Fit for Glory

Letter from  Raquel Falk

Photo by Julie Lai

(Click on the letters to enlarge)

Dear sister,

What do you do when things don’t fit? When you don’t fit?

Not too long ago, if you had asked me about my sexual orientation, I would’ve told you I was straight. I wouldn’t have told you about the shelf in my mind labeled “weird.” The shelf held a growing collection of not-so-straight moments. I rationalized these experiences of attraction to other women as “outliers,” “flukes.” To call them anything else would have complicated things unnecessarily.

Then one day, while scrolling on social media, the weird shelf gave out. It crashed to the floor and took me down along with it. A video showing a close-up of a notebook started playing. Through my headphones, the narrator seemed to quote directly from my own journal:

“It sounds dumb but I was considering not writing this in here because I’m embarrassed. I really don’t want to be a lesbian; I’m more bi than that. I need you to help me. I need someone to talk to about this. I don’t know. Help, God. Please.” 

Tears streamed down my face in that public campus study area as I watched this woman—this Catholic woman—speak the unspeakable. At 26 years old, I was faced with raw honesty from a fellow Catholic. It was time to sort the shelf.

Given that I could no longer pretend I was totally straight, I set up two options for God. Either God loved me, same-sex desires and all, and I no longer fit in the Church. Or, God loved me in spite of my attractions. I could fit in the Church as long as I sufficiently detested that part of myself. God opted for “none of the above.”

One morning after Mass, I sat alone in the chapel. The Gospel had been the Transfiguration. Jesus was in front of me in the tabernacle and within me in the Eucharist. And from the depths of my heart, Someone spoke—not with words, but with clear meaning:

 “Glorify me in your body.” 

Almost immediately, I protested. In this body? But what about Church teaching? What about natural law? What about—?

“Shhh.” I was silenced. “Not now. I am the law. Come with me.”

The joy of homecoming was unmistakable.

In that moment and since that moment, I’ve been slowly learning that the only place I will ever truly “fit” is in the presence of the One who made me. In daily prayer, in Mass, in Confession, on retreat: He looks me in the eyes and tells me He loves me, all of me, and that I belong with Him.

Glorifying God in my body means admitting my longing for intimacy with anyone, woman or man, to Christ. He has never asked me to shelf it. Rather, the Light who casts out shame says: let’s look at this together.

In looking, I’ve learned that attraction is multivalent and mysterious. Sometimes, underneath my unwieldy desire is the fact that I’m overworked, emotionally exhausted, or just needing a hug. In any case, Christ invites me through my desire to be transfigured daily: He illuminates my aching heart with His love and ordering wisdom. 

Looking closely at my own nature has helped me look closely at all of creation. And I’ve found sexual complementarity to be a beautiful and miraculous thing. In this light, same-sex desires are a real mystery. But so is God. When I feel that my own longings don’t fit, as long as I am in the cloud of unknowing, I am not far from Him.

And out of uncertainty, a Way unfolds. Jesus consistently receives my mysterious desires and prepares places carefully designed for me.

Authentic friendships, joyful community, work that draws on my unique gifts. Glorifying God in my body means saying “yes” to my life. It means throwing myself into the tasks and relationships I have been given instead of lamenting the ones I haven't.

On days when I’m tired—the glow of Mt. Tabor only a distant memory—I can lean into community. I have found fellow travellers who hear me out and pull me in, friends of Jesus who listen to my sorrows and remind me of His promise. Quite beautifully, some of my deepest joys have come when they humbly let me return the favor. From these faithful companions, I’ve learned that the everyday reality of my life is less about forcing it all to fit and more of an unpredictable adventure with the One who loves me. 

So, sister, what do you do when things don’t fit? Do you trust that He has a place for everything—every unspeakable thing? Do you trust that He has a place prepared for you? 

Your sister in Christ,

Raquel


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Get to know Raquel

Full name: Raquel Falk

Age: 27

State-in-life, Occupation: Baptized Priest, Prophet, & King (currently in divinity school and a part-time youth worker)

Location: South Bend, IN

Educational background: Notre Dame ‘13 (BA in Program of Liberal Studies), Notre Dame M.Div. Candidate, ‘20


How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?

I’m a bit of an intense person, so it’s a normal part of my day-to-day routine to ask huge questions and try to live out solutions with the people around me. Every day, my Catholic faith gives me examples to follow (the Communion of Saints), a Tradition to embrace and wrestle with, and a place to come home to.

Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others? If so, please describe.

Dorothy Day’s particular witness to Christ’s/the Church’s command to love our enemies has changed my life. We find ourselves in a time (as Dorothy did) of profit-driven war-making. In light of this reality, the criteria for a “just war” are rarely (if ever) met on the international scene. And as Catholics, we’re morally prohibited from participating in unjust war.

Dorothy strove to divest from the “military-industrial complex” (Wikipedia it) in creative ways. From rejecting a consumerist lifestyle to earning below the taxable income, she showed me that I can make choices to “love my enemy” even when my government does not. I may not be able to stop my government from ordering drone strikes that kill innocent people, but I don’t have to pay for them.

As a Catholic woman, how have you discovered a sense of belonging here?

We have much to lament in the Church when it comes to the attitude toward and treatment of women, both in the past and in the present. One Catholic woman who has helped me find my home in this messy Church is Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., Ph.D. I have had the privilege of studying under Sr. Hilkert, a woman who very much embodies the spirit of St. Catherine of Siena. Of St. Catherine, Sr. Hilkert writes, “She combined a remarkable realism about the church and its leaders with a deep faith that the mystical body of Christ was a far more profound reality than its institutional expressions” (Speaking with Authority, pg. 83). I see this remarkable realism and deep faith in Sr. Hilkert, and I am eager to continue learning from her and women like her.

What advice would you pass on to the woman who is attracted to the same-sex but feels like there’s not a place or a vocation for her in the Church?  

Before offering any advice, I’d ask if she wanted to share her story. The beauty of our lives is hidden in the details. Each person’s experience of anything in life, including same-sex desires, is unique and complex.  

Then, if it seemed appropriate, I might invite her into the conversations that are happening with The Eden Invitation -- a new movement in the Church (the video I quote in my story comes from this group). Through online book clubs, discussions, and retreats, the EI offers a space for millennials who experience same-sex desires to talk with each other about what it means to follow Christ. No ready-made answers, just real Christians trying to take Jesus seriously when he says that his commands lead to an abundant life.

What’s your favorite way to pray?

Ignatian imaginative prayer.

Tell us about your ideal outfit.

Overalls.

Fill in the blank

My morning routine consists of: brush teeth, make yerba mate, hour of prayer at my desk, spend too long checking e-mail/social media such that I must scramble like a madwoman to get out the door on time (mason jar of oatmeal in hand).

I’m currently obsessed with: backpacking. (Went for the first time this summer. Cannot get enough.)

I feel most inspired when: I’m singing with friends, old or new.

My favorite part about my life right now is: the way the Holy Spirit has deepened my experience of prayer. An 8-day Ignatian retreat this summer helped a lot.

The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: in the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, “Remember your dignity.” And, build Christ-centered community with the people who remind you of your dignity when you forget.


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