Historically, October 7th was the feast of Saints Sergius and Bacchus – and so of particular relevance to same – sex lovers, and to all gay or lesbian Christians. In the modern Catholic lectionary, however, it is celebrated as the “Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary”.
The lectionary readings for today’s Mass (which do not refer directly to the rosary), have much fruitful material for queer reflection.
The first reading, from Jonah, describes how in the great storm that threatened the ship he was travelling on, the mariners confronted Jonah, the outsider, implying that it was he who had called down the wrath of God upon them – just as in so much of Christian history, sexual and gender minorities have been accused of responsibility for natural disasters of all kinds,
The Gospel, from Luke, is in two parts. In the first, Jesus is asked what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus returns the question to the man who asked it, and affirms the response – to love God with one’s whole heart, and his neighbour as himself. This is of crucial importance for LGBT Christians, who are so often unjustly accused of “living in sin”, because we have the Lord’s own confirmation that the really important issue is not to conform to detailed, man-made sexual regulations, but to concentrate on love of God, and our neighbours
That brings the inevitable follow – up question, “Who is my neighbour?”, with the response given in the form of a parable, that of the Good Samaritan. For modern readers, remote in time and place from the dangers of travel in Biblical times, and the disdain of the Jews for the Samaritan people. the story in its original and over familiar form has lost some of its force. The gay theologian Richard Cleaver, in the introduction to his book “Know My Name“, recovers some of this for modern gay readers, by retelling it in a modern, urban gay setting. I summarized his telling, in an earlier post which I called “The parable of the good faggot“
Cleaver imagines a modern traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is attacked by muggers and left for dead in the gutter. A bishop comes past in his Cadillac, which had been given to him by a car dealer, one of the most generous financial supporters of the diocese. Seeing the half-dead body at the roadside, he first thought it was just a pile of litter. Realizing it was a human body, he considered stopping, but decided against: he saw that the body was naked, and feared that taking a naked man into his car might cause a scandal. So, he drove on, consoling himself that these kinds of social services were better left to the professionals.
He then describes another traveller passing by, a prominent Catholic layman. He too thought of helping the man by the wayside, but then considered the implications. If the man was already dead, it was too late for help, and he would find himself caught up in endless bureaucratic red tape. If he was not dead and recovered, there was a danger that the injured man might find a reason to sue him for any mishap en route to the hospital. There was also the problem of the man’s nakedness – what had happened to his clothes? There was an assumption that the man obviously was not a man of god to be in that state, or must have done something to bring about his own misfortune. So he, too, went on his way.
Then a third traveller came past, a gay man returning home from his head office in Jerusalem, where he had just been fired, because someone had discovered he was gay, after his lover had beaten to death in a gay-bashing. When he saw the injured man, he immediately stopped, and was reminded of his lover’s beating and death. Realising the man was still just about alive, he applied what first aid he could, loaded him into the car and drove him to the nearest hospital.
For the rosary specifically, we can look elsewhere, to two distinct reflections, developed from queer perspectives.
First, there’s Stephen Lovatt’s contribution, which I first reported on in May:
Taking his lead from Pope John Paul II, who added to the traditional rosary the “Mysteries of Light”, Stephen Lovatt has developed a set of five meditations for a rosary specifically for gay men:
- The healing of the Centurion’s Boy.
- The answering of the Rich Young Ruler.
- The raising from the dead of Lazarus.
- The Last Supper.
- The Kiss of Judas.
Bookended by two entirely traditional Catholic prayers, to St Michael the Archangel and the “Hail Holy Queen”, each part of this rosary meditation is accompanied by a suitable picture, as well as words form meditation.
(Follow the links for more, with extensive and very useful commentary on each set).
In addition, there’s the set of “relational mysteries, originally developed by the Catholic Eugene McMullan, who was teaching a course with the MCC Berkeley, and later supplemented with Prophetic and Incarnational Mysteries, to form what he calls a Peace and Justice rosary.
Dignity San Francisco has combined all three of these Justice and Peace mysteries of the rosary with the traditional three (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious) and the Luminous Mysteries, making a full complement of seven, for the seven days of the week:
SUNDAY: The Glorious Mysteries (1-5 traditional)
1. The Resurrection 2. The Ascension 3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit 4. The Assumption 5. The Coronation of Mary 6. The Wolf Lies Down with the Lamb (Isaiah 11:6) 7. Love Reigns
MONDAY: The Relational Mysteries
1. Ruth’s Pledge to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-18) 2. The Parting of David and Jonathan (I Samuel 20:35-42) 3. Esther Intercedes for Her People (Esther 4:9-5:2) 4. The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:38-44) 5. The Two Encounter Christ on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) 6. The Beloved Community Shares All Things in Common (Acts 2:44-45) 7. Love Reigns
TUESDAY: The Prophetic Mysteries
1. The Spirit Moves on the Face of the Deep (Genesis 1:2) 2. The Angel Appears to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-12) 3. The Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) 4. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) 5. Jesus’ Action in the Temple (Mark 11:15-17) 6. A New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1) 7. Love Reigns
WEDNESDAY: The Joyful Mysteries (1-5 traditional)
1. The Annunciation 2. The Visitation 3. The Nativity 4. The Presentation 5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple 6. Jesus Becomes a Man (Luke 2:52) 7. Love Reigns
THURSDAY: The Luminous Mysteries (1-5 traditional)
1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan 2. The Wedding Feast at Cana 3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom 4. The Transfiguration 5. The Institution of the Eucharist 6. The Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) 7. Love Reigns
FRIDAY: The Sorrowful Mysteries (1-5 traditional)
1. The Agony in the Garden 2. Jesus Is Scourged 3. Jesus Is Crowned with Thorns 4. Jesus Carries His Cross 5. Jesus Is Crucified 6. Mary Magdalene Weeps in the Garden (John 20:11-18) 7. Love Reigns
SATURDAY: The Incarnation Mysteries
1. God Breathes Life into Adam (Genesis 2:7) 2. Moses’ Mother Gives Nurse (Exodus 2:7-9) 3. The Bride Opens to Her Beloved (Song of Songs 5:6) 4. The Word Becomes Flesh (John 1:14) 5. Jesus Feeds the Multitude (Mark 6:30-44) 6. Thomas Touches Jesus’ Side (John 20:24-29) 7. Love Reigns
The Rosary for October: Subversive, Queer.
Therese of Lisieux: An Ally in Our Gay Great War.
Gay Passion of Christ Series (Jesus in Love blog)
- Sergius & Bacchus, October 7th: Patron Saints of Gay Marriage? (queeringthechurch.com)