In 2015, a blog called Spiritual Friendship, which publishes theological and personal reflections of interest to gay people who accept the Christian sexual ethic, interviewed Kelley Cutler about her work with LGBT homeless youth. Cutler said: “One question I’ve asked most LGBT Catholics I’ve met is, ‘Why do you stay in the Church?’ Think about it: they could go right down the street to another faith community that has different teachings. So why do they stay? I have been given the same answer by every LGBT Catholic I’ve met: the Eucharist. I don’t get this answer from every Catholic I ask, but I do from the LGBT Catholics. I think this is something people should consider.”
Earlier this year, I interviewed some homeless and formerly homeless people for America magazine. Two of the Catholic interviewees described the way their experience with homelessness drew them to the Eucharist. Greg C said that when he was living in his car, he sought out churches “that had 24-hour Adoration, so it wouldn’t be suspicious that I had my car there… Going to Adoration felt like coming home, even though it’s not where I slept.”
Eleanor (a pseudonym) noted that she became Catholic in part because: “Having been so totally and utterly failed, misunderstood and maligned by 99 per cent of the people I loved – Evangelical Protestants and Catholics alike – I really just wanted Jesus. The Eucharist was suddenly that much more necessary and beautiful.”
The Third Sunday of Advent’s readings emphasise that God comes to the powerless and the suffering. He will overturn the hierarchies of our world: “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:53).
I have only anecdotal evidence to suggest that people on the margins of society often have an especial devotion to the Eucharist. I do think there’s something about the experience of marginalisation or powerlessness itself – an experience most of us have had in different contexts – which makes the poignancy and majesty of Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist shine forth more brightly. Eleanor suggests that the Eucharist helps us to know and love Jesus even when many of His followers abandon or harm us.
One other theme my interviewees raised was the fear of how others would see them – alongside the terrible fear of becoming totally invisible. One man, John William Brandkamp, summarised what many of my interviewees said in different words: “I desperately want to be seen, and I desperately do not want to be seen.” In this situation Eucharistic Adoration allows you to turn your gaze towards Christ and know that He sees you without judging you. You don’t have to worry about what He’s thinking about you. You don’t have to worry that He’ll discreetly edge away from you if you look rough or miserable, if you are a more butch woman or a more feminine man.
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