By Emily Booker
For practicing Catholics who struggle with same-sex attractions, it can be difficult to feel at home within the Church. Courage International is an apostolate of the Catholic Church that offers support and fellowship to men and women experiencing same-sex attractions who choose to live a chaste life. And that ministry is now offered in the Diocese of Knoxville.
Similarly, EnCourage offers support for parents, spouses, siblings, and friends of those who experience same sex-attractions. EnCourage members work together to understand the experiences of their loved ones and to respond to them with compassion.
Courage meetings help people with similar backgrounds and struggles to support one another in living out the teachings of the Church.
“The best way to think about it is a support group,” said Father Colin Blatchford, chaplain for Courage and EnCourage in the Diocese of Knoxville. “You have a large group of people who have all gone through the same thing or common experience. … What the group offers is just a common social interaction, the building of friendships, which is really an area that a lot of us need to work on, but especially those in the homosexual community because friendship could have been sexualized in many ways very often.”
Fellowship is key. For a group that can often feel rejected or marginalized, finding friends who share their same values and understand their struggles can be challenging. It also can be difficult to fit in with a church community.
“I think that’s one of the things that those with same-sex attractions in the Catholic Church really struggle with: ‘How do I fit into this family?’” said Father Blatchford, who also serves as associate pastor at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga.
“When a church makes the effort to be honest and truthful with them about how they’re supposed to be living, and people accept them, they thrive.”
Father Blatchford emphasized that authentic friendship means loving the entirety of the human person, seeing them beyond the monikers of homosexual or heterosexual.
“Authentic love of these people requires us to encounter them as we encounter any of our brothers and sisters. … Their temptations, their inclinations do not make them unlovable in God’s eyes.”
Authentic friendship also means desiring the good of the other person and helping them strive for holiness. Courage offers fellowship and support so that people can help one another through struggles or temptations.
“Whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, it doesn’t matter. We are all called to holiness,” Father Blatchford said.
“And in that holiness we must follow Christ. We have to make our sacrifice and carry our cross, whatever temptation that may be, whatever other struggle that may be.”
In the Diocese of Knoxville, Courage currently is meeting in Chattanooga and EnCourage is starting up in Knoxville. Father Blatchford is willing to help groups form where there is a need. To get connected with either Courage or EnCourage in the diocese, contact Father Blatchford at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul at 423-266-1618.
Learn more about Courage International at couragerc.org.