vision are alive, revived... and I'm reminded that as these Triune "Friends" are always with us, indeed, the font of my very nature and life, this is the way my soul should always be.

Pope Benedict is tuned into what's at stake if Catholics can't be awakened from the slumber of "ceremonial" spirituality and culture. He is constantly reminding us that faith, our very lives, are about an intimate relationship with our Savior... to know Jesus Christ personally, truly, that He is alive and present. Pope Benedict knows that if we were to really encounter Jesus, we would live for Him completely, not on the order of obligation, but out of a genuine, relational love.

We invite all to continue journeying with us beyond the event. We schedule things that are important to us in life.  Do this... and we promise it will positively change your life: download the fun and engaging LivingIT Family Gathering Guide. Take the 30/3 Family Challenge. Even if you can't schedule three times a week, commit to just once! We know after that one time you'll want to do it more!

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Our next Made2Worship event is July 6. Sign-up now for special updates. Spread the word.  Above all, let's keep one another in our prayers... open our hearts to God's amazing love.

Blessings and peace in Him,

The Made2Worship Team

Portrait of Catholic Love: Dan and Bethany Story (3 Videos)

Mouse over the video after playing to select: (1) Just before Marriage. (2) First Dance. (3) Prequel- "How We Met" Story.

For a world in search of real love and relationships, we want to showcase real stories of real couples... how they met and fell in love, how they interact, what's important to them, the real challenges that define the journey of growing deeper in love throughout life.

Many today are in search of the real meaning of love, marriage and family. Unfortunately, the popular vision that so many unquestioningly embrace often leads to divorce and brokenness. Equally unfortunate, a Christian vision is often seen as "canned," unrealistic, and too demanding. We acknowledge that it's true-- many relationships that begin on a solid, Christian ground succumb to less than Christian ideals. Clearly, by anyone's standard, love and marriage is under attack.

At Image Trinity we want to showcase authentic examples of love and marriage being lived. We believe that at the very heart of marriage is God Himself, who IS love. And so contrary to the popular plan for happiness, Christ reveals to us that love, and our capacity for real happiness, is in sacrificing self for the good of the other. God fashioned us for completion in Himself. God Himself is the model for marriage, a community of persons who pour themselves out for each other.

God created marriage between husband and wife as a sacred means to make Him, love, known. Marriage is a participation in Him who is love. No true, lasting happiness or joy can be obtained until individuals understand and embrace their identity as image of God, and in relationship, as Image of the Trinity.

Discover who you are. Know that God transforms us in His grace for the great adventure of imaging Him. Embrace IT!

Image Trinity is a nonprofit movement of families inviting individuals and families more fully discover and live the adventure of our identity and mission: Image Trinity. Find out more at

"My Ex-Gay Friend" (Reprint from NYT)

Below is a fascinating reflection-story by a pro-gay author recently appearing in the New York Times. It gives us deep insight into the transforming nature of Christ's love and vision, and the human person fashioned in His Image. It is well worth the read.


Published: June 16, 2011

One Saturday afternoon last winter, I drove north on Route 85 through the rolling rangeland of southeastern Wyoming. I was headed to a small town north of Cheyenne to see an old friend and colleague named Michael Glatze. We worked together 12 years ago at XY, a San Francisco-based national magazine for young gay men, back when we were young gay men ourselves.

Though only a year removed from Dartmouth when he arrived at XY, Michael had seemingly read every gay book ever written. While I was busy trying to secure a boyfriend, he was busy contemplating queer theory, marching in gay rights rallies and urging young people to celebrate (not just accept) their same-sex attractions. Michael was devoted to helping gay youth, and he was particularly affected by the letters the magazine received regularly from teenagers who were rejected by their religious families. “Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell!” he told me once, slamming his fist on his desk. I had never met anyone so sure of himself.

Many young gay men looked up to him. He and his boyfriend at the time, Ben, who also worked at the magazine, made a handsome pair — but their appeal went deeper. On weekends we would go to raves together, and I would watch as gay boys gravitated toward the couple. Michael and Ben seemed unburdened (by shame, by self-doubt) and unapologetically pursued what the writer Paul Monette called the uniquely gay experience of “flagrant joy.” But unlike some of our friends who rode the flagrant joy train all the way to rehab, Michael and Ben rarely seemed out of control. There was a balance — a wisdom — to their quest for intense, authentic experience. Together they seemed to have figured out how to be young, gay and happy.

I thought about those times as I pulled my rental car into the Wyoming town where Michael now lives. A lot had happened in the decade since we last saw each other: he and Ben started a new gay magazine (Young Gay America, or Y.G.A.); they traveled the country for a documentary about gay teenagers; and Michael was fast becoming the leading voice for gay youth until the day, in July 2007, when he announced that he was no longer gay.

“Homosexuality came easy to me, because I was already weak,” he wrote in the opening line of an article for the far-right Web site, He went on to renounce his work at XY and Y.G.A. “Homosexuality, delivered to young minds, is by its very nature pornographic,” he claimed. In a second WorldNetDaily article a week later, he said that he was “repulsed to think about homosexuality” and that he was “going to do what I can to fight it.”

At our appointed meeting time in Wyoming, I parked my rental car in front of a red, saloon-style grocery store and cafe that sits across the street from the Bible school where Michael was in his first year. A minute later I spotted him in my rearview mirror. He was walking toward the cafe, holding something that I couldn’t make out. I stepped out of my car and waved to him. He looked the same as I remembered — tall, lean, blond, boyish and handsome in a Nordic ski instructor kind of way. I was nervous, but as he approached I decided to lean in for a hug. Michael, though, pre-emptively stuck out his right hand. “Hello, Benoit,” he said, standing stiff and upright, clutching what I could now see was a Bible.

Though Michael had agreed to let me visit and write about him, he was skeptical about my motivations. “Why are you here?” he asked minutes after we sat down in the cafe, which was decorated with Christmas lights and staffed by a young waiter attending the Bible school.

It was a good question. Had part of me come to “save” my old friend from the clutches of the Christian right? Though I don’t doubt that sexual attraction can evolve, I was skeptical of Michael’s claim of heterosexuality — and I rejected his argument that “homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within.” Besides, I had a hard time believing that Michael’s “true self” was a fundamentalist Christian who writes derogatorily about being gay. But whatever aspirations I had about persuading Michael to join the ranks of ex-ex-gays, they were no match for his eagerness to save me.

“God loves you more than any dude will ever love you,” he told me at the cafe. “Don’t put your faith in some man, some flesh. That’s what we do when we’re stuck in the gay identity, when we’re stuck in that cave. We go from guy to guy, looking for someone to love us and make us feel O.K., but God is so much better than all the other masters out there.”

Michael, who is 36, now often refers to gay life as a kind of cave — or cage. In an open letter to Ricky Martin, published on WorldNetDaily after Martin came out, he wrote, “Homosexuality is a cage in which you are trapped in an endless cycle of constantly wanting more — sexually — that you can never actually receive, constantly full of emptiness, trying to justify your twisted actions by politics and ‘feel good’ language.”

Had Michael been secretly unhappy as a gay man, and was he now projecting that onto all gay-identified people? I broached the question later that night at his small off-campus apartment, where we sat in his barren kitchen eating Oreo cookies. “Well, you can’t see how dark it is in a cave when you’re in it,” he said. “But, no, at the time I didn’t consider myself unhappy.”

Michael didn’t begin to question his life path, he told me, until a health scare in 2004 that led to what he calls his “spiritual awakening.” That year, when Michael was 29, he experienced a series of heart palpitations and became convinced that he suffered from the same congenital heart defect that killed his father when Michael was 13. (Michael lost both his parents young; his mother died of breast cancer when he was 19.) After tests eventually ruled out his father’s illness, Michael felt that he had escaped death and found himself staring “into the face of God.” In a published interview with Joseph Nicolosi, a leader in the controversial field of reparative therapy, which seeks to help people overcome unwanted homosexual attractions, Michael said that he became “born again” in that moment and that “every concept that my mind had ever entertained — my whole existence — was completely re-evaluated.”

Michael was as surprised as anyone by his sudden faith. Though his mother was Christian, his parents rarely took him and his younger sister to church and didn’t try to suppress his skepticism of organized religion, which grew into outright disdain during his years at Dartmouth. But by the end of 2004, after his health scare, Michael was devouring books by openly gay theologians like Mel White and Peter Gomes and trying to integrate his sexuality and spirituality. He was initially drawn to a liberal interpretation of the Bible and argued against a fundamentalist approach to Christianity. “People have been raised incorrectly to believe that the prejudices they’ve been taught by their pastors are God’s word,” he wrote in a 2005 Y.G.A. issue devoted to spiritual questions. “The only Truth is Love.”

But even as he rejected anti-gay theology, Michael’s political views began shifting rightward: he spoke glowingly about Ann Coulter, and in a Time cover article in 2005 about gay teenagers he said: “I don’t think the gay movement understands the extent to which the next generation just wants to be normal kids. The people who are getting that are the Christian right.”

Michael’s friends and co-workers didn’t know what to make of his religious fervor or his shifting politics. Neither did his boyfriend, Ben, but Ben was more concerned with saving their floundering relationship. They had been together nearly a decade, though for the last few years the relationship had a third member — a young man they met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they moved in 2001 after leaving XY. (Ben had family there.) The three lived together, and Michael had at first so loved the arrangement that he started to write a book about it.

But by the end of 2005, Michael told me, everything about his life was starting to feel wrong — his unconventional relationship, his gay friendships, even his magazine devoted to lifting up gay youth. “For a year I struggled to think of every other reason except for the obvious one,” he said. “Then it just came up, clear as day. The problem was my sexual identity. But that was really scary. I thought to myself, Seriously? That’s ridiculous. I’m a homosexual. I struggled trying to understand what was happening to me. I’d always been told that if you had doubts about the rightness of your homosexuality, which I had been having for a while but was trying to silence, that it was because you just hadn’t worked through all your internalized homophobia. But that didn’t feel true now.”

Sitting in his Y.G.A. office toward the end of that year, Michael wrote three words on his computer screen: I am straight. They felt true, so he typed a few more: Homosexuality = Death. I choose Life.

Then he stood up and left the building.

Michael soon moved out of the Halifax house he shared with his boyfriends and sequestered himself in an apartment across town. He said he then briefly joined the Mormon Church, heartened by promises from several Mormon men he befriended that they would help him “find a wife.” (Michael left the church a short time later after deciding that Mormons “didn’t agree with the Bible.”)

Alone and needing a job, Michael made a counterintuitive choice for a newly minted ex-gay: He took an editing job in San Francisco. His sister lived there, and he hoped to find and immerse himself in a Christian church community. But soon after arriving, Michael decided to visit the Castro — San Francisco’s gay neighborhood, where XY had been headquartered — to see “what I would feel.” Would he experience desire? Revulsion? Anger? “I ended up not feeling any of those things,” Michael told me, “but I did feel the humanity of the people in the Castro. I started to doubt what I’d written in those articles. I thought, Well, maybe none of this is true. Maybe I’m wrong.”

Unsure of what to do, a tearful Michael called Ben. “He said that he was sorry, and that he wanted to take it all back,” Ben recalls. “I said, ‘O.K., I’ll help you draft a statement.’ He said he would call me back the next day, but I never heard from him.”

Michael chalked up that call to a moment of weakness. “I wasn’t reading my Bible, and I was in a very lonely place, but it’s not like my same-sex attractions had returned,” he explained on the morning of my second day in Wyoming, as we sat in a padded wooden pew in a small church near the Bible School. There were about two dozen of his fellow Bible-school students in attendance, and before and after the service I watched Michael’s friendly, easygoing rapport with them.

As we drove back to his apartment, Michael told me that his desire for men had lessened in frequency and intensity almost immediately after writing the words “I Am Straight” on his computer screen at Y.G.A. When he did feel an erotic pull toward another man, he said he tried to “sit with it and unpack it,” a technique he learned during a stint at a Buddhist retreat, where he went after leaving San Francisco. (Michael, who meditated regularly for a couple of years, said he was asked to leave the community for “talking too much about the Bible.”) “I observed it instead of just acting on it, and I began to see it as an aspect of my own brokenness, not as my identity,” he said. “The more I did that, the less I felt the desire,” he went on, adding that he has never undergone reparative therapy or attended an ex-gay ministry.

In a WorldNetDaily article, Michael wrote about why he believes he mistakenly took on a gay identity: “When I was about 13 I decided I must be gay because I was unable to handle my own masculinity.” He went on to blame his father for that, which is consistent with the ex-gay narrative that same-sex attraction among boys is often a result of a deficit of masculinity, usually caused by a fissure in the father-son bond.

Michael told me that he has no same-sex sexual desires today, a claim that I found hard to believe. Many ex-gays admit to struggling with same-sex attraction years after they’ve rejected a gay identity, and a handful of high-profile leaders in the movement have been humbled by public slips or “relapses,” a word borrowed from the language of addiction recovery. (Many ex-gays see same-sex attractions as a kind of addiction, one with no “cure” but with the possibility of freedom with God’s help.) In our XY days, Michael told me that he had no sexual attraction to women. Had he learned heterosexuality?

Yes, he insisted, adding that he has dated two women since coming out as ex-gay (both before enrolling in Bible school). Michael didn’t want to divulge much about the sexual nature of those relationships, saying only that neither had been “particularly godly.” “There was a part of me that was like an excited teenager,” he told me. “Whatever God has in store for me next will hopefully involve courtship and getting married.”

I asked Michael if he’d heard the news that Ben had recently married in Canada. He blinked twice, and his body tensed slightly. “No, I didn’t,” he said. “To a man, or to a woman?”

“To a man. Were you holding out hope that he would marry a woman?”

“You have to understand something,” he said, leaning forward in his chair. “I don’t see people as gay anymore. I don’t see you as gay. I don’t see him as gay. God creates us heterosexual. We may get other ideas in our head about what we are, and I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean they’re the truth.”

A week before my trip to Wyoming, I traveled to Halifax to spend a weekend with Ben. I was hoping he could help me fill in the puzzle of Michael Glatze.

“You have to see his poetry,” Ben told me, searching through a bookshelf in his home office. He eventually found what he was looking for — a small bound yellow portfolio titled “Shelves,” which contained the poems for Michael’s senior thesis at Dartmouth. Sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor, with old issues of XY and Y.G.A. strewn around us, Ben read aloud from several of Michael’s poems exploring sexual identity. In one Michael wrote of “people scrambling for a home amidst the labels,” and in another he hoped for the day when “men who love women wave flags for identification.”

It all sounded very much like the Michael I knew at XY, a young man who was fascinated by queer theory — namely, the idea that sexual and gender identities are culturally constructed rather than biologically fixed — and who dreamed of a world without labels like “straight” and “gay,” which he deemed restrictive and designed to “segment and persecute,” as he argued in a 1998 issue of XY. Though he conceded back then that it was important “to stay unified under a ‘Gay’ political umbrella” until equality for gays and lesbians had been achieved, Michael preferred to label himself queer.

As Ben and I reminisced, I couldn’t help wondering if Michael’s new philosophy might, in a strange way, be a logical extension of what he believed back then — that “gay” is a limiting category and that sexual identities can change. Ben nodded. “A radical queer activist and a fundamentalist Christian aren’t always as different as they might seem,” he said, adding that they’re ideologues who can railroad over nuance and claim a monopoly on the truth.

Ben went on. “To me, Michael is a victim of this insane society we live in, where we grow up with all these conflicting messages and pressures around sexuality and religion, and where we divide into these camps where we’re always right and the other side is always wrong. Some people are susceptible to buying into that, and I think Michael is one of them.”

Though Ben acknowledged that Michael’s anti-gay writing is a slap in the face to all the gay teenagers who looked up to him, he preferred to remember the 21-year-old version of Michael he met in a San Francisco coffee shop. “He devoted a decade of his life to helping gay youth, and the work he did saved lives,” he told me. “What he claims to believe now doesn’t take that away.” Like most of Michael’s former gay friends, Ben insists he isn’t angry with him. “I’m worried about him,” he said.

Before I left Halifax, Ben showed me one last poem, titled “The Boy Scout Pledge.” “The Michael who wrote this is the Michael I fell in love with,” he said.

I Solemnly Swear,/Never to tell the Scoutmaster./Never to tell the others. Never to let such/Knowledge leave this tent, Never to acknowledge you/Again, Never to tighten your handkerchief again, Never to/Look in your eyes again, Never to race soapbox derby in/The sand with you again, Never to read Whitman as you/Cuddle till you sleep, Never to creep, carefully to the lake/With you again, Never to take wildflowers/To your tent again, Never to cry for you again, Never to tie/Knots in each other’s hair,/Never to breathe your air,/Never to touch your inner thigh,/Never to catch your stare./Never to be two boys together, clinging./Never to dare.

At the end of my Wyoming visit, I drove Michael from his apartment to the Bible school. He had finals the next day and was running late to a study group. At an intersection I asked him if I should turn left or go straight. “Straight,” he said, pointing the way.

“It’s funny to hear you say that, because in our XY days you used to always insist that I say ‘forward’ when we drove,” I reminded him. “You corrected any gay person who said ‘straight’ in a car.”

“I said a lot of silly things back then,” Michael said with chuckle.

“Do you regret that time?” I asked him.

“I think God had to take me to a lot of different places, and let me study many different perspectives and religions, for me to finally know the truth,” he said. “XY was just a part of that journey.”

I told Michael about a recent conversation I had with our former boss at XY, Peter Ian Cummings, who surprised me by wondering aloud if Michael was ever truly gay. “In retrospect, more than you or me or anyone else who worked at the magazine, his sexuality almost felt more theoretical than real to me,” Peter told me. “At a very young age, he had all these very well thought out theories about identity and sexuality. Maybe this gay or queer identity that fascinated him, and that he had taken on, wasn’t really true for him. It doesn’t explain why he says such ridiculous things about gay people now, but maybe, just maybe, he’s not in denial about his own sexuality.”

Michael looked at me. “Do you think I’m in denial?”

“I don’t know for sure what you are,” I said. “I just wish you wouldn’t write such inaccurate things about gay people.”

“They aren’t inaccurate,” he said, sounding annoyed.

As we approached the school, I asked him what he thought about last year’s highly publicized gay teenage suicides and the ensuing It Gets Better campaign, in which gay people from across the country — and high-profile political leaders, including President Obama — recorded encouraging video messages aimed at gay youth. He didn’t hesitate. “I think it’s stupid,” Michael said. “It doesn’t get better if you’re gay.”

It doesn’t get better if you’re gay? Michael would have punched me in the mouth if I said that back when we worked together. I never would have, of course, because it’s a lie. But also dishonest, in retrospect, was our claim in a 1999 issue of XY that “everyone is happier” after coming out. Michael insisted that we include that line, but it was wishful thinking, and ex-gays are living proof of it.

As I drove back to my hotel that night, I wondered if I would ever hear from Michael again. Might he call me someday to say that he was gay after all, and that his years as an ex-gay were just another pit stop in his lifelong pursuit of truth? It’s possible, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon. For an ex-gay intent on staying that way, there are few safer places in the world than a Bible school in Wyoming. The country’s least-populous state — where Matthew Shepard was murdered and left to die on a rural fence post, and where two fictional cowboys fell in love on Brokeback Mountain but never allowed themselves a life together — is also a state without a gay bar. My old friend, it seems, has picked the perfect place to go straight.