An open letter to the people of “Courage”

George Weigel

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There are many exemplars of the cardinal virtue of courage in the Catholic Church today: Catholics in Hong Kong who risk their lives and livelihoods in defense of religious liberty, free speech, and freedom of association; French Catholics who brave Islamist murderers to practice the faith; young men preparing for a priestly vocation that may land them in jail for “hate crimes” because they preach the Gospel; campus ministers who push back against political correctness in order to evangelize; parents who insist that Catholic schools be “Catholic” in more than name; teenagers who won’t be bullied into denying Christ by their peers. We are truly surrounded by a “great…cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). 

And among them, there are no more courageous Catholics than you, the men and women of “Courage.” Against fierce cultural and social pressures, you strive – with the help of grace, your pastors, and each other – to live the Catholic ethic of human love even as you experience same-sex attractions. Your efforts at fidelity bespeak deep faith, a powerful hope, and authentic love.  

Living chastely – living what John Paul II called “the integrity of love” – is not easy for anyone in our licentious culture. For that culture perversely insists that acting out our desires, whatever they may be, is a mark of “authenticity,” while chastity is demeaned as repression or a dishonest betrayal of one’s self. You know that those are lies.  

You also know that lies like that come from the source the Lord called the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Against the grain of the times and the culture, you try to withstand the onslaught of the Evil One and to live the truth of human love amidst temptations. You are St. Paul’s “earthen vessels” (2. Cor. 4:7), and like all of us, you sometimes stumble on the journey to holiness. But unlike some others, you do not demand that truth bend to desire. With Flannery O’Connor, you know that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.” So you seek reconciliation and forgiveness and recommit yourselves to living the integrity of love. 

Just as importantly, you do not treat chastity as an ecclesiastical “policy issue” and you do not lobby within the Church for a change in “policy,” because you know that what is at stake here is truth: a truth that makes for happiness, genuine friendship, and, ultimately, beatitude. Working with the grace God makes available to you, you offer a crucial and often cruciform witness to the Church, especially to those who imagine that “their” truth is truer than Christ’s. 

Many of you were upset by what Pope Francis was reported to have said, in a documentary film, about civil unions for same-sex couples and related matters. As it’s now clear that the Pope’s comments were cut-and-pasted by an agenda-driven filmmaker, this episode was another reminder that media reports of Catholic matters should always be taken with a grain of salt; ditto for the hysteria that too often characterizes the Catholic blogosphere. But precisely because certain parties further confused things by spinning and politicizing what the Pope was said-to-have-said, it’s important to recall two Catholic realities. 

First, informal remarks by a pope to a filmmaker do not constitute an expression of the papal teaching office. Those who suggest otherwise are theologically ill-informed, politically motivated, or both. As I point out in The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission, the pope is not an oracle and every papal utterance is not magisterium. 

Second, nothing that Pope Francis was reported to have said changes the Catholic Church’s teaching on the ethics of human love, on what constitutes marriage, and on who may marry. That teaching cannot change, because it is rooted in divine revelation and attested by reason. It would have been helpful (and professionally competent) if the Vatican press office had clarified this point before the media herd of independent minds declared what the Pope was said-to-have-said to be a possible first step toward a Catholic affirmation of so-called “gay marriage.” It was no such thing, because such a thing is impossible. 

So, brave men and women of “Courage,” thank you for your witness. Please continue to take up the challenge that St. John Paul II issued on October 22, 1978: “Be not afraid! Open the doors to Christ!” Your courage should inspire every Catholic to a similar fidelity, and to the mutual, prayerful support that helps sustain the integrity of love.

Featured photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

COMING UP: Preparing your Home and Heart for the Advent Season

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The Advent season is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the Lord’s birth on Christmas.  It extends over the four Sundays before Christmas.  Try some of these Ideas to celebrate Advent in your home by decorating, cooking, singing, and reading your way to Christmas. Some of the best ideas are the simplest.

Special thanks to Patty Lunder for putting this together!

Advent Crafts

Handprint Advent Wreath for Children 
Bring the meaning of Advent into your home by having your kids make this fun and easy Advent wreath.

Materials
Pink and purple construction paper
– Yellow tissue or construction paper (to make a flame)
– One piece of red construction paper cut into 15 small circles
– Scissors
– Glue
– Two colors of green construction paper
– One paper plate
– 2 empty paper towel tubes

1. Take the two shades of green construction paper and cut out several of your child’s (Children’s) handprints. Glue the handprints to the rim of a paper plate with the center cut out.

2. Roll one of the paper towels tubes in purple construction paper and glue in place.

3. Take the second paper towel and roll half in pink construction paper and half in purple construction and glue in place.

4. Cut the covered paper towel tubes in half.

5. Cut 15 small circles from the red construction paper. Take three circles and glue two next to each other and a third below to make berries. Do this next to each candle until all circles are used.

6. Cut 4 rain drop shapes (to make a flame) from the yellow construction paper. Each week glue the yellow construction paper to the candle to make a flame. On the first week light the purple candle, the second week light the second purple candle, the third week light the pink candle and on the fourth week light the final purple candle.

A Meal to Share during the Advent Season

Slow-Cooker Barley & Bean Soup 

Make Sunday dinner during Advent into a special family gathering with a simple, easy dinner. Growing up in a large family, we knew everyone would be together for a family dinner after Mass on Sunday. Let the smells and aromas of a slow stress-free dinner fill your house and heart during the Advent Season. Choose a member of the family to lead grace and enjoy an evening together. This is the perfect setting to light the candles on your Advent wreath and invite all to join in a special prayer for that week.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
– 1/2 cup pearl barley (Instant works great, I cook separate and add at end when soup is done)
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
– 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
– 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– Salt to taste
– 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend (basil, oregano)
– Freshly ground black pepper
– One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
– 3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
– 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, extra for garnish

1. Put 6 cups water, the beans, barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 tablespoons salt, herb blend, some pepper in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the pot to break them down and add their juices. Cover and cook on high until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours. 

2. Add the spinach and cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with a baguette.