Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Letter from a Perplexed Wife

(Note: The letter sender got to know Courage through my personal blog. She writes to ask for help about her husband whose SSA struggle she only came to know about months ago after seven years of marriage. Here is her letter.)


I believe that God has the perfect timing for all these things. :-) Actually, I did not expect to get a reply from you anymore. But then you did, and so I thank you and God for this opportunity.

My husband and I have been married for nearly seven years now and we have two kids: a pre-school aged son and a baby daughter. A couple of months ago, in a somewhat pleasant (i mean, no shouting, no crying) confrontation with my husband (regarding his being very secretive from me), he admitted to being a bisexual. He admitted to having fantasies about a male classmate when he was in high school. He admitted having oral sex with a bisexual man nearly a year ago. At first I did not cry or became angry... in fact, I became curious that our conversation turned into a sorta like a showbiz talk-show (parang The Buzz). But then, as days passed, layer by layer, I felt the anger, frustration, depression, etc. come out.

I have sought counsel from two priests and will be seeing a marriage counselor this week. It's just black and white for me, that's for certain; I cannot have a compromised decision... and that decision is going to be big. I cannot ignore the "bisexual issue", as my husband would want me to do now. In the past, I have tolerated homosexuality. For me, it was like, homosexuality is okay as long as it does not enter my house. As a Catholic, I have to have a stand in our situation because whatever decision I will make (to stay married or to annul our marriage, which I can) will impact our family, especially our children and their morality.

For now, his bisexuality is not a marital issue for him. He says it's just like a man being potentially a womanizer, it just so happened that he can be attracted to persons of the same sex (I find this claim very twisted). Yes for now he comes home to our house and faithful to me in terms of physical sexual relations; but then, he is still friends with his bisexual best friend whom he lived with in the same room in a boarding house just a few months back. They slept in one bed in that room. My husband cannot give up the friendship with him, even if they know that their friendship hurts me. In fact, my husband has not (and he has said he will not) apologize to me because of their living together. For him, their friendship is not wrong and without malice despite the fact that that friend has confessed to having romantic feelings for my husband, although my husband denies any romantic feeling for him. Indeed, the whole situation doesn't add up, no matter what explanation my husband gives me. And lately, he doesn't want to explain anymore. He just wants us to ignore that past and move on like it never happened.

But then for me, that may not work in the long run. I asked him before if, if ever there was a way, would he want to be straight. At first he said, it's impossible already. But I prodded on, and he said, yes, he'd want to be straight and he's been praying to God so that he'll be straight, but he knows it's impossible. If there were a way for him to be straight, I'd like to know about that; if none, what options do we have. But then, in the end, I know that it will still be all up to my husband, if he wants to change or not.

I was searching the internet for a support group for women whose husbands are like my husband, but there were none in the Philippines, until I chanced upon this blog. I would definitely like to know more about Courage. I want to know also if asking God to make my husband straight is the answer.

Please do include us in your prayers. Thank you very much and God bless!"

Sender's name withheld upon request

P.S. I assured her that Courage will help her in her struggle. Let us all pray for her and her family.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Value of Fasting

(Note: As we approach the season of Lent, let us reflect on the deeper meaning and value of fasting in our spiritual life as what Pope Benedict XVI has wonderfully explained in his 2009 Lenten message.)

Regaining an appreciation for fasting: the Pope's Lenten Message

In his Lenten Message for 2009, Pope Benedict XVI concentrates on the spiritual value of fasting.

The penitential season of Lent begins his year with Ash Wednesday on February 25. The Pope's Lenten Message was made public by the Vatican on February 3. The full text of the Pope's message is available on the Vatican website .

Noting that Lenten discipline is "an itinerary of more intense spiritual training" traditionally based upon prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the Holy Father dedicates this year's message to fasting, remarking that the practice "seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning" in our time.

Both the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the unbroken tradition of Christian living testify that fasting is "a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it," the Pope says. He calls attention to the great Christian teachers like St. Augustine who saw fasting as a means of restoring spiritual balance to a soul stained by sin. "Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences," the Pope explains, "fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God."

The idea of fasting-- voluntarily giving up something that is recognized as good and wholesome-- can be traced to the very beginning of the Bible, the Pope observed. In the Garden of Eden, God instructs Adam and Eve to abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Thus, the Pope relates, St. Basil made the observation that "fasting was ordained in Paradise." Jesus fasted in the desert, the Pope continues, and at the conclusion of his fast, when he is tempted by Satan, he points to a deeper meaning of fasting when he says that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Pope Benedict concludes: "The true fast is thus directed to eating the 'true food,' which is to do the Father's will." Oddly, the Pope says in modern times fasting has become associated with doing one's own will, and serving one's own needs, insofar as fasting and dieting are used to achieve greater physical and mental well-being. Without denying the physical benefits of abstinence, the Pope insists that Christian fasting has an entirely different purpose.

One very important spiritual benefit of fasting, the Pope says, is that it can "open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live." Those who fast gain a greater appreciation for those who live constantly in hunger, he says. "By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger." That statement should lead directly to action to feed the hungry, he says.

As he concludes his Lenten Message, the Pope reminds the faithful that along with fasting, their spiritual discipline during the penitential season should also include "a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass."

At a press conference held in Rome to introduce the Pope's Lenten message, chaired by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the main focus was on the connection between fasting and almsgiving-- specifically, feeding the hungry. The cardinal introduced Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the UN's World Food Program (WFP), to comment on the enduring problem of hunger. Sheeran reported that one of every six living humans suffers from hunger. "But this is not a problem of food availability," she said. "It is a problem of distribution--and of greed, discrimination, wars, and other tragedies."

Existing food supplies are adequate to provide for everyone on earth, the WFP director said. "We have the tools and technology to make this happen, and we have seen it happen in many places around the world." She pointed to examples of humanitarian aid in Darfur and Senegal, where relief agencies have prevented starvation at minimal cost.

Cardinal Cordes, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum-- the official papal charity-- said that humanitarian aid is a genuine charitable work when it does not "sink to the level of an ideology or a purely mental exercise" but consists in practical steps to help those in need. The cardinal acknowledged that other religions, particularly Buddhism and Islam, practice fasting. However, he said, "fasting in these religions cannot simply be identified with Christian fasts," because the teachings of Buddhism and Islam deny that worldly things are inherently good. For Christians, he said, fasting is powerful precisely because the faithful acknowledge that good is good, yet forego it for a greater good. Thus "fasting in this Lent has no negative connotations," he said. "Depriving oneself and denying oneself are positive acts: they aim at the encounter with Christ."

Source: (CWNews.com, 02/03/09)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Banish Unchaste Thoughts

by: Mary Beth Bonacci

Achieving internal chastity is not an easy task. For many, it is a lifelong struggle, fought day in and day out.

Apparently, I'm becoming the queen of the two-part column. Once I get going on a subject, there's often a whole lot to say, and one column sometimes doesn't do it justice.

My most recent topic is no exception. In the last column, we were talking about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. When Christ said "any man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart," He made it clear that chastity -- and unchastity -- don't begin with what we do, but rather in what we think. And deliberately seeking sexual stimulation, even via the imagination, constitutes a sin against chastity.

But there is another side to this, one that deserves attention as well. Last time, we were talking about people who are deliberately looking for sexual thoughts. But what about all of those sexual thoughts which come into our brains -- day in and day out -- uninvited? Are those sinful as well? And, if so, how can anybody get to heaven, ever?

First of all, it's important to understand that it's impossible to sin "accidentally." Sin has to be the result of free choice. Sin happens in the will, not the subconscious or the hormones or anywhere else.

God created us male and female. And he created us to be sexually attracted to each other. That's a good thing in marriage, where that attraction is supposed to be acted upon. Problem is, our hormones can't discern "spouse" from "non-spouse." And so, from time to time, we respond sexually to a non-spouse. We start to think about how using this person's body could give us pleasure. And therein lies the challenge.

Christians are called to rise above our baser instincts. That means that, when those thoughts pop into our brains, we let them go. We look past this person's sexual attractiveness, to see him or her as a beloved image and likeness of God. The sin of lust occurs when, instead, we deliberately grab onto those thoughts and say, "I want to think about that some more." At that point, we are using that person to get sexual pleasure for ourselves. When we deliberately consent to those thoughts, when we start adding to the fantasy, we sin against chastity. As a student of mine once said, "It isn't the first look that gets you into trouble. It's the second."

Our emotional life, unfortunately, can also contribute to uninvited sexual fantasies. Father Benedict Groeschel, in his excellent book The Courage to Be Chaste, says that these fantasies often reflect the need for tenderness, reinforcement, intimacy and spiritual love. When we're not getting those, we tend to be more vulnerable to sexual fantasy.

This causes many sensitive people to struggle with guilt, often unnecessarily. They think they're bad people just because these thoughts enter into their brains. They think that chastity means that their sex drive should go away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those involuntary thoughts are not in themselves sinful. Yes, they are invitations to sinfulness. (That's the definition of temptation.) But we don't sin unless we accept the invitation. We may be barraged by uninvited sexual thoughts all day long, but as long as we don't voluntarily consent to them, there is no sin. (Consent, according to Father Groeschel, means having the presence of mind to say, "This is sinful, but I'm going to think about it anyway.")

Of course, those thoughts don't always go away so easily. They linger in the mind, taunting us. Trying to force them out of our minds is futile. (Have you ever tried not to think about something? The very act of trying forces you to think about it.) And violently forcing sexual thought out of our minds wouldn't be terribly healthy even if it did work. It's a form of sexual repression. Burying thought like that tends to keep them alive in the subconscious, where they can cause all kinds of mischief.

So what do we do? We don't give in and focus our attention on the thoughts, but neither do we fear them and try to drive them away. We simply acknowledge them as a part of being human, and then turn our attention elsewhere. We distract ourselves. (Father Groeschel points out that very few people are tempted during a fire alarm.) We ignore the thoughts, even as they clamor for our attention. Eventually, they go away.

It's also important to keep our lives in order. If loneliness or need for intimacy is fueling our overactive imaginations, we need to change our lives, to satisfy those needs -- in the right way.

Basically, it's not easy to ignore thoughts that promise us such pleasure. We need God's help. Chastity without prayer is impossible. All moral virtue involves turning away from short-term pleasure for the sake of long-term happiness. And that takes strength that we don't have on our own.

Achieving internal chastity is not an easy task. For many, it is a lifelong struggle, fought day in and day out. Father Benedict Groeschel offers encouragement, saying, "Every temptation resisted is a great act of worship of God. To put up with temptation and not seek the easy way out is a powerful acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God ... Even if one falls later on, he has accomplished an act of obedient worship that will not be erased" (The Courage to Be Chaste, p. 90).

Resist temptation. It's not easy, but the rewards are huge.

(Acknowledgment: Mary Beth Bonacci is the founder of Real Love Incorporated and the the author of We're on a Mission from God: The Generation X Guide to John Paul II, the Catholic Church, and the Real Meaning of Life and Real Love: The Ultimate Dating, Marriage and Sex Question Book .

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blast from the Past

Listed below are links to interesting articles posted in the old Courage blog. I hope you could find time to browse through some of them by clicking on the title and this will redirect you to the original site where that article was taken. We will continue to post such articles here in the coming days and months.

1. How Groups Work: Coming Out of a Gay Identity, and Becoming One of the Guys by Richard Rupp, M.Div., MFCC

2. Self-Knowledge and Self-Acceptance or A Spirituality for the Imperfect given by Fr. Pocetto at the 2004 Courage Women's Retreat

3. Is Chastity Possible? by Rev. T.G. Morrow

4. The Psychology of Temptation by Fr. Jeffrey Keefe, OFM Conv. PhD., STL

5. All Things Became New by Alan Medinger

6. Running a Courage Meeting: One Way Among Many by Fr. James B. Lloyd, CSP

7. The Fourteen Steps of Homosexual Anonymous from the HA website

8. Knighthood and Biblical Manhood by Lou Whitworth

9. Mentorship of Men Who Struggle with Same Sex Attraction by Steven Donaldson, MA, LPC

10. The Law of Charity from SSA Morality League website

11. Holding on to Sexual Purity by Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welcome to the New Courage Blog!

Welcome to the new Courage blog! Our new and improved website seeks to unite all our courageous brothers and sisters out there wherever they may be and to reach out to our brothers and sisters struggling with same-sex attraction. I want to give thanks and praise to God for inspiring me to take full responsibility in renovating the old Courage blog despite my limited technical know-how in creating a website. Having been in the blogosphere myself for almost one year, I'm quite aware of the power of blogging to reach out to others and also as a powerful means of social communication.

Check out the following features:
1. Courage organization, history, community, vision & mission, goals, FAQs, and activities.
2. Contact information, e-group, feedback section.
3. Multimedia section which includes 24-hour EWTN TV coverage, featured movies, jukebox, reflections, and news sites.
4. Audio on Demand Series on homosexuality, purity, male spirituality, etc.
5. Links to FREE downloadable internet filter and accountability softwares.
6. Websites on prayer, catholic faith, sacraments, and prolife issues.
7. Websites dealing with topics such as sexual purity, pornography, masturbation, and sex addiction.
8. Websites on fathers, teens, & young adults.
9. A special section on Portraits of Courage - a documentary video on people who have found strength and support in the Courage ministry plus life stories of people and a transformation testimony of Ansel Beluso.
10. Websites and support groups for people with SSA with a link to reading materials on this topic.
11. A separate section for women with SSA.
12. Plan of action for healing, wholeness, and growth.
13. Volunteer and charitable organizations.
14. A gadget for translating the contents to other languages.

The new Courage blog will be updated regularly and enlisted in different blog catalogs/directories to reach a wider audience. Do visit our site for updates and support us by linking us to your blogs/websites.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!