Homily for 40th Anniversary Mass

Mass of Thanksgiving for the Courage Apostolate on its 40th Anniversary

September 26, 2020

Homily by Father James Lloyd, C.S.P.


May it please Your Excellencies Bishop O’Hara and Bishop Byrne, brother priests, members of Courage, ladies and gentlemen…

It was on a Friday night, September 26, 1980. A small group of Catholic men with same-sex issues met in these holy environs for five reasons which they themselves articulated. First, handle chastity, go for chastity. Two, follow Jesus Christ, robustly. Three, build a structure of fellowship, because everyone knows that you can’t do it alone (white-knuckling does not work). Four, to understand that friendships, chaste friendships, are not only possible but necessary. And five, to illustrate that chastity is possible and is rewarding.

As [Bishop O’Hara] said, it began in the mind of that holy prelate, Cardinal Cooke, who worried: I have people under my care who might be neglected, so he commissioned the eminent Father [Benedict] Groeschel, and he said to him: Find someone to do this. Benedict, in his usual style, tied up a with a wonderful young priest in this archdiocese, Mons. Ed O’Brien, fresh from the airborne, and they began a search. A needle in a haystack. Where would you find this rare, rare person?

The Holy Spirit led them to Philadelphia. They found him [Father John Harvey, O.S.F.S]. He was brilliant. He knew theology, philosophy, science. He was skilled in working with people who had these kinds of difficulties. We just heard the reading from Colossians: he was patient, he was compassionate, he was humble, he was kind, he had a twinkle in his eyes, he was Irish! He loved baseball, told good jokes. He was a sensation! Everybody came to him. People wanted to help as well as be helped. A great helper, Father Kaz, one of the early helpers; a fella named Harvey Graveline; all these wonderful women – Sister Dolores, Vera and Maria, Pat, and the indomitable Tina. Wonderful people.

He was a smash! Except, there was opposition. He was criticized, he was scorned, he was ignored. They made vicious insinuations about him. He always turned the other cheek.

I saw in John Harvey the words of Jesus, when they said: all manners of evil things about you for my name’s sake, then blessed are you. Father John Harvey, blessed are you. The media, of course. Academia, of course. But the Church? Why the Church? This man was doing exactly what Jesus Christ wanted. He said: Chastity is everybody’s obligation. There is no exception, for any reason, no one is exempt. Everyone is a child of God. We should not call people gay or homosexual, we should call them same-sex attracted, more respectable. Great man.

He told me one time, he was preaching in a parish church and a woman came up after Mass and said: As long as you are here, I will never come back again.

I wrote an essay. I thought it was balanced about the issue. One of my readers wrote, first of all, to say he was a lover, just wanted to love people. Here’s what he wrote to me: Soon you will be dead, thank God, haha. I am not impressed with his accurate appraisal of my future, but when you are almost a 100, it’s elementary you are not going to live long: big deal! That did not impress me, but the tonality did. He wished me harm. This person who says he’s a lover. I’m just a lover; I want to be a lover; I love people. But I wish you harm. Why? Because you follow John Harvey.

Father Harvey, I thought, taught two big things: one was truth, and one was love. Then they said, What is truth, what is truth?Pontius Pilot again: What is truth? Jesus, the Lord, said: I am the Truth! But you know what? The truth that Jesus spoke was not health and wealth and shiny white teeth. It was cobblestones and hands and feet pierced with nails. It was blood and sweat and tears, like Churchill, except there was a reward at the end of it.

The truth of Jesus was the Cross. Man, if you want to follow me, you pick up your cross. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. What about this love thing? Jesus says: Do you love me? Do you love me? Everybody says: Yay Lord! Lord, Lord.

Not everyone that says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, who is God, says: If you love me, keep my commandments.

We just heard from the book of Kings. We are admonished to keep the statutes of God and the commandments of God. However, there’s a conflict in the Church. God forgive me for my wise crack, but I consider these people who criticize Harvey as ecclesiastical popinjays – strutting popinjays – who prey on the vulnerable and the naïve and the poorly catechized and induce them, in the long run, to sin. Why do we tell the truth? It’s wrong when people say: Perfectly okay, you are a lover, God understands, exception with you… That is not true! What these people are doing is wrong!  Have they never heard the biblicalinjunction? Woe to you, if you scandalize – i.e. lead into sin – just one of my little ones. It would be better for you that a mill stone be tied around your neck and you be cast into the sea. The gentle Jesus says this. There’s a conflict.

What is love? Jesus says, Do you love me? Do you love me? Love is – even according to a guy like Scott Peck, for example; I can talk about Saint Paul, but, what about Scott Peck? – he says, [love] is a willingness to exert yourself for the spiritual good of another.

I love you so much I would do anything for you – anything, whatever it is, you tell me, I will do it. That is the meaning of love. Well, there’s a conflict for the popinjay. He says, I don’t like this.

You obviously recall the first Sunday in Lent when, Jesus, Our Blessed Lord, is being tempted by Satan. And Satan says: All this I will give to you, if you will fall down and adore me. And Jesus says, Begone!

Example: our Courage people know all about loneliness, and shame and guilt, and envy and lust, and low self-esteem and all of that. Our Courage people have been there. They’ve been in the lifestyle. And it is highly possible that the neural pathways, in times of stress, will surface this stuff. And I’m saying, the person who follows what Harvey taught, truth and love, when he hears the cacophony, a din, a shouting – Give in! Give in! Be like everybody else. The Courage member says, like Jesus: Silence! Be quiet! Begone! The Gospel says, I saw Satan fall like lighting from the sky. Every Courage member who’s been through all of this sees Satan falling from the sky.

When someone who is being beaten by temptation [asks]: How long does this go on? How long does this last? The short answer, given by a famous moralist, Alphonsus Liguori: Your sexual temptations will probably cease after six hours after you’re dead. That’s when it will cease. And until then, it is a battle!

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I put before you Psalm 144. The Holy Spirit speaks to David, and says: God is my rock and my consolation, God who trained my arms for battle, who prepared my hands for war. Now don’t kid yourself – you’ve got an enemy.

I listen to the popinjays, the very fancy popinjays, and they say: Really, there is no devil. It’s your imagination. It’s superstition. It’s myth.

First Peter says, The devil is a roaring lion, going about seeking someone to devour: you, and me, and everybody. Don’t tell me there’s no devil. Don’t tell me that the devil loves us; the devil hates us! How long does it last? Until you die. And, how do you do this?

Even the great Saint Paul, the blessed Apostle Paul, laments, and asks in Second Corinthians: Remove this thorn from me. And the Lord says, No, my grace is enough for you.

Amazing grace. My grace is enough. The great Saint Paul in Philippians will say: I can master anything in him who strengthens me. It is not Paul. It is the mighty power of God working through this frail instrument, who says: When I’m weak I’m strong. What is this antithesis?  It means, the mighty power of God works through it.

Paul, in 2nd Timothy, admonishes us three things. He says, Fight the good fight. Secondly, Keep the faith the pearl of great price, and Keep it until the end of time. When the devil, or the popinjays, tempt you, tell you to give in, you say: I will not yield. I will not surrender. I will not compromise. I will not give in! Good for you!

I have been with Courage for about 25, 26 years. I’ve seen St. Peter’s in Rome. I’ve seen Victoria Falls in Africa. I’ve seen the pyramids in the Nile. I’ve eaten tiramisu with cappuccino. I had escargot with garlic. But there is nothing – nothing! – that equals the delight of seeing a soul bud, and blossom, and grow to be holy. These holy people, these members of Courage, there’s nothing like this!

Members of Courage, you’ll be beaten, ridiculed. They make fun of you, they say you are an idiot for giving up this: Why won’t you be like everybody else? I simply say, good for you, Courage people. I salute you! I honor you! I respect you. And I thank you for the inspiration that you gave me. I thank you for that. It’s a wonderful, wonderful gift; a magnificence to see this growth, which delights the heart of any priest. My people grow in holiness, that’s what I’m for, and to see it, Halleluiah!’

I think I have talked too much, but I will commend you to the care of our Blessed Lady Queen of Chastity, Queen of the Rosary. I should like, also, to leave with you a touch of my Jewish background, my Jewish tradition, of shalom. I wish you shalom, which is the peace that God promises, the peace of God through chastity. I wish you the shalom, the exquisite loveliness of interior chastity, and the great privilege, like Adam, to walk with God.

I call down the blessing of the Lord on you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that He may remain with you and stay with you forever. Amen.