by Tara K.E. Brelinsky
“I thirst” were two of the last words Jesus spoke from the cross. And though it could be said that He was experiencing a physical desire for hydration, He was, more importantly, expressing a much deeper longing. Jesus was, and is, thirsting for love and for souls. He thirsts for humanity’s unrestrained love and for the eternal salvation of every human person regardless of race, nationality, state in life, gender or sexual tendencies.
As the Church, we witness to Christ’s love. We make visible the invisible. That’s why Pope Francis instructs Christians to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged.
May the church be the place of God’s mercy and love, where everyone can feel themselves welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And in order to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the church must have open doors so that all might enter. And we must go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel. -Pope Francis from his General Audience
All Are Welcome
Jesus does not reject anyone, neither does His Church. He thirsts for each and every person; therefore, the doors of His Church are open to all.
But Christ does not force humanity to love Him back. Because, of course, sincere love cannot be forced. Instead, He gives men and women the free will to choose to remain in His love or not.
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. Jn 15:9-10
Throughout all of history mankind has struggled with this freedom. We’d prefer to divorce Jesus’s love from the commandments or divorce the commandments from His love. We say that we can love Christ without obeying the commandments (love is love). Or we think we can obey the commandments without loving as Christ loves (Pharisaical love).
Same Sex Marriage
A prevailing conversation in our time, homosexuality and same sex marriage, stems from this conflict.
Some claim there is no unequivocal regulation on the sexual expression of love. They claim that Christ did not address homosexual acts. That he does not judge homosexual behavior.
However, the Church’s teaching, derived from God’s Word, clearly states otherwise.
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture (Gen 19:1-29, Rom 1:24-27, 1Cor 6:10, 1Tim1:10), which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a geniune affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. CCC 2357
Shutting the Door on the Sinner
Others shut the door entirely. They promote the command, but disregard the individual who experiences same sex attraction. That is not the stance of Jesus or His Church. Neither disregarding the commandment nor dismissing the person fulfills the mission of Jesus to love and be loved.
From the Catechism: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives. Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” CCC 2358-2359
An Invitation to Courageous Love
His Eminence, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York recognized that those experiencing same sex attraction were often left wondering, “Is there a place for me in the Church?” He understood that the Church needed a formal apostolate that could answer that question.
(Cardinal Cooke) knew that the individual dealing with same-sex attractions truly needed to experience the freedom of interior chastity and in that freedom find the steps necessary to living a fully Christian life in communion with God and others. He was concerned that many would not find this path and would be constantly trying to get their needs met in ways that ultimately do not satisfy the desires of the heart. –Courage
With the help of Fr. John Harvey, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. and others, the Courage Apostolate held its first meeting in New York in September of 1980. Today, Courage ministers in 2/3rds of the dioceses in the United States (including the Diocese of Raleigh) as well as 14 countries on 5 continents.
The Goals of Courage
Because Jesus thirsts for every person, the Church does not reject anyone. Courage welcomes and accompanies the same sex attracted Catholic. And rather than impose a template into which members must fit, Courage leaders listen to a person’s story, help them process their own story and challenge them to walk the path God is calling them to take.
Courage members maintain 5 goals:
- Live a chaste life according to Catholic Church teaching,
- Develop a life of prayer,
- Fellowship within a confidential group,
- Support of chaste friendships outside of the group,
- Live lives that serve as good example and attract others to Christ.
EnCourage-ment for Families
When a family member expresses an attraction to the same sex, parents, spouses and children often struggle with feelings of anger, grief, confusion or guilt. Societal pressure to support civil unions can leave loved ones unsure of the proper, loving response to a gay family member who questions or rejects God’s design for marriage. EnCourage provides pastoral care and support for friends and family members of homosexual individuals.
Both Courage and EnCourage offer free, confidential support and fellowship within chapter meetings or online. To respect the privacy of members, meeting details are never posted and interested individuals are interviewed by the chapter chaplain.
Father Philip Bochanski, Director of Courage International, gave a presentation at the 2017 Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference. Throughout the month of September, this talk is being offered free on Ignited by Truth’s website: Charity & Clarity: An Authentic Catholic Response to Homosexuality
- Courage, A Roman Catholic Apostolate -a place to find information on both Courage and EnCourage. This website includes contact information for chapters in the Diocese of Raleigh
- Desire of the Everlasting Hills -a film that offers intimate and candid portraits of three Catholics who are navigating the waters of self-understanding, faith, and homosexuality.
- Joseph Sciambra/ Jesus Loves Gay Men -meet Joseph and discover how Jesus saved him from homosexuality, pornography and the occult