Cardinal George delighted with men of Courage

They were overwhelmed by the Cardinal’s gracious enthusiasm. “I’m delighted to see you guys!” he exclaimed, assuring them of his immediate support.

“Leave it with me,” he said. Two weeks later the phone rang, “It’s George here.

I’ve got you a chaplain I think you’ll like!!” He’d poached a highly regarded, young theologian of considerable intellect from another diocese who had studied in Rome with none other than Fr Harvey’s successor, Fr Paul Check. His name is Fr Peter Joseph. The young men knew of him very well and couldn’t believe their good fortune to have him as their Courage chaplain. Needless to say, their gratitude to Cardinal George knew no bounds, and it still doesn’t, eighteen months later!

It was obvious at the recent Oceania Courage and EnCourage Conference that something terrific had happened in Sydney since last year’s conference. The groups from Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth met Fr Peter Joseph there last year, but no one else came from Sydney .

At the Courage conference this year, there were eight! Happy, vital, calm, peaceful and masculine youthful looking men from Sydney Courage. It was a joy to see their obvious growth, both psychologically and spiritually. We started the day a bit unconnected and cool, but by the end of it we were all warmly happy, inspired and ready to go out into our worlds ready to fight the good fight, knowing we’d back each other up with prayer and Jesus-in-the-midst at a distance.

The men from Sydney Courage told us there are 12 regular members with a mail-out to 30. There is an ad they put in the Catholic Weekly. They meet once a month and, with Fr Peter Joseph, they have a meal together, then the meeting which has a set format based on the Harvey model and finishes with the sacrament of confession for those who want it. Catholic theology is not up for debate in their meetings because they endeavour to live totally by the teachings of the Church. Their eyes shine with the joy it gives them, which was a sure sign of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. They also have a half-day retreat every three months. This could be a good idea for our Melbourne groups, too.

Brendan Scarse and the Brisbane group organized the conference, which was held in Lewisham Parish , Sydney. Fr Michael Butler, the PP, is a great friend of Courage. Alan and I were able to go from Melbourne and share our experience from here. We have a strong parents  EnCourage group in Melbourne, the only EnCourage Group in  Australia and our Courage Group is growing slowly but surely under the guidance of Fr Laurie Leonard SJ. We have contacted and sent out Catholic literature on the subject of Same-sex Attraction to all the parishes and have had some priests advertise the two support groups over the pulpit to great affect. We hope other priests will follow their example.

Bishop Julian Porteous celebrated mass for us at midday.

Fr Paul Stenhouse, who works mainly in the media, gave a measured, well researched talk about the need for truth. He said people today want a” new” truth and we hear of all sorts of things put forward as truth such as sexual liberality and SSA, euthanasia, that greed is good etc. But we don’t see these things bringing happiness with them, quite the reverse. Only Christ has the truth,, which He gave in its totality to His Church. There is no such thing as “new” truth. Truth is unchangeable and we are experts at kidding ourselves into believing what we want to believe.  Fr said our children have a right to see Jesus and His truth in us. The greatest enemy of truth is misguided love and fear! Any Catholic parent of an actively gay child will agree with that. The emotional blackmail that is put on parents to affirm this unhealthy lifestyle or lose contact with their child is very prevalent in today’s society. Fr gave this example- If we have friends and relatives and we seriously love them, we have to tell them the truth even though this may be difficult at times.

Fr Tony Percy, Rector of the Sydney seminary, in speaking about the Theology of the Body, said young men today are saying that young women are more sexually aggressive than in the past and they are not ready for it. He said free sex amongst the youth is destructive. Youth needs the experience of solitude to discover what sort of person they are, who they are, the gifts God’s given them, their weaknesses as well as their strengths. For this they need to be unattached or solitary- this does not mean lonely. Sex is meant to be an experience of unity between a man and woman in marriage. It is a very unifying, long-lasting experience and it makes no sense in a any short term arrangement except marriage.Dr John Poon, a psychologist, spoke next and his talk went straight to my heart when he said to ask God for the gift of poverty of spirit to become holy. When poor in spitit, we understand that compared to God we are nothing, but we are bigger, more important, than anything in this world  because we are Children of God. We are not equal to other things, we are bigger. “There is nothing I cannot master with my Father to help me,”

Dr Poon told us to beware of our emotions . They are our shadow. We cannot outrun them  so it’s best to sit tight and let the bad emotion pass through us, work out where the blame for it lies, and then let it go away.

He said there are three things that contribute to poor parenting and may later cause many problems including same-sex attraction.

  1. Excessive control- when the child leaves home he/she goes wild because of this.
  2. Disordered achievement- encouraging our child to get  good marks so as to achieve worldly success and failing to teach our child to aim for heavenly success by developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.
  3. Misguided acceptance- loving our child so much that we fail to correct his/her faults. Dr Poon recommended that we study the four great saints- St Therese the Little Flower, St Teresa of Avila, St Catherine of Sienna and St John of the Cross.

Brendan Scarce has suggested that Courage and EnCourage Australia forms a National  Co-ordinating Committee to plan future conferences as well as how to develop more Courage and EnCourage groups around Australia.

“There are a lot of people out there who need our help and with God’s assistance we can do it,” he said.