Yes -- the Courage International Apostolate
“I love you and I want you to be happy.” That is an affirmation which all humans need to hear from time to time. When that statement is addressed to a person who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA), what might that happiness look like? If we understand God’s plan for human nature, we should not be surprised that happiness for a person with SSA is the same as it is for everyone else. True human happiness, according to God’s design, includes—for everyone—the universal call to holiness and the universal call to chastity.
To love someone is to will the best for the beloved. What is the best for any beloved? What is best for every human person is union with God, a union begun in this life and continuing into eternity. That union with God is the fruition of holiness, and an indispensable condition of holiness is chastity (the right use of human sexuality according to one’s state in life, whether single, consecrated or married). The most reliable path to holiness, the strongest supports for joyful and fruitful chastity, are found within the authentic life and teaching of the Church founded by Christ—the Catholic Church. Anything contrary to the authentic teaching of the Church entrusted to Her by Christ will preclude the life of holiness for which we were made. Any form of unchastity will cause comprehensive harm to the human person (and the human community), and, if that sin is left unrepented, precludes a person from the happiness of Heaven, the happiness for which all persons were made.
Where can a person with SSA go to be told these (sometimes difficult but always life giving) truths consistently? Where can a person with SSA go to be offered surely the grace of God to live those truths? Where can a person with SSA go to find fellowship and leadership to live these truths with gratitude and joy, even in the midst of struggle? I know of one place where folks with SSA can reliably find these blessings—Courage International.
This thoroughly Catholic apostolate for persons with SSA was founded by the late Father John F. Harvey, OSFS, in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Cooke of New York. Since then Courage International has been an instrument of God’s good news to persons with SSA, namely, that God does not withhold His love or His grace from any person who seeks holiness and strives to live a chaste life. Courage International is a place of wisdom, healing, faith and hope for persons with SSA.
The companion organization of Courage is Encourage, which supports family and friends of persons with SSA. Encourage helps to form, guide and accompany faithful Catholics as they offer the Church’s genuine compassion and truth to persons with SSA. Together, the members of Courage and Encourage help each other to realize the Five Goals of Courage:
1. To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. (Chastity)
2. To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. (Prayer and Dedication)
3. To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone. (Fellowship)
4. To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life; and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining these friendships. (Support)
5. To live lives that may serve as good examples to others. (Good Example/Role Model)
Last week, Courage/Encourage held its 28th annual conference. It was my privilege to be one of the conference speakers. At the conference I met hundreds of Catholics striving to live lives of faith and integrity—even at great cost and heroic effort. Many told me that they were urged elsewhere to walk an easier path, to compromise on the Lord’s requirements for holiness and chastity. I met generous priests and religious who gladly served according to the mind of Christ rather than according to the promises (or threats) of contemporary culture. I met at the conference persons whose stories of pain were overrun with accounts of grace, healing and gratitude. All agreed that there can be no true happiness, no lasting love, and no hope of Heaven apart from what the Lord entrusted to the Church He founded. They have embraced the Cross of Christ, and in doing so, have already begun to experience the power and joy of His Resurrection.
The story of Courage/Encourage is good news—an important story that deserves to be told well. In a culture that insists that persons with SSA can find love and happiness only in contradiction of Christ and His Church, these heroic people, and their stories of God’s fidelity to them, should be better known. Sadly, even communities that claim to be “inclusive” or “welcoming” or at least “tolerant” offer no open door to this apostolate. Courage/Encourage has found itself sometimes treated as invisible. When the Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage was handed down last month, the staff of Courage expected to be barraged with phone calls from news organizations to solicit their comment on the ruling. Except for EWTN, no news agency called. “In their eyes, we are irrelevant,” one priest on staff told me. How sad, and how unnecessary.
The good news of God entrusted to the Church and meant for persons with SSA is being proclaimed, handed on and lived through the mission of Courage/Encourage. For the healing of human hearts, the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God, that mission deserves to be better known and more generously supported.
I urge you to tell the good news about the mission of Courage/Encourage. Go to the web site to see and hear for yourself the resources, testimony and joy to be found among the members of Courage/Encourage. See what fidelity to Christ looks like when offered to and received by persons with SSA. Watch thefor their forthcoming DVD series, “Invitation to Courageous Love.” Please consider supporting this apostolate with a donation, as well as abiding prayer. Above all, let everyone know that holiness and chastity are God’s gifts for all, and that they are God’s good news, indeed, the best news for persons with SSA and those who love them.
When I write next, I will reflect on my upcoming 25th anniversary as a Jesuit during this Year of Consecrated Life. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, S.J. is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry, and religious formation. He teaches philosophy at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL, and is known for his classes in both Rhetoric and in Medical Ethics.