Monday, January 28, 2013

Courage and Homosexuality

"Are you or a loved one experiencing homosexual attractions and looking for answers?"  Thus begins the introductory greeting on the website.  The "rc" in the name stands for "Roman Catholic" and indicates that this apostolate works in full communion with the teachings and mission of the Catholic Church.  The "courage" indicates that this ministry understands the strength that's necessary to address the issue in a holistic and fully human way. is dedicated to helping people responding to the call to holiness, which alone fulfills the deepest longings of the human heart.

We all want to stand in solidarity with our friends or family members who have same-sex attractions.  And, because we love them, we all want what's best for them.  The question often becomes how best to affirm both that they are infinitely loved for exactly who they are and that they are invited to live a life of deep communion and intimacy with God and others.  The Courage website offers not only resources, but a network of relationships with those who are walking a similar path: "In Courage you will get to know men and women who share in your concerns, meeting them online through our Listservs, or in person at Chapter Meetings, Conferences, Days of Recollection, and Retreats."  In addition, the EnCourage website offers a similar network of suppordedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions.

Sometimes the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality--like all of its teachings on human sexuality--seem to be just outdated rules.  Sometimes people don't know the reasons behind the rules.  Sometimes these God-given teachings seem reactionary and defensive, in the face of accusations such as "discrimination" or "homophobia."  And sometimes Catholics look Pharisaical about imposing higher expectations on homosexuals, while tolerating lower standards for everyone else.  Worst of all, many times Catholics fail to articulate the beauty of the life to which we are all called.  Until people glimpse the something more which friendship with Christ entails, until they see the deeper joy which flows from living out of God's grace, until they sense the authentic human freedom and the peace which surpasses all understanding provided by the Christian way of life, the call to live the virtue of chastity can seem like a restrictive limitation to being who I am.

But the Good News is that we are all offered a full share in a life which surpasses all of our expectations.  Each and every human person is created for communion, for intimacy, with God who is Love and with other fellow sojourners who walk the path toward the fullness of life.  Each of us is a beloved son or daughter of the Father, a brother or sister of the Son, a friend of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the depths of our souls.  Each of us is given the strength to live this reality each and every day. 

Sometimes we know this but just don't know how to express this.  Sometimes we fail to say things the way we should.  Sometimes the sentiments of our "heart" are in the right place, but the reasons in our "head" just don't come to us.  Sometimes we get put on the spot to show how defending the dignity of homosexual persons and defending marriage from being redefined, in fact, go hand-in-hand.  If you've ever been in this situation, then you'll find "The Toolkit of Questions and Answers" from the Catholic Conference of Illinois very helpful.  It addresses many of the toughest question related to the issue of "gay marriage"--from "why is it important to oppose the redefinition of marriage?" and "what about civil rights?", to "didn't Jesus welcome everyone?" and "isn't the Church's teaching just outdated?"  This Toolkit offers responses that are as lucid as they are loving.  It will help you prepare to "give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1 Pet 3:15).

In the end, Courage is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Courage enables us to do the right thing in the right way for the right reason at the right time.  Courage enables us to let God make us who he wants us to be.  Courage frees us to invite others to the fullness of life which is available today. 

And Courage starts with a simple prayer from the heart, "Jesus, I trust in you."