The phone rang in my room. "May I please
speak with Father Courage?" "Father…
who?" I answered quizzingly. "Father
Courage!" the reply came out strong
and emphatic. "I am afraid there is
no Father Courage here!" I said. "Yes,
there is!" The woman was so convinced.
After a number of 'yes there is', 'no there
is not'…, it turned out that this Father
Courage was none other than myself, the reason
being that the word 'courage' apparently
comes out from my lips too often.
Courage, also known as fortitude, is one
of the four cardinal virtues of the Catholic
Church, 'cardinal' meaning 'pivotal'. It
can be described as the ability to confront
fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation.
The opposite in deficiency is cowardice,
in excess is recklessness. Cowardice is paralyzing.
Bravado is just plain stupidity.
The reason why the word courage appears so
frequently in my conversation is because
discouragement creeps in so easily in our
lives and it blocks us. In the words of Sydney
Smith, "A great deal of talent is lost
for want of a little courage." The social
constraints around us force us many times
to conceal or to act against our convictions
because of the fear of ridicule, prejudice,
or ostracism. Besides, all too often, our
problems look so gigantic and our strength
is so undersized.
Joshua was appointed by God to lead the nation
into the Promised Land. I am sure many considerations
passed through his mind …. Who am I to follow
in Moses' footsteps? Will the people support
my leadership? God spoke reassuringly to
him and three times He repeated to him the
same phrase "Be strong and courageous"
in one breath!
Joshua built his bravery on two things. First
of all, on the conviction that God travels
with us. The Lord pledged that "I will
never fail you or forsake you". The
Lord journeys with us in a very intimate
way, through His Spirit living within us.
Besides, Joshua knew that God not only travels
with us, He even goes before us. God promised
to take care of the enemy even before the
Israelites arrived. We shall always face
battles. Life itself is a combat. But the
truth of the matter is that Jesus has gone
ahead of us to heaven with the spiritual
battle already won. Our redemption has been
secured, our place in God's family permanently
established, and our heavenly inheritance
guaranteed. If you build your life on these
two pledges, then courageous will become
part of your name. In Italy I saw these words
written boldly on a T-shirt: "God exists.
You are not him. So Relax!"
Victor Hugo, who is famous for his novel
the Hunchback of Notre Dame, also wrote a
story called Ninety-Three. It speaks of a
ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high
seas. At the height of the storm, the sailors
realize that a cannon, part of the ship's
cargo, had broken loose. It was moving back
and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing
into the side of the ship with terrible impact.
They were terrified. This loose cannon could
damage beyond repair the ship. So two brave
sailors volunteered to go ahead and secure
the loose cannon. They knew the danger of
a shipwreck from the cannon was greater than
the fury of the storm.
Life is like this. Storms of life may blow
around us, but it is not these exterior storms
that cause the gravest danger. It is what
is going on inside us that poses the real
threat. Real danger is never outside. It
is always within our own hearts. Courage
and cowardice are after all inside things!
Storms in life are inevitable. This is why
we need the power of God to instill in us
the conviction that we are never alone, that
the One who is stronger than the tempests
is within us and is always working in our
favor. Jesus Christ is our only hope of stilling
the tempests that cripple our lives.
Eleven years ago, Pope John Paul II celebrated
Mass in Baltimore in front of more than 50,
000 people. I still remember the words he
said that October day. "There is no
evil to be faced that Christ does not face
with us. There is no enemy that Christ has
not already conquered. There is no cross
to bear that Christ has not already borne
for us, and does not now bear with us…The
Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit..."
This disparity between our thinking and God's
promises was brought out very vividly in
a contrasting series of statements that someone
jotted down. "It's impossible,"
we say. "All things are possible"
says God. "I'm too tired" we often
lament. "I will give you rest,"
says the Master. "Nobody really loves
me," we whimper. "I love you",
He repeatedly reassures us. "I can't
go on," we discouragingly cry out. "My
grace is sufficient", He answers. "I
can't figure things out" we find ourselves
saying many times. "I will direct your
steps", He answers back in the book
And it goes on and on and on…. More Him and
less I and the battle is won. Courage, indeed!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
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