Courage: Church offers help to those with same-sex attraction
By Father Dan Norick
As one of the spiritual directors of the Courage and EnCourage groups in the Denver Archdiocese, I’d like to let you know about these ministries. Courage is for people with same-sex attraction (SSA) who seek to live in accord with Church teaching. Encourage is for parents, relatives and friends of those who struggle with SSA.
The purpose of both groups is to provide support and guidance—particularly, spiritual support. Courage focuses on one’s growth as a person, “whose dignity,” Bishop Conley has noted, “comes from God and cannot be lost.” I have seen God’s grace at work in the people who attend Courage. The road is not easy, but God gives them hope in their struggle.
Likewise, EnCourage serves as a great help to those who attend those meetings. For starters, it’s helpful to know that one isn’t alone in dealing with the issues of a loved one with same-sex-attraction. Also, there is a significant amount of sharing between Encourage attendees as to the best ways to communicate, to love and to support their loved ones struggling with SSA.
I’ve seen relationships repaired and strengthened. And I’ve seen lives transformed.
One Courage member said, “Just to know that the group is meeting gives me hope even when I can’t make it that week.” Another commented: “It is a group of men with whom I can speak to openly on any same-sex subject. I do not have to hide.” And another declared: “It has been a gift from God that helped me change my actions. I know that by myself I don’t have the strength.”
I am inspired by those who attend the Courage group. They exhibit deep faith, trusting God in their struggle.
Courage offers two elements key to growth for those with same-sex attraction: prayer and fellowship.
Prayer. Through prayer, those with same-sex attraction are strengthened against temptation and feel more at peace. Their human needs are met in a healthy, authentic way as God intended.
Fellowship. It is so freeing for those with same-sex attraction to be focused on friendship and not on sexual desires or acceptance. They realize same-sex attraction is not just about one’s sexual passions; rather, SSA is tied to many factors. Among the issues we discuss are low self-esteem, fear, resentment, guilt, pride, selfishness, etc. These are the issues all of us work on to be healthy people.
Often those who come to the Courage group have experienced emptiness and are searching for a deeper meaning in life. They learn to offer up their struggles and suffering for all souls in the world and they come to realize that their goal is the heavenly kingdom—not the pleasure of the moment.
God offers us a new hope to renew us. As St. Paul asserts in Romans 8: 19, 22-24: “For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God. … We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now and not only that but we ourselves who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. … If we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”
The temptations of sex and passion affect all of us—as does the temptation to be selfish in relationships. Many marriages end in divorce because the spouses haven’t learned how to sacrifice themselves for each other in love. Some Courage group members are married men (men married to women) who recognize their marriage is about much more than sex with their wife. Subsequently, their marital relationship grows because the spouses learn to live for each other.
We often fill our lives with things and activities to make us happy and we can deceive ourselves to believe we’re OK living life our own way. The Church opens our eyes to the truth and offers us the hope and courage to live that truth through Christ, who loves us, who frees us from fear and who transforms our life.
If you have questions or would like spiritual direction or advice or would like to attend a group, call or email one of the priests below. Courage meets weekly; EnCourage meets monthly, usually on the first Sunday of the month.
Father Dan Norick is a spiritual director with the Courage and EnCourage ministries of the Denver Archdiocese.