At the Annual Conference, Courage members are invited to share a few words about their journeys. Here’s what some have shared with us.
John: As I looked across the last several years of my life, I kept getting the image of me being wrapped in chains. My suffering was silent. How could people understand that I had something inside of me that I hated? I despised being sexually attracted to men, especially my own peers. In reality, I was searching for masculinity, not sex. The chains of homosexuality kept me miserable. I wanted to be listened to, to be hugged, to be understood. I wanted to be the man God had made me to be.
Five years ago, I felt so alone. I felt no one would listen to my heart crying, that no one would really care. I desired to take my own life. In my search for peace, through the help of a close friend, I went to Mass for the first time in my life and felt God’s love envelop me. He guided me to Rome, where the Church’s teachings on homosexuality gave me great comfort. God, through His Church, cared to love me, to hold me and to listen to me.
By way of complicated events, I discovered Courage. Finally, I had arrived at a place where others could relate to me, a place where I could foster chaste friendships with other men who truly cared. We were not afraid to proclaim the truth of Christ, that, in His loving plan for us, we could live a life of holiness and walk down the path, carrying the cross after the One who dies for us. This became a life of chaste holiness – to be the saints that God has called us to be. This is almost impossible without Courage. As we struggle together, the Holy Spirit breaks the chains of homosexuality to free us to be who God calls us to be. Only then are we truly free.
Judy: I came to Courage during a time in my life when I was struggling in a relationship with another woman. I thought I was alone with this problem I struggled with jealousy, manipulation, anger, and possessiveness. My anxiety level was so bad, I became physically ill. I knew I needed help. Thank God for Courage. I have come to understand myself through the words and struggles that others have given witness to. I now know that I am not alone. The priests have been gentle and understanding. Going to meetings gives me the opportunity to talk about my problems and vent my anger. Courage has given me peace and direction. I have goals and direction in my life, and that has lessened my anxiety. God has given me opportunities to live a happy and healthy life. Thank you God!
Tom: I begin, not at the beginning, but at the first metanoia, Advent 1964 I had promised to abstain from all sinful sexual behavior and to make daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It was Christmas Eve when I fell, and the day after Christmas when I was on the steps of the Church, ready to make my daily visit, it hit me: ” Be either hot or cold for the lukewarm I will vomit out of my mouth.” I had prevailed for 39 days. I couldn’t prevail for just one more time. I thought, “I am a failure, too weak to last just one more day – I’m tired of failure time after time – I refuse to continue being a hypocrite.” I turned and walked away from God and the Church. I gave my life to Satan, to do whatever he wanted with it – and he did! Eleven years later, I allowed God back into my life, along with a renewed strength and a grace to rise above my compulsions like I had never known before. A year after that I joined Courage. I found there an opportunity to share my pain and shame. I knew I was not alone – there were others who felt like me. I stopped going to meetings for a year or two and it was during this time I began to get into trouble. I realized I needed the support and prayers of like-minded people to walk with me on my journey. My return to Courage has helped stabilize my life and has enabled me to make the changes I need to make so I can continue on my journey to sanctification. How Courage has done this is a mystery to me, but a mystery I welcome and want to share. The pain in others has helped me to see the pain in myself, and the victory I see in others encourages me in quest of my own.
Alan: Being here at this Courage Conference has given me hope, having seen many others who want to follow the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. It is my firm hope and prayer that Courage chapters spread all over the Church to give all people who struggle with homosexual feelings and their family and friends the choice to grow closer to the Son of God and His Church.
Mary: We received the devastating news that our daughter struggles with homosexual feelings, but through the grace of God, we were led to Encourage. We were given loving support, understanding of the problem, and guidance according to the teaching of the Catholic Church. Where else could we have turned? How else could we have coped? Before making the Encourage connection, we had contacted the Mental Health Association. We were encouraged to join PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). We pray for all Catholic families who have had the misfortune to be misguided by this organization which encourages parents to accept their son/daughter’s homosexual activity as okay. What good is it for us to give to the poor, pray for our political leaders, and other global intentions, if we as Catholics do not support our own faithful who are crying in desperation for healing? The Lord says “Come to me all you who are burdened and I will refresh you.” Does not the Holy Spirit move through us? My eternal gratitude to all who are ministering to the members of Courage / Encourage.
George: When our son told us that he struggles with homosexual feelings, we were devastated, especially since we and the children had a Catholic upbringing. Our feelings of shame, guilt and anger were almost too much for us to bear and began to cause a great strain not only in our married life, but also in our relations with our other two children. By the grace of God, we saw an ad for Courage in the Brooklyn Tablet and eventually were led to an Encourage group. Although we are relatively new in Encourage, attendance at meetings has helped us to better accept our son’s condition, helped our marriage, and brought our family closer together, but most importantly, we are coming closer to the Lord.
John: I’m a member of Courage because I’m a Catholic who struggles with homosexual feelings and who wants to love God, knowing full well that I’m called to a life of chastity. At Courage we know why we belong and are ever-mindful of what we are striving for. I can’t help thinking of the dialogue between our Lord and Abraham on the conditions of Sodom and Gomorrah, that if he finds at least ten just people, He would spare them all. You know, some groups and fellowships come and go, but any organization based on the truth will be around for a long, long time.
Fr. Ralph: As a priest, I have been struggling with a homosexual condition alone for years. Through God’s grace, I have been able to remain celibate but came close to despair at different times. I became an alcoholic and, after praying for help, God led me to Alcoholics Anonymous and to Courage For me it is a miracle and a new life in Christ beyond all expectation. Healing goes on day by day. The blessings in my work and the joy in recognizing the Lord in my life are unbelievable. This is not a fleeting experience but a constant love I don’t deserve yet am deeply grateful for everyday. Courage gives me the support I need to be chaste, and to love as God would have me. It is still a struggle, but one I look forward to. I wish I had heard with my heart years ago what I have heard this past year in Courage. I am sure my life would have been a lot different, but it just wasn’t around then. The so-called “gay affirmation” is a travesty of love and a lie. The Church’s teachings have been a true liberation for me and can be for many others when suffering so much in seeking the desire of the Heart of Jesus Christ. May He be praised, adored, and loved!
Sergio: Courage is like the best friend I never had. Every week when I walk through its doors, I am met by men and women who accept me as a member of a very special family. They do not judge the life that I have lead, but they challenge me to live the life that I want to lead. They support me every step of the way and, when I fall, they are there to lift me to my feet and help me to move forward. Every year at the annual conference, I feel that I am attending a huge family reunion. I meet again with those members that I did not know, but whom I come to love before the weekend ends. The Conference is the spiritual highlight of my year, and its spirit fills my life with joy and love for every day in the coming year, until I meet my special family again. God bless each and every member of this wonderful family and the priests who shepherd us.
Bob: I thank God every day for groups such as Courage (and the Protestant Exodus ministries). For years I tried to come to terms with my homosexual temptations – everything from denial, which triggered bouts of addictive behavior with uneasy calm, to a limited embrace of the so-called gay lifestyle, which led to a downward spiral of immoral behavior, emotional dependency, and increasing depression. Had it not been for the intervention of the Holy Spirit one blessed Christmas Eve, I would ultimately have lost not only my temporal life, but my eternal life with God as well. Although I would have preferred another loss, my struggle has led me to a total surrender to Christ. Courage allows me to be supported by, and to provide support for others who wish to take the same narrow path which leads to our eternal reward in heaven. Through these ministries, I am becoming the whole man my Creator intended me to be.
Paul: My family is Catholic and I was raised in a house with regular Catholic practices. We went to mass on Sunday, attended CCD and said grace before meals. Otherwise, we were not an overly pious family. Even as I became aware of my homosexual struggle, I knew that I could not reconcile an active homosexual lifestyle with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. This knowledge did not stop me, however, from going to bars and engaging in sexual acts, first in college and then through adulthood. As I struggled to grow in faith and live in Jesus Christ, I began to see the emptiness of the gay lifestyle. I sought to serve God and His Church as a priest but got nowhere. I had heard of Courage, but never felt that I needed it. I was working with a spiritual director, was praying and attending Mass daily. I didn’t need a support group. But I was feeling frustrated in my interest in the priesthood and was still engaging in sexual acts- some with a partner, or through the use of pornography and masturbation. One day a friend who also struggles said, “You know, this is really affecting your life. Why don’t you come to Courage?” From my first meeting I have been blessed with the support of genuine love and friendship from the men that I have come to know. I know that I am not alone in my efforts to be chaste. And, in the love and forgiveness of my brothers and sisters in Courage, I am reminded of the love and forgiveness Christ offers me. Courage helps me to live up to the challenge of the Gospel to die to my old self and become a new man in Christ. Some in the Church and in the world would have me believe that I do not have to do that. Scripture tells me that I must!
Randy: Although it is more accepted, even by some confessors, to participate in homosexual activities, I could never accept this behavior as being healthy for a Christian. I do not hate myself, but I do hate my possessive homosexual behavior. I found Courage to be a support group that meets my needs. I feel my sex life is a small part of my being, and I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as if it is a large part of my being. I am pleased to meet like-minded friends who are also struggling and who offer particular insights for coping.Courage offers a secure, anonymous and traditional forum to learn and discuss our behavior. I’ve been exposed to some great Christians who have inspired me. No group is perfect, but Courage is the best support group out there for practicing Catholics.
Justin: My association with the Courage movement began in November, 1992. In June, 1989, the Lord delivered me from a life of sexual madness in which I had reduced young men to “commodities”, bought off the streets of my hometown; of I.V. drug abuse which caused me to lose everything I had and to live in a van in another city; of eating out of dumpsters because there was no other food; of associations with extremely dangerous people – professional junkies who were motivated to do whatever they had to do to get what they wanted. I had not heard of Courage before the Lord led me to an ad in the newspaper. The years between 1989 and 1992 were filled with growing in my conversion to the Lord, and learning how to love Him. By the fall of 1992, I began to weaken and I started to “cruise” the streets again. I knew where this was going to lead me and I prayed to God to help me. He led me to Courage. I found support that I had never known before. Suddenly I became accountable for my actions – what I did mattered to somebody. I began to grow and mature spiritually too. I realized that I could not succeed on my own and that I was not meant to do this on my own. I became support for others too. Courage removed much of the chaos from my life and allowed God to come in.
Fr. Tony: This seminar is my introduction to Courage. Nurturing the wholistic / holistic healing process initiated at the Guest House which is making of me a happy celibate priest, this Courage seminar is drawing me closer to Jesus Christ and energizing my celibacy.
Patrick: A lot of factors went into my conversion. There were 25 years of compulsive masturbation, obsession with pornography since the age of 11, episodes of incest, and acting out with a cousin about a year older at the age of 12. Eventually there was cruising, anonymous sex, the gay bar scene, alcoholism, wrecked cars, and arrest for DWI. Yet, if someone asked me, I would say everything was fine! I was miserable – thank God! And I was looking for help – in the sacraments, in prayer. Still I despaired. In May of 1990 at the age of 37, I read an article about Courage in a Catholic weekly. The first goal: to live my life in accordance with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on homosexuality, described what I always longed for and despaired of being able to do. I wrote Fr. Harvey at Courage in NYC, asking for information which I devoured upon arrival. I went to my first conference in August of 1990 and was impressed with the 100 plus men and women who witnessed to me so eloquently with their warmth and the good examples of their lives. The yearly Courage conference and continued contact by phone sustained me in my daily struggle to live a chaste life. So many things changed. What changed the most was prayer. For the first time in my life I could pray. I could talk to God – I could listen I could be more honest in confession. I started to become a happier person. My destructive behavior lessened. And when I do fall, I get up quickly – I don’t despair! I have become more geared to God’s will in my life. And this is just the beginning!
Frank: I came into Courage in September, 1993, and have stayed since. The Courage group gives me support and hope and a place to share my feelings whether they are right or wrong. My brothers in the group also accept me for who I am. So, for anybody that is new, I work Courage one day at a time, like I do in A.A. Courage is a very spiritual group and is very loving because we have Jesus in our lives and we have the five goals to live by. Jesus is not asking me to be perfect, but to convert to a new way of life.
Tom: Fr. Harvey and Courage, through the Holy Spirit, saved my life. After more than 20 years of compulsive, addictive homosexual activity in every form, I learned that there was hope; that one day at a time, I could move away from a life that I hated and was destroying me. Through Courage meetings, the fellowship of the group, chaste friendships, daily prayer, mass, surrender, therapy, and spiritual direction, my life has changed. God has blessed me with peace and serenity in my life for the first time. I’m not perfect, but better, and I am grateful to God, Fr. Harvey and all those who work for and with Courage.
Bill: After my father’s death fifteen years ago, I tried to reenter the gay-bar scene. It was a disaster. the more I tried to reenter the gay scene, the more miserable I became. I found myself in the bars, drunk, and at the same time saying to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Each week I found myself going to a different parish for confession. Finally, a priest told me about Courage. After finally making up my mind to attend a Courage meeting, my life slowly changed for the better. Today, after nine years with the Courage movement, my spiritual life has greatly progressed.
Steve: Courage, for me, has been my most effective realization of God’s love. Having lived now some thirty-seven years in awareness of my homosexual struggle, it has been the work of Courage that enabled me to put my sexual reality into the light of faith and truth. Concretely, I was able to forego a life of constant seeking for sexual fulfillment in another man, only by turning the problem over to God’s grace – and with this important area of Christian ministry..
Angelo: What Courage has done for me is bring love, compassion, support, and understanding of my own homosexual struggle. This, to me, is the best apostolate that the Church has ever brought forward. To me, it works to talk it out with good and holy people. It also brought me a sense of peace. I may even be tempted all the time, but I know that through God’s grace, I have decided to live my life as a chaste person.
Ti: The Courage group showed me that there is a loving God who wants to forgive and heal me, a man troubled by homosexual thoughts and activities for thirty years.
Brian: I believe that God calls me to live a chaste life. And I believe He will give me the help I need to do this every step of the way. Courage helps me to realize this.
Jeff: I have just attended my first Courage Conference in the Bronx, NY. When I first learned about the Courage movement about 1 1/2 years ago while reading an American Catholic weekly, the Lord put it on my heart to get involved with people who struggle with homosexual feelings. I just knew that the Catholic Church in Montreal had a duty to minister to men and women who were unhappy with their lifestyle and who were secretly hoping that some good samaritans would reach out a helping hand. The only experience I can recall is that as a young boy some stranger cornered me in one of those three story wooden sheds in many back yards in the Montreal area. I don’t remember any details – my mind suppressed it all, but I have a feeling that my privacy and dignity were assaulted – maybe a touch – I don’t remember. I probably ran down the spiral staircase and into the house. I never told anybody about this except my wife recently (we are married 39 years with 5 children). This probably has affected my development somewhat though I don’t know how. I have written to our Pope John Paul II (after getting a non-answer from our Bishop). The gist of my request is two-fold: Why don’t we hear in our Catholic churches on Sundays those passages of Paul for example, with the sermon teaching our Catholic faithful what the Church teaches us and how God feels about homosexual activity. My second request was that St. Joseph be mentioned in the Canons of every mass so that the males can identify with the chaste spouse of the mother of Jesus. It would also give a clear message on the importance of the family in this age of fractured, wounded families. So here we are, ready to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He wants. We could dedicate Courage Montreal to Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
John: It’s an oasis in the midst of ignorance and indifference. Through the grace of God’s love, it gives me a focus point and direction that is seen in the faces of its members. It teaches one how to relate to God with perseverance and assurance. I thought I knew God but now I know Him better.
Steven: My wife and I attended the annual Courage conference last week. Our only son struggles with homosexual feelings. Courage is the only program within the Catholic Church in Canada and the United States that ministers to these individuals and espouses Church positions on sexual relations. Unfortunately, there is no Courage chapter in the diocese and basically it ignores the many Catholics under its pastoral care who have this orientation, and their parents. The Church provides no ministry to these individuals. The Church is losing these individuals because it offers no spiritual home to them. I strongly recommend that dioceses, parishes and schools at the secondary and college levels send a priest to the next Courage conference – his eyes will be opened to this major area of pastoral need, and he will learn for the first time the vast amount of information available through Courage, as well as the Christian leaders in this ministry. Equally important is the role of Courage in helping parents and relatives to understand and participate in the healing process.
This ministry is diverse. There are married couples in the parishes with children, where one of the partners has a struggles with homosexuality feelings. There are numerous single young people with this condition. Through Courage, these individuals learn the Church’s position that the condition itself is not immoral, and that chastity is to be observed. Courage is a haven and a relief to many Catholics who are distressed by a gay lifestyle and wish to gain self-respect through chastity. Encourage offers the same ministry to concerned parents and relatives.
Courage chapters in the parishes and cities provide a healing environment where these individuals may learn about the option of chastity and the opportunity for dealing with the roots of the condition. It is an excellent ministry in which these individuals can come closer to Jesus than perhaps in any other parish constituency. Why parishes and dioceses have failed to support this program is a mystery. Courage also has links to movements outside the Church, such as the Regeneration group, that adhere to Catholic doctrine in this area. At this year’s conference, we observed a few more parish priests in attendance. This is a good sign, but many, many more priests should take advantage of Courage to familiarize themselves with his important area of Christian ministry.
Richard: Courage saved me and saves me every day of my life. Before I discovered Courage, I was an emotionally beaten young man who was severely depressed. I loved God and my Catholic family but could not understand how God could harness me with the affliction of homosexuality feelings. I honestly thought I would go to my grave without ever telling anyone. I first realized I had homosexual feelings in my early twenties and by my late twenties I was having occasional anonymous homosexual encounters for which I just felt remorse. I had feelings and desires which appalled me. I was depressed and wounded. However, I still attended mass because the Catholic Church’s teaching on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as celebrated in the mass, provided some kind of vague hope. That hope materialized when I found out about Courage in a newspaper article that chronicled how Dignity was dismissed from a parish church in the Archdiocese of New York and that the Church provided for the pastoral care of persons who struggle with homosexual feelings through Courage. Courage was the answer! I met with Father John Harvey who was extraordinarily understanding and caring. I finally divulged my secret feelings and made my confession.
Through Courage I have learned the power of the twelve step program to help me achieve chastity. No longer do I feel alone in the world. I feel the presence of God in my life and have seen Him working in the lives of many others in Courage. The testimony of others in Courage has helped me understand myself and my relationship with my family, particularly my parents. I have also developed a much more meaningful prayer life. I attend mass more frequently. I am now reading scripture, which is something I never did. The only scripture I ever heard was at mass and, sadly, most of the time I did not listen. Scripture illumines the human soul and nature. In my years with Courage, I have developed a sense of healing and resolution of past emotional problems. I no longer pray for removal of adversity in my life, but for the patience, strength and wisdom to deal with it, and then let God’s will be done. Courage has given me the tools to attain chastity, thereby allowing me to better know myself, and to lead a rewarding and spirit-filled life.
Andy: My struggle with homosexual feelings has been a cause of much pain, not only by the compulsion and self-destruction that it brought me, but also by influencing me to leave the Church. Politicians, pseudo-scientists and supposedly compassionate priests have been telling me in many ways “you just accept it – no point in fighting it all the time.” This has been no solution, but self-deception. I wanted a place that will tell me that there are rights and wrongs in life. I am not looking for easy solutions. I wanted support, encouragement, prayer, spiritual sanity – I wanted to hear the voice of Christ. That place for me has been the “Courage Group Support” in the Catholic Church.
Chet: People who struggle with homosexual feelings, those who consider themselves “gay” must be made aware that there is an alternative to the lifestyle; one that is in accord with the teachings of the Church – this is precisely the function that Courage provides. The organization should be embraced and supported by the Church at all levels. It’s an important ministry that gives members an opportunity to share common struggles and spiritual triumphs as they strive to live decent Christian lives. It provides hope, friendship, and guidance. Without the Courage group, the “friendship, hope and guidance” would come from “gay” people in the lifestyle, supporting the political agenda of the militant “gay” movement. Courage is an invaluable asset in the modern Church combining the spiritual with a practical alternative.
Barry: I am a 26 year old male and have been in Courage for one year and eight months. I’d been in psychotherapy for four years prior to Courage. Once a member, I found I was brought to another level. My prayer life has improved. I worry less. My chronic masturbating habit has decreased. I’ve met some of the holiest people in my life at Courage meetings and conferences. Courage combines wisdom, spiritual guidance, and human support to aid in healing and fostering the loving truth of God’s presence in our lives. I have come to know the truth about myself and God, and know my troubles with homosexuality can be managed or ended altogether with divine intervention. Everything in this world breaks and/or falls apart – perhaps God planned it this way so I would be dependent on Him. He wants me. He loves me. He has called me in this way. I accept Him into my life. I go on in spite of difficulties…with a whole lot of courage on my part.
James: How does one talk about this struggle? It can be a real burden – lonely, frustrating and sad. For those of us who have the condition, we are not usually the envy of others. I myself have experienced the pain of this wound. I have angrily demanded from God the reason for this condition. Why must I suffer so? Then I think of others and all they have to endure. I think of friends I have met through the support group Courage, and I realize I am not alone. I do have someone who can understand these homosexual desires We can talk about it and even laugh about it. But, most importantly, we deal with it from a Catholic perspective – the true way. It is important that Courage be known in the Church. It’s also important to talk about the sins of homosexual behavior as well as the sins of heterosexual behavior. It should never be denied. However, the human person who falls into any type of sin can rise again through the sacrament of reconciliation. There are souls out there craving for compassion and companionship. Please console them with the hope and peace that the Lord offers through the group Courage.
Wook: If it wasn’t for the support of my local Courage chapter, I would be in much worse condition spiritually, socially and mentally.Courage has given me knowledge about the roots of my homosexual feelings, and has shown me that God loves the struggler. There is hope for us through groups like Courage. I’ve been attending the group for four years now. I take my hat off to all the leadership who have listened to the Spirit of God and who have made themselves available for us who desperately need such a support group. The five goals of Courage are goals that lead us to holiness and wholeness.
Greg: In four short months, Courage gave me a renewed faith which transformed my life:
1) The loss of my marriage, my job, access to my children – my coveted possession, and my extended family, all turned into gifts which allowed me to love the Lord more.
2) Suffering from attention deficit disorder became an opportunity to surrender my mind to the Lord, realizing the importance of what He brings to me in food or medicine.
3) The root of my homosexual lust, which caused me so much loss, was uncovered, giving me the power of choice.
Through the teaching of the Church, Courage took a burdened man and transformed him into one of the new generation of Catholics who desire to follow the lives of the saints over any other choice. Through the continued support of Courage members, I can keep my focus off of myself, growing through participating in the sacraments, walking closely with the Lord, and being a vessel of his love. I have been given the courage to surrender myself completely for the greater glory of God.
Peter: Courage has meant finally finding a group that supports Catholic beliefs, and accepts me, a broken person struggling with homosexual feelings, as a child of God. This group encourages and supports me in my attempt to lead a chaste life. Courage adheres to the Catholic Church’s teachings that the struggler is a person; a child of God to love, respect and treat with dignity. It is not my broken-ness but my homosexual behavior that is sinful. The Church teaches that there is hope and healing for my sexual broken-ness through the love and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church teaches that even with my homosexual struggle, through Jesus Christ I will be healed and saved as a child of God. The Courage support group has brought me many periods of peace – a peace I had never really experienced until I joined Courage.
Joshua: Courage for me, thus far, has been a calming and positive influence in my life. The organization has given me the opportunity to communicate with other persons dealing with their struggle with homosexual feelings, which helps abate the frustrating loneliness and suffering this affliction