A Time for Heroes

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Can you name somebody close to you that is heroic? If you can, you are blessed. We need many more heroes. 

By heroes, I am referring to people who possess and try to live out the Christian ideal of Heroic Virtue. Heroes like: St. Therese, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa and Dorthy Day. These great people from humble beginnings changed the world around them. What they accomplished is not beyond the reach of any one of us, but is not required for us to be heroic. We do not need to start an orphanage for the poor children to be heroic. Our own heroism starts close to home as parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, coworkers and neighbors. 

The term “Heroic Virtue” was first coined by St. Augustine to describe early Christian martyrs. These early Christian martyrs helped spread Christianity around the world. If we, as Christians, are to change the world around us, we must strive for Heroic Virtue. We can clearly see how world wishes to challenge the Christian version of heroic virtue with what is the antithesis of being virtuous. Society encourages rampant promiscuity, living together outside of marriage, pornography, abortion, greed and failures in business ethics.

Heroic Virtue as defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us:

“In order to be heroic, Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.”

Reading Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s quote my first internal response is there is no way I can do that, I am too much of a sinner. Of course, that is true. I cannot possess heroic virtue without the grace poured out upon me by the Holy Spirit. The walk toward heroic virtue is a life long walk that begins the day you make a decision to turn your heart to Christ and eternal salvation. Along the way society and the “little one” will lay small and large temptations before you geared toward tempting you to step off the narrow path.

Heroic virtue practiced in the smallest things grows and allows us to accomplish greatness in the face of adversity. St. Therese de Lisieux offers a simple guide that we can accomplish each day:

“A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.”

How often do we walk past somebody at work or on the street and do not smile or acknowledge them? Say hello and smile next time. Stop and be kind to the young lady at the checkout stand in the grocery store or the man sweeping the isle. A little kindness goes a long way and in today’s world, where kindness is scoffed at as a weakness, it can become heroic.

St. Therese of Calcutta is quoted as saying:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 

In our world, in which abrasiveness is often the mode of operation, love has become heroic.  
Possessing and living out our Christian values today can be heroic. Think about the young couple whose friends and family have pressured them to live together before they get married. They are belittled for “saving” themselves for the marital bed. It takes heroic virtue today to not succumb to the pressure of society toward a promiscuity which is promoted and celebrated around every corner.

Maybe you are the parent that refuse to provide your child contraception? The world tells you “better to be safe than sorry” while you are more concerned about your child’s sanctity.

Perhaps you are a couple that has refused to fall for the contraceptive mentality and has freely accepted children as a gift from God. The world today tells you are crazy. Christian parenting today requires the strength that comes with heroic virtue.

The Church tells us in the Catechism about human virtues:

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

As we can see, virtue requires some effort on our part. Heroes are joyful in their strength provided by the virtues they acquire. They are acquired through education, action, perseverance and the grace provided by God. 

Saint Padre Pio tells us:

“If we earnestly endeavor to love Jesus, this alone will drive all fear from our hearts and our soul will find that instead of walking in the Lord’s paths, it is flying.”

Love of Christ is our starting point toward “flying” in a joyful life of heroic virtue. This love will draw us into a union with Him that will give us the strength to act with heroic virtue in a world which now denigrates heroic action.

JMJ, pray for us.

God is good,