By Chris de Silva
Associate Director of Music in Campus Ministry
Thirty years ago, in June 1991, I moved from Singapore to the U.S. to further my studies in music composition. As I set out on that journey, I never would have imagined that discerning faith through the prism of sexual and genderqueer identity would become a central part of my vocation story. But God did.
Asian. Catholic. Gay. It took me more than a minute to begin to know, breathe, act, live and eventually love these particular identities I was born into, bridging each within my vocation as a liturgical music minister, imagining the possibilities that such intersectionality might even make be a better minister for God’s people. Rather than repeat the negative, hurtful, and judgmental narratives against the LGBTQ+ Catholic community, I began to craft a new one that celebrates the full range of who we are as Christians through the healing act of music making. I came to embrace making music that builds community, treasures difference, and moves beyond mere welcome to cultivate brave belonging. For me, this has meant working to create a courageous space of belonging while being attentive to what in our liturgies prevent us from offering true Christian hospitality and what in our liturgies inspires us more fully to it.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.”
~ Psalm 139.13-14 (NABRE)
Psalm 139 reflects on the human condition. It sings of God’s presence and intimate interaction with individual human experience and it echoes within journeys launched today or 30 years ago. Through the psalmist’s attempts to flee and hide from God’s presence, I learn more about God’s embrace – ever inescapable, ever forgiving, ever loving. Encountering God through diverse communities of faith that continue to wrestle with and live out a generous welcome of queer Christians gives me sustenance for this pilgrimage, to savor the already and the not yet in imagining a courageous space for belonging. I hear echoes of that psalm in a phrase Don Saliers often uses to describe the fullness of what we do as Christians in our communal worship: to pray “at full stretch” before God. That fullness is reason I long to gather week by week, season by season, year by year, in song and in prayer in Sacred Heart Chapel.
As I rehearse the psalm text with our LMU campus community at Welcome and Commencement Masses, these words persist and remind me of God’s delight in our humanness. They encourage me to continually bridge my intersectionality, empower me to live out my truth intimately within God’s love, to risk accepting curiously that I am wonderfully made, and all this in fully-stretched rehearsal for what is to come.
“O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down you are before me,
ever the maker and keeper of my days.”
~ Psalm 139; adapted by Bernadette Farrell
- Visit LMU’s Pride Month hub
- Cultural Consciousness Conversations is a yearlong dialogue that aims to bring our community members closer together; we build bridges of understanding by sharing our stories, listening to others, and discussing important topics that shape our worldviews and cultural experiences. The cohort consists of faculty, staff, and administrators across various sectors of LMU, and all from diverse backgrounds. Sign up for the 2021-22 cohort. The program begins with an all-day retreat in September and continues with a meeting once a month until May. View this year’s cohort here. If you recognize any of your colleagues who have completed C3, ask them about the program.
- The Inclusive History and Images Project (IHIP), in cooperation with the university’s Anti-Racism Project, will gather oral histories and artifacts from alumni and public sources with the goal of knowing ourselves better, and gaining a deeper understanding of Loyola Marymount University. Recognizing that there have been periods of failure, of inattention, and ignorance that have not served our students well, IHIP is digging into the institution’s lived history to gauge a more full understanding of who we are in all our diversity, where we need to continue to grow to be more inclusive, and to chart a course for a better future. View the website and submit your own contribution here.
- Contribute to In Six Words for LGBTQ+ Pride – We will feature more six-word stories throughout the year, so use your words and join the conversation.
This featured six word story was submitted by Phyllis McGuire ’80, Seaver College Electrical Engineering alumna: