Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

February 21, 2009

On the Virtue of Courage

I just read a great news article on the Bishop of Scranton, PA, who has threatened to close down St. Patrick's day celebrations if any pro-abortion 'Catholic' political officials are honored at the celebrations. Awesome. Be sure to check out the story. How we need such courageous bishops, who are not moved by concern for human respect but instead unwaveringly stand up for the truth.

Anyway, it inspired me to reflect on the virtue of courage. Courage is typically considered a manly virtue, not one that we women should readily exhibit. But we know that's wrong. To that effect, if you get the chance -- I must recommend the recent German film Sophie Scholl: Die Letzen Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Last Days). Sophie Scholl was a student in Nazi Germany who, along with her brother Hans and several other students began the resistance movement the White Rose Society. They were murdered by guillotine by the Nazis on February 22, 1943. Tomorrow is the anniversary of their death... Wow, the film was so powerful and was based upon recently discovered interviews Sophie had with her Nazi interrogators. She was so brave, and I hope that she will inspire me with some of her courage to take up the fight for human dignity that she begun under the Nazis.

Anyway, on the virtue of courage. As you know, it is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit conferred upon us at the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines courage as "the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life." It is the virtue that enables us to conquer all fears, even the fear of death. Courage gives us the strength to heed our Lord's words and "pick up our Cross and follow Him."

Our church is full of some of the most fantastic women of courage! St. Edith Stein, St. Agatha, St. Cecelia, St. Agnes, Bl. Mother Teresa, and the list goes on and on. In some ways, I think feminine courage is even more beautiful than the masculine display of this virtue. Courageous women reveal Christ in a unique way to the world. It takes courage to trust in the Lord in all that we do. We must be brave, we must be willing to face so many obstacles when we seek to do God's will. But we do practice courage, we seek to do God's will because we love Him. And as St. Edith Stein, one of the most courageous women I know of, says, "No spiritual work comes into the world without great suffering. It always challenges the whole person".


Margaret Perry said...

sophie scholl is an AMAZING film.

Kevin said...

First, the blog looks great, keep up the good work.

Secondly, I think you might be mixing and matching your cardinal virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

While it is true that the gift of courage is infused by the Holy Spirit, the way you chose to describe it is in its capacity as a cardinal virtue. However, nothing precludes virtues from being gifts as well.

Virtue and Gift differ in manner insofar as virtue describes an intrinsic principle of action and gift an extrinsic principle moving us to God (in us, but moving us from above--don't look at me, ask Thomas about it).

As the catechism puts it, the gifts "complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them"(CCC 1831).

For a greater clarification than I could possibly pack into a blog comment, check out the Summa IaIIae q.68 a.1-2.

All nitpickiness aside, I think you bring up a great point: we are called to a courageous faith, both forming our habits and actions in courage and being formed and led by the Holy Spirit in that fortitude which leads us to the Father.

Edith Magdalene said...

Thanks for that comment, Kevin. I should have known and made that distinction and had not realized it. Thanks for modifying that for me!

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