This is the third in a series of posts about supporting marriage as intended by God while loving all of God’s children. Join us at the March for Marriage this Saturday.
By: A member of the Diocese of Arlington Courage Chapter
Courage is an international apostolate of the Catholic Church, which ministers to persons with (SSA) same-sex attraction. I am a mid-30s career professional who has struggled with same-sex attraction since I was a teenager. I joined Courage almost two years ago and I can say without any reservation that Courage has not only helped me to live a chaste life in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings, but to also live my Catholic faith and life more fully.
My journey toward Courage was just that…a journey. My 20s were filled with an overwhelming desire to go on dates, experience relationships, and eventually find a life partner. Like many, I spent my 20s pursuing opportunities to indulge in these desires by dating and entering into relationships with those of the same sex.
What I gained from those experiences was a self-realization that I wasn’t finding the happiness I was looking for. While my stubbornness had tried to convince myself that nothing was morally wrong with same-sex relationships, my conscience could not be fooled. I lived my 20s with constant internal conflict between pursuing what I thought I desired in those relationships and the life that God was gently calling me to live.
There were certainly moments of peace and happiness, but beneath it all something just didn’t feel right. I never stopped feeling Christ calling me to do something different. For a while I even tried to block those feelings by reading the writings of various pastors that claimed same-sex relationships were perfectly fine in the eyes of God. However, this only increased the internal turmoil I was experiencing.
In my late 20s (for reasons that merit a completely separate blog entry), I began my conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism. While I had begun to live a chaste life at this point due to the lack of peace I felt when living otherwise, I still struggled with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
Through several years of partaking in the sacraments as a fully initiated member of the Church, my heart and mind were gradually opened to these teachings and my journey picked up its pace a bit.
First, the sacraments and homilies helped open my eyes to the Gospel teachings on the dignity of human life. I began to identify with the victims of various social injustices our society creates against the poor and disadvantaged. Second, these experiences lead to a strong desire to serve more in the Church and to live a life of love and service to others. This solidified within me a desire to be single so I would have more time to participate in ministry.
The peace I found in the various ministries I was beginning to support helped me to become more open to the fact that a chaste life lived for others rather than a single partner or spouse could indeed be a good life. I learned that God hadn’t been telling me “no” all along; He had been saying “yes” to a chance to experience what I was now experiencing as a single person. At this point I had become much more open to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
Shortly after I found Courage Online, an online support group for those that struggle with same-sex attraction. I spent about a year reading through the stories of other people struggling with same-sex attraction and various discussions about the purpose, meaning and reason for why the Church teaches what it does about homosexuality.
The knowledge and experience I gained through Courage Online gave me the inspiration and strength to join the local chapter in my area for in-person meetings. One of the requirements to join a Courage chapter is to first meet with the chaplain to go over your story and desire to live a chaste life. I was amazed at how welcoming and understanding the priest was toward my background and my struggles. He seemed to understand my doubts, my fears, my questions, and my weaknesses.
Then a couple of weeks later, I attended my first meeting. I was once again amazed at how welcoming and friendly the other members were. I recall feeling so much relief being around people that had shared the same types of experiences, fears, doubts, life questions and hurdles that I had. As an added bonus, the group meetings are confidential, so you never have to worry about what you share getting outside the group. I instantly made several friends that to this day I remain close to and hang out with often.
Another great benefit of being a member of Courage is the access you have to the chaplains. In an age where there is a shortage of priests, few parishioners have the benefit of knowing a priest that understands them well and can serve as both a regular confessor and spiritual advisor for not only SSA-related things but for the day-to-day struggles we all have in common.
It has been almost two years since I first joined Courage and it continues to help me grow spiritually into the person that God has willed for me to become. And being chaste has been the most liberating and peaceful life experience I have ever had.
If you are a Christian (Catholic or non-Catholic) who struggles with same-sex attraction and desires to live a chaste life, I encourage you to consider joining a Courage chapter, or at least sign up for Courage Online. You don’t have to have all the answers, and you do not have to be a saint. You just have to have a willingness to avail yourself to the many special graces that God gives when someone chooses to live a chaste life. Just like Jesus, the Courage ministry meets us where we are at and helps us to become the people God desires us to be.
Courage is an apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church to assist those with same-sex attractions. Endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family, Courage seeks to help persons with same-sex attractions develop an interior life of chastity and move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete identity in Christ. For more information visit the Courage website or our diocesan site or email Courage@arlingtondiocese.org.