This is the fourth 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 married couple of the Diocese of Arlington EnCourage Chapter
About a decade ago our son, who was then about 30, informed us that he was attracted to persons of the same sex, which he first noticed when he was in his late teens. Not to worry though, he assured us, he had been living a chaste life and intended to continue. About nine months later he formally “came out” and announced that he would seek a partner. Partner No. 1 came and went; he and partner No. 2 are now “engaged.”
The announcement was devastating, a real punch in the gut, lessened slightly by remembering the one or two hints from one of our other children years before, which we had quietly filed away. All kinds of emotions and thoughts took over immediately: shame, fear and worries for his physical and spiritual well-being. Our initial focus was largely inward: Where had we gone wrong in raising him? Did we dare share this shameful fact with anyone? What would family and friends think of us? What kind of relationship should we seek to maintain with him, and—shudder—his partner? What would this mean for his future life, for his career, for his membership with the Church? What to do if he decides to get “married?”
The initial experience was very isolating. We told only our closest friends and family, some of them only after years. If we brought it up, it would be with priest friends and confessors. We remain grateful for their good advice.
Fortunately, about six years ago we saw an advertisement for EnCourage, a ministry dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who are attracted to persons of the same-sex. To our great surprise, we heard many stories like our own: child raised in a traditional Catholic household, and despite being taught about chastity as the path to holiness, gives in to same-sex attraction and embraces the lifestyle. We heard parents talk about their children in a calm and loving way, with obvious sorrow for their attraction and choices but filled with hope for their eventual salvation. We’ve since seen many persons come in filled with anger and anguish about their children, often admitting to raising their kids in rocky and tumultuous, if not dysfunctional, environments. And, with time and the support of the EnCourage community, we have seen the anger fade and be replaced with hopeful love and relationships mending.
Our EnCourage community has become another family that we look forward to meeting with regularly. Some of us come as couples; others come without their spouses because the spouses do not agree with Church teaching on sexuality. Embracing the fullness of Catholic teaching, EnCourage members support one another and their loved ones through discussion, prayer and fellowship. Meetings include recitation of the rosary and prayers for our children and ourselves. We speak openly and try to help one another to better love our children—and one another—unconditionally, to navigate through those shoals where tough, practical decisions must be made and where unconditional love can sometimes mean “tough love.” Our excellent priest moderator keeps us on track and clarifies moral issues. It is a community of faithful Catholics, with similar experiences, bearing unique crosses, who by their words, prayers and example help one another bear their burdens with grace and patience. We hear tales of minor miracles among our children and major miracles of growth among our group of acceptance of same-sex attraction as a mysterious part of God’s plan for our salvation, and that regular prayer is essential to that plan.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to EnCourage, and helping us to spread the word to others who are wandering alone, as we once did.
Encourage is a ministry within Courage dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions. For more information visit the EnCourage website or our diocesan site or email Courage@arlingtondiocese.org.