Good morning,

Here I am in the park where I’ve been traumatised by all the dogs coming for their toilet.

It reminded me of when I was India and when I woke up early to see the sun rising at the Bay of Bengal and was surprised at the number of local men who had the same idea.

On closer inspection I noticed that they were facing the wrong direction and they were squatting rather than sitting. Yes, you got it, the morning tide served as a giant toilet flush and from that day on I thought twice about going for a swim.

Slightly less traumatic but still, I’ll certainly be thinking twice about where I sit in the park from now on.

Anyway all joking aside life goes on and it’s wonderful to see the dogs jumping about. It’s also very interesting to observe the similarities in personalities between the dogs and their owners.

On Wednesday night we had a lovely night of eucharistic adoration at St Mary of the Angels in Notting Hill for the people living in the house.

It was very moving with beautiful music, incense, a deep meditation and of course a blessing at the end. For anyone interested here is a link (I recorded some of it).

It made me think of all the amazing blessings that we’ve had since coming here!

We first came to St Mary of the Angels about 9 months ago to meet the parish priest, Monsignor Keith Barltrop.

Monsignor Baltrop has been appointed by the bishop (and Cardinal) as chaplain to the LGBT Westminister catholic group and after seeing us there one Sunday evening he invited us to dinner the following Friday.

That Friday evening we came for dinner and we weren’t feeling all that well. We had been staying in hostels in Lewisham and we were struggling to find our way and the next step with our journey to London.

The cynical side of me wasn’t expecting much from meeting this priest. A nice dinner and a sympathetic “I’ll pray for you” was about all that I was expecting as I had encountered so many times before.

So when this Monsignor who didn’t know us handed us an envelope with some money and then asked us if we had a place to sleep that night, we were overwhelmed with joy.

He didn’t wait to get references or second opinions, He acted there and then and helped us in our need.

He offered us a hall to sleep in where there were some mats and told us that we could eat upstairs with them in the evenings.

We weren’t used to good food as we’d been surviving off sandwiches and chips in Lewisham and so we were in awe with his generosity and with God’s mercy!

And it didn’t stop there! Monsignor introduced us to people in the parish and has been an incredible source of support and wisdom when it comes to LGBT issues and the church.

Of course our arrival did bring its share of hassle too. Were we genuine? Were we scammers? Were we even catholic?…were among some of the questions some began to whisper as we shared about our lives and God’s plan for the gay community which is so widely misunderstood.

And this is when God provided us with another wonderful priest, Father Paul!

Paul as he likes to be called has an extraordinary life story and an equally extraordinary heart for the gay community and their struggles. For good measure he is a psychotherapist as well as being a priest and he has an extraordinary charism of doing spiritual meditations and making them real.

Paul has been there for us to listen to us, to pray for us as to love us and we will be forever grateful. He’s also a wonderful confessor and all round nice guy with a super sense of both adventure and humour.

(Paul giving us Benediction with Jesus).

And so you see as I was reflecting on the extraordinary mercies that have been shown to us, I realised that we can’t pay any of it back but that we can pay all of it forwards.

Firstly in sincere and heartfelt thanks to Monsignor Baltrop and to the truly extraordinary way he has helped us and put mercy into action in both words, deeds and prayers and secondly to Paul and to everyone else who has helped us, loved us and supported us.

And then secondly by sharing the blessings with others through our prayers, our stories of hope and our reach out to the entire gay community both those who know Jesus and those that don’t know Him yet.

My only hope and prayer is that more and more hurting and wounded souls in the gay community will find Jesus, will find peace and will find love and support in the church as we have.

And so today is a day of gratitude for me! Gratitude to Jesus, gratitude to the church and in a special way gratitude to Saint Mary of the Angels.

May our little group be a living testimony to how one can be gay/ trans and follow Jesus and may our little church be a prophetic light to the world of how gay people such as ourselves can be integrated into church and parish life for the glory of God and the good of His children.

Have an amazing day and may abundant heavenly blessings fall on our priests today at Saint Mary of the Angels in London’s Notting Hill.

Thanks for reading,

Michael