How One Gay Catholic Schoolboy Navigated Rejection to Find a Spiritual Home

I discovered Unity during the AIDS pandemic when the spiritual teachings of the healing power within me were crucial to my very survival. The spiritual lessons I learned then have propelled my life to places I could not have ever imagined.

I stay in Unity because it’s a community where I can be my whole self— gay, spiritual seeker, husband, father, and minister.

I have always been a spiritual seeker—I just didn’t know it. I was born and raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school. My religious education was about memorizing the prayers, scriptures, and rules of the Catholic faith.

I smile now as I remember asking the nuns, “Did Jesus go to the bathroom?” For me, it was a serious question, but they didn’t see it that way. I got a swift whack on the back of my head. 

From Rejection Through the Wilderness

When I came out as a gay man, I left the Catholic church—and my spiritual life—angry and disheartened. I spent the next decade in the wilderness of New York City. It was fun, exciting, and intoxicating. But then a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with HIV.

At the time, there were no drugs, no treatment, and no hope. Everyone around me seemed to be sick and dying. One day, my friend showed me a book someone had given him called You Can Heal Your Life (Hay House, 1984) by Louise Hay.

I devoured the book, learning about affirmations and denials (releasing false beliefs and replacing them with truths). I also listened to Hay’s tapes and meditations, reigniting my spiritual curiosity and my spiritual nature.

In 1988, I was diagnosed as HIV-positive. I responded by going deeper into spiritual healing. Friends told me about a woman who was giving lectures on a book called A Course in Miracles (Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975). I found myself studying with Marianne Williamson and joining her HIV support group. There, I heard about Unity.

My first Unity service was like no spiritual service I had ever experienced. I saw people of all races, ages, and sexual orientations. The talk was about spiritual healing, God’s love, and a message of hope and positivity.

The Unity Message of Hope, Acceptance, and Positivity

My first Unity service was like no spiritual service I had ever experienced. I saw people of all races, ages, and sexual orientations. The talk was about spiritual healing, God’s love, and a message of hope and positivity. Rev. Eric Butterworth was the minister of that community, and he forever changed my life when I read his book Discover the Power Within You (Harper & Row, 1968).

I started using the power of affirmations, positive thinking, meditations, and prayer, not just for my health but also for my career. Within a year of my diagnosis, I was hired as part of an international touring company for a Broadway-bound revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

While I had found healing, I had still not done the deep inner work to release my internalized homophobia and self-loathing. I started numbing those dark feelings so much that I found myself in rehab. A 12-step program led me to a structured spiritual practice and back to Unity, where I set about my spiritual work of recovery.

Today, I am grateful for the dark nights of the soul born out of my HIV diagnosis and drug addiction because they uncovered what I had left for dead and buried—my spiritual self. 

As self-help author Wayne Dyer wrote:

“You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

I was fortunate enough to sit in Butterworth’s Unity church and learn from one of our master teachers during the early days of the AIDS pandemic. The Unity teachings not only saved my life, but they also gave me a life beyond my wildest dreams. It has been more than 32 years since my HIV diagnosis, and I have never had a day’s illness related to HIV.

It has been more than 17 years since my last drink or drug, and in the rooms of recovery, I met, fell in love with, and married a most amazing man. We now have three beautiful children together. I live a spiritual life in which prayer, meditation, and spiritual curiosity make up the foundation of my practice and a professional life in which I foster spiritual curiosity in others and help them find their true nature—their divine selves.

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about Unity!

About the Author

Rev. Ken Daigle (he, him) is the senior minister at Unity San Francisco, California.


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