Thursday, August 6, 2009

Courage Experience of a Vietnamese Brother

This is a testimonial from brother J before he returned home last March. J is a Vietnamese brother who stayed with us for a few months. In his own words, he narrates how the Courage apostolate has impacted his life and his journey towards personal growth and healing.

I approached Courage as a student going under Pastoral Formation. For the reason why I choose Courage for my pastoral internship placement, I just came up with the issue of homosexuality in my country. In the context of Viet Nam, lacking of openness, knowledge and understanding on these circumstances somehow set up a boundary and push people who has problem with SSA into hopelessness. There are different forms of being homosexual but almost these people are afraid that community, family may know their struggle and look down despicably or disgustedly and put them out of society’s margins. Therefore, they dare not to mention about who they are even asking for the sacrament of reconciliation because not all priests are ready to discuss or deal with term "Gay" or "Lesbian" without judging or condemning.

It seems no way for them to go on, no solution to address toward pure living. Even if they ask for counseling, the mentor just guides them based on scientific or biological studies, not orient to spiritual nurture. In my observation, there are some people willing to change but they have to confront many difficulties and temptations. They are not completely released from homosexual factors even if they try to control sexual desires or decide to get married. Finally, after a certain time, some go back to gay lifestyle or have suffered with their marital life.

Personally, I believe that the Church can not stay away from this area and assuredly there is any updated solution in order to match to the modern Church. Within activations and resolutions, the Church in the Philippines may be a model in Asia and motivate me as a coming missionary and pastoral worker. I would like to experience how the Church faces and handles the realities which attempt to bring hope and love in Christ. It would be a learning of being with and fostering spirituality for persons whom I will work with in the future or I may meet unexpectedly during my journey.

Almost 3 months since I came to Courage, I have discovered newness through activities, learning and together with my reflections and integrations after each weekly meeting. In this personal reflection, I would like to emphasize only 2 significant realizations: spiritual support and fraternal love.

Similar with other Catholic community, purposely Courage has a pure environment which fosters spiritual life of each member. In every meeting, group members are able to recognize that God is laying His hands and tries to reach out to us as a compassionately loving Father. We admit our sins, our weaknesses and our limitations. Even though we are struggling with same-sex attraction and tempted to commit sins every day, but we never forget being Catholic as well and God is still waiting beyond inspite of small changes or massive changes. Courage’s spiritual support leads member to a chaste life not because of response to family building, unashamed life, or transferring to heterosexuality, but aim to personal growth with awareness of God’s love and let him accompany and journey in our life. Personally, I have been empowered and strengthened emotionally and physically. I look at same-sex attraction as a cross which I am carrying for a long time, but since comparing with the passion of Jesus Christ, I felt happy because I have a friend, a companion named Jesus and the heavy burden on my shoulder have been taken out day by day. Unless I put God in the midst of my life, I don’t have full freedom

Furthermore, I have been able to encounter the brotherhood among group members. I had to face my struggle alone and fight with inner self for a long time because there is not any group to support people who has struggle with same-sex attraction in my country. So I understand how painful individual battle is. For me, facing difficulty alone may easily put a person into depression and stress so that support from people who are confronting same struggle is the means of carrying, embrace, and empowerment. I am thankful and very much appreciate fraternal treatments of living in and being with community. I am very happy when they support and encourage me as their brother in different ways. Sometimes, it would be just simply a hug, hand shaking, or even a messege but it has an effectively good impact. I don’t feel lonely anymore and perhaps God sent me to Courage not only for study, but also to get in touch and experience peaceful and joyful relationships.

Maturity and self-awareness, which keep oneself standing on their own perspective concretely, play a big role in community. I was able to see them in some brothers and sisters through their sharing, their behaviors or even in one-by-one sharing. With emotional and physical maturity, brothers and sister are going to step out of the struggle confidently. They have back to ordinary life or continued their journey without worries and leave a good example for others. In addition, being with community also can be a motivation for each member to see things clearly and analyze situation deeply and get a higher perspective for each trouble and difficulty. Personal ideas or advices are very helpful and useful for some tension case aim other member to go on the right way and benefit from his or her life

All those things mentioned above entail me to the new stage of my life. I start to live out in a new way. I have learned how to let go of my pains, my past sufferings. I am healed with the people I met, with the knowledge I have got from both the Church and realities. I am willing to changes and embrace my changes despite of struggle in me toward to the full freedom in Christ. For no matter what will happen, wherever I go, HOPE still remains in the depth of my heart and I believe in a brighter and peaceful future.

Thanks bro for this wonderful sharing. How about establishing Courage there in Vietnam? Please pray for it and keep in touch.

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