Twenty nine years ago today, a St. Anthony School teacher raped me for the first time. I was 13. When he was done taking my innocence, he showered as I put my school uniform back on, then stared at the salt-water aquarium he kept in his living room.
His ruse for taking me to his house from the school campus was he needed to pick something up at home before taking me to eat. So, when he was done doing as he pleased – the hour on that December 8, 1993 afternoon approaching the start of the procession to Our Lady of Camarin – my consolation prize was one of those microwaveable treats. I think it was a pizza bagel or a pepperoni hot pocket. As he handed it to me, he said, “You better stop eating these. You’re getting pimples.”
I published this story along with many other details this day last year. I struggled with the idea of retelling this story today, and decided instead to focus on what happened after the first rape.
He took me to Agana for the procession, but dropped me far from where people could see me leaving his car. I’m pretty sure it was the parking lot, where Winchells is now. As I walked to the Cathedral grounds, the music became louder, and families leaving their cars to assemble began walking with and past me. I was with so many, but ironically very much alone in my first night as a prisoner of my own mind.
I was filthy and filled with filth. Worse than the physical mess on me was the dirtiness I felt about myself and my soul. But rather than feel ashamed or trapped by my loneliness, the closer I got to the grounds, the safer I felt.
It took me a long time, a great deal of struggle and inner chaos, an adulthood full of drug abuse, and a bout of very public vengeance to arrive where I am today. I have returned to her loving embrace and her consolation. To her patronage. To her protection.
People often wonder how I – a gay man – who survived the rapes and subsequent cover ups by the Archdiocese of Agana could find my way back to the Catholic Church. There really is no wonder to it. That one man is not the church. The archdiocese isn’t the church. The church is a community of sinners gathered in the name of Jesus Christ. My rapist is a sinner. I’m a sinner. We all are. And when I pass this life into the next, I want to be where eternal love reigns.
Little more than three years ago, Tim Rohr – the founder of the widely-read JungleWatch, overheard something I told Patti Arroyo on the radio: “I obviously ain’t going back to Mass, not in the Catholic Church, but however, that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my faith in Christ, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe, I just need somewhere to go.“
Mr. Rohr published an article on JungleWatch addressing what I said. I didn’t know it then, but that article changed my life. Here is the relevant excerpt:
“Here Torres gives voice to the real issue. For most of us, in our heart of hearts, we know we are going to die and face The Judgment. We know there is a Heaven and we know there is a Hell. But, even short of that, we at least know that we are loved by a “someone,” and barring complete abdication of our hearts and minds to Satan, we are irresistibly drawn to that Love. Thus, St. Augustine wrote: “our hearts are restless O Lord until they rest in you.”
“What Torres is attempting to give voice to is man’s deepest need: to WORSHIP.
“Torres can’t be faulted for thinking he can do this in some other ‘church.’ Torres, like most Catholic kids even since I was in Catholic School (1969) have not only been filled with the most obscene crap under the guise of ‘religion class,’ but, like Torres, many of us (including me) were groomed as sex objects for at least two generations of satanic infiltrators. (Read Goodbye Good Men if you want to know more.)
“But specifically to answer the quandary of Mr. Torres, since it is on the minds of so many (i.e. ‘I just need to go somewhere…’) To go elsewhere is to let the Devil win. It doesn’t matter how Satan separates you from the Body of Christ. It only matters that he does.
“At my recent address to the Rotary Club of Guam, I was asked pretty much the same question in other words, i.e. what do I say to people who are losing their faith over this. I was ready for the question only because I get it a lot. And my answer is ALWAYS: ‘You don’t leave Jesus because of Judas,’ and that ‘bad priests (and bishops) started with Judas…and Jesus himself picked him!’
“I fleshed out my answer a bit by paraphrasing something the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen often said, i.e. that we can know the True Church by where Satan spends most of his time. I quipped that Satan isn’t spending a lot of time on the Baptists these days.
“The bottom line is that Jesus said “DO THIS.” And as far as I know, for better or worse, there is only one place where the “THIS” is done.” – Tim Rohr
That Sunday, I went to Mass. And aside from the months, when the governor shut down churches during the pandemic, and a couple weeks when I was down with a bad case of the shingles, I have been to Mass every Sunday since. It didn’t all make sense at first. In the beginning I was a bit bored, and really had no appreciation for the liturgies and even knowledge that the Eucharist truly is Jesus Christ in our presence (that’s a whole other testimony I’m more than happy to share in a later publication, and in private if you’d like). But before long my faith formed, and my life changed. The one constant from that first return to Mass to the Mass I just attended to night has been this: I felt safe.
In that one hour of devotion to God, every worry of the world and anxiety melts away. And from the time the bread and wine are consecrated to the final blessing, I open my ears and my heart to Christ’s voice.
On December 8, 1993, as I approached the gathering for the procession, what I felt was consolation and protection. I felt safe from what had happened just an hour before. Even then, at such a young age, I remember understanding the irony that an employee of the church had violated me on the same day we Catholics venerate Santa Marian Kamalen, our patroness and protectress.
In the years that followed, my relationship with God was at best lukewarm. I never turned my back on Jesus Christ and blame God for the rapes. But I also was conflicted about it all, especially the coverup by the archdiocese. I worked all the time, especially on Sundays. Or I was partied out from meth binges and orgies. Along the way I had hurt people. And if people hurt me, I was quick to repay the unkindness. I professed to believe in God and to love Jesus while shirking my duty to Him to partake in His Eucharist in memory of Him. I excused my hiatus from the church by qualifying my faith as one that did not require my participation into the community of sinners gathered as His church.
It wasn’t until the past three years as I’ve gone through a renewal of faith and journey into Christianity, that I came to understand how very wrong I was. You see, while I want justice in life and wish I was never sexually abused as a boy, I wish for and want more to be in communion with Christ.
We Catholics venerate Santa Marian Kamalen as the patroness and protectress of the Mariana Islands. We’ve venerated her for centuries now. It is part of our tradition to believe our intercession of prayers through her has kept our people safe from calamity and war.
On December 8, 2002, Supertyphoon Pongsona lay waste to Guam, and the common refrain from Guamanians was that Pongsona happened because the Legislature that year axed the public holiday in honor of the Immaculate Conception. The churches, in my recollection, were packed the next Sunday. It was like Christmas or Mothers Day Mass.
But there’s an even better December 8 story of our people’s great faith. Eighty one years ago, on December 8, 1941 the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Guam and began a brutal and heartless occupation and murder spree of our people. From the stories I’ve gathered from my grandparents’s generation, the Chamorros in their most miserable era did not blame God for the war. They asked Him to save them.
If you think about it – two and a half years after the invasion – July 21, 1944 must have been a day mixed with fear, confusion and jubilation as the bombing of Guam by the American military began, and Hagatna was destroyed. Among the ruins was the Cathedral and the untouched statue of Santa Marian Kamalen. Liberation Day was the start of something worth celebrating, but it wasn’t a day of islandwide celebration, if you really think about it. If my memory of Guam history serves me right, the annual parade and celebration began the next year, on July 21, 1945. But between the end of the occupation, and the first anniversary celebration of our liberation, there was an islandwide celebration. It happened on December 8, 1944. And it was a jubilant return for all to the protection and safety Our Lady of Camarin.
If our grandparents can survive a brutal foreign occupation filled with murder, rape, and other cruelty, only to grow stronger in their faith, then I can certainly grow stronger in mine.
And I’m getting there. I’m learning. And I’m happy. I invite you to share in this happiness with me, and to join this journey into Christianity.
Biba Santa Marian Kamalen!
Biba Santa Marian Kamalen!
Biba Santa Marian Kamalen!
Tonight I attended my first ever Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, where we venerated Santa Marian Kamalen. As her image approached the altar I was overcome with uncontrollable emotion. After Mass, I managed to record the final veneration.