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‘I gave Him permission to lead my life’

April 29, 2020

Editor’s note: This is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing Writer

WELLS – God presents us with opportunities to recalibrate our perspective and lean into Him, allowing His grace to function in our lives amidst the unknown. Andrew Lauria sees those opportunities now, as he – along with much of the rest of the world, amid the global coronavirus pandemic – faces a period of uncertainty in his job and his life.

He saw those opportunities as he struggled with same-sex attraction and then chose to live a celibate life. He saw those opportunities as he cared for his mother until she died of cancer several years ago.

“When nearly everything seems so unstable – not just your income but your relationships, and everything is kind of up in the air – the rhythm of the faith really helps in a very practical way being mooring in a time when everything seems so movable,” said Lauria, who lives in Wells and attends St. Ann’s Church there.

Lauria said he loves being Catholic and appreciates the ritual, order and structure of the faith. Those things, along with his daily prayers, help him keep focused on God when so many other things seem unknown.

“Whenever there’s a lot of unknowns, there’s a tremendous opportunity for God to be radically present,” Lauria said. “Sometimes, I think the tendency is to spend all of our time and our energy trying to structure our lives according to our preferences. Definitely in my life, when my life was the most secure, the most stable, that’s when I was least open to what God wanted to do in my life, because I had set my comfort and my rhythm. I was beginning to make that a god instead of the actual person of Jesus.”

Times like these, which he calls, “the story of my life,” give us a chance to remember God is first and realize He wants us to want Him.

Lauria get those chances in his life every day, working as a carpenter for a property management company and living among his immediate family. Lauria lives with his father, while each of his brothers and their families live on opposite sides of Lauria’s house.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for me to share my faith every day with my co-workers in a very practical way,” he said, noting the importance of showing patience, encouragement and forgiveness, especially to people who do not have a faith background. “The very basic things Jesus did in His life. I just really try in a very tangible, practical way every day to try to do like Jesus did with my co-workers. … That’s a tremendous opportunity to be Jesus for somebody. Our faith is tested in those really practical moments.”

With his family too, Lauria said every day – especially right now – is “an incredible opportunity” for him to share his faith with his loved ones by helping them and giving to them. On Palm Sunday, for example, he led the preparations for a family meal at his house, in lieu of the family tradition of a big get-together at his aunt’s house.

“Here’s an opportunity for me to show my faith to my family by literally serving them, by serving them food,” Lauria said. “That’s a practical example of how I try to live my faith every day.”

What Lauria calls the two defining moments of his live have also helped him realize the importance of his faith and share it with others.

After studying music for two years, Lauria was in his second year of serving with Americorps when he experienced “a strong reversion to the faith.” He had always felt close to God, but he wasn’t living out his faith. He broke up with his longtime boyfriend and then went back to school at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

At the time and still today, Lauria said he was “struggling very deeply with an enduring same-sex attraction and a strong desire for Jesus,” yet in front of the cross at Franciscan University he made a decision to put Jesus first.

“I just felt like I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “The rest of my life comes from that moment. I just made this commitment that I was going to follow Jesus, and I gave him permission to lead my life for the rest of my life. From that moment on, I’ve been single and celibate.”

But, making a commitment to Jesus doesn’t mean the road has been easy for Lauria.

“There are times when I really have to lean into my faith in Jesus in order to make it through the times when there’s a certain loneliness or a desire to have a family or whatever these deep desires are of our life, and realizing that it’s not my position,” he said. “I have to lean into Him, and that humbles me tremendously and it’s a total re-posturing of my personality.”

When he’s sharing his experience with people, whether through a speaking engagement or an online community, Lauria said he tries to live out his own faith story in his life and teach people according to his faith background.
“It’s the desire to follow Jesus in light of an enduring same-sex attraction that creates a humility in me that I otherwise would not come to, and that is a thing that I like to share with people,” he said. “I like to share that God has transformed my life in a lot of ways, not in some radical, mystical way but in a very, very practical way. … Every day living with Jesus – that’s what I share with people. That’s really what I’ve learned. He’s there, and that relationship is real. Sometimes, we have to have those other things stripped away to see that.”

From Franciscan University, Lauria returned to the North Country to teach at Seton Catholic Central High School in Plattsburgh. After his mother received a terminal breast cancer diagnosis, he chose to leave teaching to be his mother’s full-time caregiver until she died in June 2013.

“That entire time of my life, I’ve never prayed so hard in my life,” Lauria said. “You pray that you want your loved to be healed and cured. More than that, I just needed God to continue to show me who He was.”

During that time, Lauria learned “your faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” as he and his family members and friends leaned on God and one another for God to sustain them and to be a support community for his mother.

“God was trying to teach all of us, including my mom, something larger than just getting what we want if we pray a lot. That lesson wasn’t there,” he said, calling that experience the most difficult thing he has ever done. “The lesson was that He was there regardless and that He is the orchestrator of the universe and not us. Sometimes we just don’t know, and that’s OK.”

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