Courage and EnCourage Apostolate: The Journey of Same Sex Attraction and Homosexuality. By Fr. Richard Samour - Chaplain of Courage and EnCourage Apostolate San Antonio,
The call to every person is to redefine his/her life as a constant surrendering, offering of one's life to Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for each of us and all of us in the Body of Christ, the Church.
Courage member testimony: "I thought I had the homosexuality under control. I’d been a Catholic for five years, went to daily Mass, prayed the rosary daily, went on one or two retreats a year, and volunteered at my parish. Yet, after a series of crises occurred, I once again became involved in addictive, homosexual behavior. So what happened? I’d had same sex attraction from the time I began to masturbate at age 12. I masturbated at least once a day, and developed a rich fantasy life by the time I did act out at age 24. My family life was in many ways classic. My father was a “workaholic,” a great provider — but he was never there for me. He died when I was 15. My mother was controlling and overbearing. She was the disciplinarian. The homosexuality seemed to fade into the background. The acting out stopped. I experienced long stretches without masturbating. I entered a long honeymoon with the faith during which I was quite sure God was healing me of my homosexuality.
However, I realize now that I was repressing my homosexuality and not facing it. Then several crises came: I quit my job, a second career opportunity fizzled, I had no place to live, and a business venture with my brother failed, resulting in a falling out with him. Meanwhile, I entered a “dark night” when God seemed to abandon me. I drank almost every day until I lost my mind. That’s when the temptations returned with a vengeance, and I gradually reentered the addiction going from frequent masturbation to watching soft porn on cable, buying porn, participating in phone sex, desiring to have sex again, finally acting out, and cruising on the Internet. I picked up where I’d left off and the addiction was worse than ever. I had more than one partner. By the way, homosexuality is not the way of fidelity. I always thought that it was but it was not. My homosexual journey involved more than 40 men. It is almost a miracle that my faith survived through that period of deep unhappiness. But I had enough faith in Christ to seek His help. That’s where Courage came in. I’d read about Courage in Fr. Benedict’s book The Courage to be Chaste. So I began to attend meetings, and met others with the same “thorn in their flesh." The priest chaplain was really a Spiritual Father and the perfect mentor, or at least for the help I was looking for."
This is a typical and classic story of some brothers and sisters whose lives are out of control, surrounded by anger, resentment, self-pity, rejection, loneliness, low self steam and especially family issues. Some people chose alcohol, drugs, gluttony, pornography, masturbation, and lust to escape from the wounds of their childhood. Someone once say, “[I]n American society everything is tolerated except those who do not tolerate everything.”
Unfortunately, this statement has guided so many people and this is the danger road or path for healing.
Courage Apostolate is a group of men/women who experience Same-Sex Attractions (SSA) and who are committed to helping one another to live chaste lives marked by prayer, fellowship and mutual support. Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage, in his book, “A Spiritual Plan to Redirect One’s Life” wrote, “[T]he purpose of a plan of life is to give direction to one’s life within the context of Christian faith. A plan of life is not rule of thumb, not ten easy steps of happiness, but a radical rethinking of an inadequate view of life.” I am convinced that persons with purpose in life experience joy because joy gives wholeness to their life. I consider joy as a virtue, according to the CCC a virtue is: “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.” In other words, virtue is a verb, not a noun, a discipline of doing the good. Some of the five goals of Courage embrace fellowship and support; they rescue the hope, the hope of brothers and sisters who are hopeless. Hope is the virtue that keeps us going when we are tempted to think that Jesus is asleep. Hope moves us to trust that the God in whom we believe will always love us and care for us, and that He keep his promises. We have to ask to Our Master for the hope of patience, persistence and perseverance, to trust that He is listening even when there is no response.
We write daily in a life-journal our story, nothing has been written, thinking in that way, it is like to imagine a God who is using us as puppetries. We are not born with a label… "I am gay, I am alcoholic, I am workaholic, I am drug-addicted." No one is born with a homosexual orientation, according to American Phycologist,"… Sexual orientation is not under the direct governance of chromosomes and genes, and that, whereas it is not foreordained by prenatal brain hormonalization it is influenced thereby, and is also strongly dependent on postnatal socialization." People can choose to change and come out straight. What was learned can be unlearned.
In my short experience as a Courage Chaplain in San Antonio, I have seen that when the wounds are healed and the unmet needs fulfilled, gender identity will be experienced and heterosexual desires will ensue.
Let me tell you this, it is not a sin to experience SSA, as they represent a drive to heal unmet love needs. However, acting upon the desires leads to frustrations and pain.
The aim of Courage is not to change a person’s sexual inclination or attraction, but to surrender completely their identity to Christ.” And this is the Joy I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Joy that only through Jesus can experience.
The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is to use another person for our own gratification, including sexual gratification. We can only find ourselves through the sincere gift of ourselves. The sexual act is meant to be an act of total self-giving. Each and every person, without exception, is a beloved and unique creation of God called to abundant life and love. This is the deepest source of our identity and dignity. Men and women with SSA can lead chaste and fruitful made possible by Christ’s redemption, liberating virtue and a source of human freedom. A person is not defined just by his/her sexual behavior. The term "to come out of the closet" or to hear about the community of LGBT is very common. In my personal opinion, this is disrespectful and not well defined, nor accurate. This is discrimination. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Men and women with SSA and homosexuals have a lot of positive aspects. They are talented with abilities and contributions to the society.
The parish priest and community play an important role in the process of freedom from any kind of sexual inclination. Being a role model does not mean perfection, as we often heard, "The church is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners.” “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." The essence of community life for every Christian Catholic is lived most authentically by communion with Christ and with one's brothers. All of Salvation history is this: God has chosen you! God knows every hair on your head. Jesus says not even a hair on your head falls to the ground without Your Heavenly Father knowing it. And this is the genius of Courage apostolate, rooted in the priestly heart of Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, whose spirituality was born of a profound personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and drew inspiration from the spirituality of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales’ fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the spirituality of Courage reflects the urging of the Saint to “Live Jesus.” The Courage Apostolate was, and still is, in the heart of the Church. So it is for us, the men and women of Courage, to remain ever the faithful sons and daughters of Mother Church, understanding this apostolate as Fr. Harvey understood it—not as his project, not as his invention, but rather as belonging to Christ, who had inspired and blessed its creation.
The heart of Courage and EnCourage spirituality, based on the writings of Saint Francis de Sales and The Five Goals of Courage, is the belief that sanctity is possible in everyday life. Through the Courage Apostolate those persons experiencing SSA are encouraged to deepen their Christian discipleship through participation in the sacramental life of the Church, particularly through the frequent reception of the Eucharist and frequent confession, as well as through a regular prayer life, witness, counsel, service, and self-giving. By developing a dedicated prayer life and seeking meditative and prayerful union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we come to recognize our true identity as children of God, men and women in Christ, understanding and experiencing the unconditional love of God, thus conforming ourselves to His will for our lives.
There is hope and a future for men and women experiencing SSA and homosexuality, or parents whose children are experiencing SSA, if you want to know and learn more about Courage and EnCourage, or maybe you or someone who you love want to join the group, please do not be afraid and contact me. All communication with Courage is strictly confidential. Fr. Richard Samour (210) 996-1371, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.