My story is how in a startling suddenness, my partner and I became members of Courage.

During Advent on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to be exact - I came across a leaflet in the Catholic bookshop concerning Devotions to Jesus King of All Nations. The promise of "powerful and unprecedented effects" was attached to a Novena of Holy Communions in honor of Jesus under that title. The very next day I went to Mass and began the Novena. It was during that time (nine consecutive communions but not necessarily nine calendar days in a row), that I began to have overwhelming doubts about my lifestyle. As a Catholic with same-sex attractions who had lived the past eight years with a non-Catholic man in a faithful, committed relationship, I had previously had doubts - so had he - about the sexual aspect of our relationship, but both of us always managed to shut out these nagging thoughts. About a week before Christmas I went to Reconciliation (which is a condition of the Novena) and timidly confessed, without being too specific, to "sexual sins". Once I'd done this I began hoping I'd "stay clean" for Christmas, which happened, and a very special Christmas Day Mass it was. From there on, my doubts multiplied. I began wanting to "stay clean" longer, and this then put me in a very difficult position with my friend, Matthew. How was I to tell him I'd started thinking differently about things?

On the sixth of January, I began a second Novena of Communions, this time for Matthew, and I asked the Lord to help me to solve this whole messy situation. Somehow, please, could He change Matthew's heart, get him to approach me and say, "I want us to give up sex!", not because I was afraid to broach the subject myself but because it was such a complex issue: I didn't want to be seen as enforcing my Catholic conscience upon him, nor did I want to put him off the Church he'd often shown interest in, by insisting the physical side of our love cease. After all, it was our devotion to each other - unrelenting against every obstacle over eight years - that had brought so much healing for him. He had suffered Multiple Personality through childhood abuse, and we had always felt this healing came from God through the love we shared.

After my second Holy Communion for this Novena - Sunday Mass, 10th January - I was to get the surprise of my life. Later that day Matthew told me he had something serious to discuss with me. "I want to become a Catholic," he announced, "I want to go for instruction and be baptized." I nearly fell over backwards, especially at the next piece of news: "I also want to receive Holy Communion, and that's the tricky bit. I'm sorry but we'll have to end our sex life. I couldn't possibly go to Communion and be sexually active. It had to come to this eventually anyway - my childhood has ruined that part of me - so how do you feel about chastity?"

Three days later I went to a full and proper Confession. Too late to catch the priest at the inner-city chapel I often attended, I decided to call off at the Cathedral on the way home. There I found a newsletter saying Confession could be arranged by appointment. Heart in mouth, I wandered over to the Presbytery, hoping I might bump into the priest I'd met here eighteen months ago who had really impressed me. He opened the door! He agreed to hear confession. Thankfully, he didn't sound judgmental when I spoke about my homosexuality but acknowledged mildly, "So you've sinned with another man." He was far more concerned about my reception of Holy Communion while in a state of sin. At that point, I felt no remorse (in a way, I still wasn't convinced my confessed sins were truly sins). I felt nothing and thought I should. I did begin despairing about the many sacrilegious communions until I discussed this again with the priest. From that day on I began to have a deep yearning to attend daily Mass (whenever I could) and with each succeeding Mass I was gradually regaining my spiritual eyes to see that homosexual sex was wrong; I wept from time to time before the Lord; I began to experience a profound and moving sense of union with Jesus at Communion time; I began to recall how wonderful it had once been to be so close to Him eight years ago, and realize I was now able to resume this spiritual intimacy with nothing on my conscience. It felt so amazingly good to be pure, to be chaste, "restored to innocence through the Sacrament of Penance."

Over the days and weeks that followed I half expected Matthew to change his mind and recant his wish for chastity. But he didn't. By the end of January he was suggesting we establish separate bedrooms, which we did. Over four months later, our chastity continues. 

What has helped us tremendously in our ongoing efforts is Courage,  which does not require its members to change their orientation but does encourage and support them in their walk with God to live chaste lives and develop their spiritual commitment to the Catholic Faith.

Unbeknown to me at the time, the priest I had approached for confession at the Cathedral was chaplain of the diocese's first chapter of Courage just starting to find its feet. Isn't God incredible? Father gently suggested I look at joining. Taking home the Courage Handbook to study, Matthew and I read it together and both agreed to start attending the following Wednesday.

Today Matthew also goes to private instruction with the same priest, preparing to become a Catholic, and I sit in on the sessions. Now firm in his conviction that "gay" sex acts are against God's will, he has found peace for the first time in 31 years and eagerly looks forward to baptism and first Holy Communion.

Member Testimony: Chris

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