Review: That Undeniable Longing: My Road To and From the Priesthood

by Mark Tedesco


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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"


"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?


Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves


Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality


 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice

Meditation

Historicity as Myth

Pilgrimage

No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
 
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles


The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash


 
Book Reviews


Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois


Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology


The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCREATIONS, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson


 A Tortuous Journey to Freedom

That-Undeniable-Longing
That Undeniable Longing: My Road To and From the Priesthood


by  Mark Tedesco

Chicago Review Press

trade paperback, 197 pages, $16.98

May 2010

978-0897335997

Available from Amazon.com and for Kindle

That Undeniable Longing: My Road to and from the Priesthood



5 stars

This review appeared in White Crane Journal #74, Fall 2007

Mark Tedesco’s interesting, chatty and entertaining account of his experience as a Catholic seminarian begins with an epigraph from St. John of the Cross: “In the end we shall be judged by how much we have loved.”

When I was a young seminarian myself, the Novicemaster gave me a holy card as a Christmas present with that same quote from John of the Cross. So I started this book identifying with the author. My experience was also similar to his in being in two different seminaries. I moved from one religious order to another after the first told me to leave on account of my homosexuality (though, fortunately or unfortunately, didn’t explain that in a way that made any sense to me). I experienced it all as a series of “divine interventions” that got me from a fairly conservative order to a liberal progressive one and from that order which had a student residence in San Francisco to liberated life as a gay man in the nation’s gay mecca.

Mark Tedesco’s journey was similar, but actually more exotic than mine. Though he was an American and lived in Modesto, California, he joined an order of priests called Oblates of the Virgin Mary which had its seminary in the Italian city of San Vittorino outside Rome. So he really got the full experience of Roman Catholicism. He was with this group for a couple of years and then was told not to return from a summer leave back in California. He was emotionally lost and confused for a while, but then got assistance from a priest he knew outside the Oblates to get into the North American College in Rome (a seminary not associated with a specific religious Order). So he returned to Italy and continued his training and was eventually ordained. He returned to the U.S. and worked in a parish in Washington, D.C. while he continued his education at Catholic University. In Rome he’d become involved with a Catholic lay group which he calls Communion and Freedom (C.F.) C.F. was paradoxically both progressive and intensely conservative. (C.F. sounds very similar to the lay Catholic organization Opus Dei which received a lot of attention during the heyday of the DaVinci Code movie.)

Throughout his seventeen some years as a seminarian and then a priest, Tedesco was emotionally wracked with fears of his gradually emerging homosexuality. And the emotional stress manifested as digestive problems and general unhappiness. To deal with these issues he saw a counselor in D.C. who innocently asked him if he’d considered leaving the priesthood. Well, long before, back with the Oblates he’d been told by a “living saint” in residence at the seminary that God wanted him to be a priest. How could he leave?

By the time of the counselor’s question, however, the “living saint” had been exposed as phony (his stigmata was apparently self-imposed and his “odor of sanctity” really just a cloud of perfume he secretly doused himself with). Maybe Il Santo’s advice wasn’t so pertinent after all and that the longing for happiness was a better sign of what God wanted for him than the self-serving admonitions of Church authorities. The counselor’s question opened the possibility of change. And soon he was out of the priesthood and back in California starting a career as a high school teacher.

That Undeniable Longing is very personal, though for all that he writes about his confusion and emotional suffering the book reads more like a travelogue through Italy and the Catholic Church than a tale of psychological abuse by religious authorities. Indeed, it is quite readable and hard to put down. I devoured it in three sittings over two days, thoroughly enjoying the experience.

I’d have liked a little more explanation of how he finally reconciled his homosexuality and his religiousness. The discovery is that the “undeniable longing” that draws people to God is also what draws them to sexual love. But this seems only acknowledged tangentially. He doesn’t seem to have developed a positive “gay spirituality” or spiritual vision of sexuality as much as seen through the oppression of the traditional Catholic culture.

And he never mentions masturbation. I would affirm his right to privacy and personal respectability, of course. This book isn’t meant to be a confession. But all the way through I kept wondering if he were strictly “chaste” by Catholic standards and, if so, how he’d managed this feat. As a young Catholic seminarian myself, I’d managed to suppress sexuality for a period of three years. And am amazed—and in a curious way a little proud—of myself for the discipline. But Mark Tedesco apparently endured this for 17 years.

Tedesco relates some of his deep emotional/homosexual attachments to fellow seminarians. I really could identify with those stories; I had similar experiences in my own religious life days. But I was in the Church in the 1960s. Tedesco’s story starts in 1978. How could he have been so unaware of homosexuality?

The fact that all this happened decades after Stonewall seems a reminder to us in the gay movement that our message about the real nature of homosexuality—and especially the spiritual side of gay consciousness—isn’t reaching the youth who need to hear it. As a devout teenager longing for God, Tedesco should have been told that acknowledging his gayness would have been a faster path to the divine that going off to Rome.

All former seminarians will enjoy this book. The stories about the “living saint” and the traditional life at the seminary at San Vittorino are just precious. There’s a pedestrian honesty and simplicity about the way Tedesco relates the life of a young priest that all readers can find appealing. I enjoyed this book.



Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books











 




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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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