“I want you to embrace [or accept] the gift of chastity!”
When I first heard these words spoken to my spirit in late March/early April (2017), I knew my life was going to change. Not just in a small way, but on a level so grand, it could only have come from above.
This act of self-mastery; this voluntary denial of the flesh and the subsequent mortification of the senses, could only have occurred through the grace of God. Left to my own devices, I never would have given such a beautiful virtue a second thought.
It wasn’t until sometime later when I received the following understanding in my spirit — I was receiving a second opportunity at redemption. To be more precise, I viewed this was a direct intervention from above — the second of two experienced during my lifetime. The first occurred in 1984.
I say intervention because what else could it be? I said I was going to do one thing, heaven said, “No, I don’t think so!”
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of my first experience, please allow me to recap. To those familiar with the story, I beg you indulge me one last time with your patience and understanding.
Here is the abbreviated version of the story …
Between late 1982 and 1984, I was a postulant of a religious community known as the Society of Divine Vocations or Vocationist Fathers, located in Newark, New Jersey.
During the course of my time with the order, I befriended a fellow seminarian (Alex Di Carlo). Alex joined our order after spending time in Italy with an order founded by Fr. Gino Burresi — a priest who like Saint Padre Pio, bares the wounds (stigmata) of Christ.
Alex, whose face and voice I can still see and hear to this day, confided in me almost a year following the beginning of our friendship, that he was experiencing a crisis of faith. Alex stated that his mother (who was living in Canada with his sister), was dying from cancer. This weighed heavily upon Alex’s heart. I believe his father had already passed away. In addition to his concern for his mother, Alex could not understand why God would allow innocent children to suffer hunger and violence around the world, especially in Africa.
I remember him saying specifically, “Brother Carlos, at least you have a family and job to go home to if this (seminary) doesn’t work out. I have nothing to go home to!”
His words broke my heart as I did not know how to help my brother in Christ, other than to pray for him. Not long thereafter, Alex left the order taking his life three days later.
It was late summer of 1984.
Unable to process Alex’s suicide, I requested time off. I asked permission to return to California to be with family. I was approved for a two-week leave.
At this point I had pretty much given up on the idea of becoming a priest. I knew once I boarded the Greyhound bus I would not be returning to Newark.
I was deeply angry with God for two reasons: 1) the manner in which Alex died, and 2) that I was not allowed to move into the novitiate — the next phase of one’s priestly journey.
As a result, I wanted absolutely nothing more to do with God. A point I made clear to mother when she invited me to have dinner with her at a local restaurant.
When I went to bed that night I all but said to God, “We’re done! I want nothing more to do with you!”
I was ready to write God off. However, something happened during the course of the night that caused such a monumental shift in my spirit that I awoke feeling like Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas day following his visit from the three spirits. It was as if everything I had said and felt the night before had been wiped clean.
I believed in my heart and spirit that God had intervened and saved my soul that night by His grace. Much in the same way He did recently when I was asked to embrace or accept the gift of chastity.
Why is that important?
Well, in the context of the message of Our Lady of Fatima, who said to Saint Jacinta sometime between 1919 and her death in 1920, “More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
I was living and engaging in a lifestyle that is both sinful and offensive to God. There are no two ways about it. Mary mentioned it at Fatima. Jesus spoke to it when He said to Mary Magdalene, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and SIN NO MORE!“
Marriage can only be between a man and woman. The power to procreate can only be achieved when there is a joining of both a man and woman. Any sexual act(s) outside the sanctity of marriage is not of God. It is sinful.
The opposing side, to which I belonged for 21 years, may argue the point all they want. I can certainly empathize with one’s desire to rationalize that homosexuality is as much an occurrence of birth rather than a choice born out of lust.
For years I argued quite passionately that I did not choose the lifestyle, it chose me.
However, after giving my behavior over the years a second glance (hindsight is 20-20), I am inclined to agree with my sister who once said, “Perhaps you did not choose to have an attraction to someone of the same sex, but you do have a choice. You can choose not to act on that attraction or go against what you know to be true in our belief as Christians, that any sexual act outside the sanctity of marriage is wrong!” (C. Hernandez, 2007)
It was not difficult to surmise (following the call to accept the virtue of chastity and return to the Catholic church); failure to respond (to the invitation) and seek penance, prayer, and amend my life, I was definitely headed down a path of eternal damnation.
The prospects of spending an eternity in hell is bad enough. However, the very idea of being in the complete absence of God — horrifying!
In the context of the message at Fatima, heaven intervened and saved my soul a second time. For if I had persisted one day further in the sins of the flesh, there is a real probability that my soul would have been lost forever. Not because of God, for He has provided a way out for me through Jesus first and Mary second. But because of my desire to put myself first over the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In accepting this virtue or gift, it meant that I would have to completely abandon myself and embrace the suffering Jesus. In other words, carry my cross as Jesus did to Calvary, not for myself, but because of love.
I would have to toss aside the feel good, do it because you can, there is no God logic or narrative of the world and embrace a lifestyle that is uncomfortable, demanding, and hard. Then again, Jesus did say that following Him would not be easy — and it shouldn’t be.
I am not condemning, judging, or alienating those who choose to embrace the lifestyle I have recently been called to abandon. Condemnation and judgment I leave to Jesus.
I am simply stating that, like Saul who was knocked of his horse on the way to Damascus, I have been knocked off my horse on the way to hell and made blind to my former self. I choose in its stead to embrace Jesus through His holy mother, the Rosary, the brown Scapular, the five first Saturday devotions, confession, the Catholic church, penance, prayer, and most especially, the Eucharist and Mass.
“Our Lady at Fatima, during all six of her apparitions told the children they must pray, especially the rosary. The three children responded generously to Our Lady’s requests. What is keeping you from doing the same thing? Do not say, ‘I do not have the time!’ Because if you are too busy to spend time with God in prayer, then you are busier than God intends you to be! Meditate upon the following words of Our Lord, ‘What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?’ (Matthew 16:26).”
D.A. Marie (n.d.)
Marie, D. A. (n.d.). The Message of Our Lady of Fatima. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from https://archive.org/stream/TheMessageOfOurLadyOfFatimaWithPicture/fatimaSelectionspic_djvu.txt