The Greatness of Courage

The Necessity of Courage

As the blacksmith requires a hammer to beat the hard iron and shape it according to his will, so do we need cour­age, the spiritual hammer, with which we overcome the difficulties in the road to virtue and fashion our souls after our divine Model. Without this quality we can no more pur­sue virtue than a blacksmith can work without his hammer. For what virtue is there that can be acquired without effort? Consider them one after another: prayer, fasting, temperance, obedience, poverty of spirit, chastity, humility—and you will find that all present some difficulty springing from self-love, the world, or the devil.

Therefore, if you sincerely desire to advance in virtue, consider the words spoken to Moses, by the God of all virtue and strength, as directly addressed to you: “Take this rod in thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs” that will deliver My people. (Cf. Ex. 4:17). Be assured that as the rod of Moses enabled him to effect the glorious deliverance of the children of Israel, so the rod of courage will enable you to work no less striking wonders, and to free yourself from your enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keep this rod, therefore, ever in your hand, for without it you will be utterly helpless

Means of Acquiring Courage

Men are chiefly driven from the practice of virtue by the difficulties it presents. “The slothful man saith: There is a lion in the way, and a lioness in the roads. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh, saying: Better is a handful with rest than both hands full with labor and vexation of mind.” (Prov. 26:13 and Eccles. 4:5-6). If, therefore, the obstacles to virtue discourage us and turn us from good, what is more necessary for us than courage? And who will regret any effort to acquire an aid which will strengthen him to conquer the kingdom of virtue, and, after it, the kingdom of Heaven? “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Matt. 11:12). Finally, courage conquers self-love, which gives place to the love of God, or rather God Himself, “for he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn. 4:16).

Stimulate your courage, moreover, by contemplating the fortitude of so many Christians who cheerfully embraced poverty, mortification, humiliations, for love of Christ. Many of them so loved suffering that they sought it as eagerly as the worldling seeks pleasure, or as the merchant seeks gain, preferring poverty to riches, hunger to abundance, labors and the cross to rest and comfort. The Church daily presents for our consideration such heroic souls, not only that we may wor­thily honor them, but that we may be excited to imitate them.

Consider, too, the greatness of courage, the heroism, displayed by the martyrs. There is no kind of torture or suffering which they did not endure. Some were burned alive; others were torn to pieces by wild beasts; many had their flesh torn from their bodies with red-hot pincers; some were cast into caldrons of boiling oil; others were compelled to walk barefoot on burning coals, or were tied to the tails of wild horses and dragged through thickets and briars or over sharp stones. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the tortures invented by the malice of devils to conquer the cour­age of the servants of God. Read the lives of those brave soldiers of Christ, and your courage will be reanimated; you will grow ashamed of the little you have done for God or your soul. They endured without mur­muring the solitude and suffering of dark prisons, and shall we refuse our soul a few moments solitude in prayer each day to amend the past and to prepare for the future? If they sub­mitted their bodies to the rack, to the wheel, to fire and the sword, shall we refuse to chastise ours for the love of Christ?

If such were the lives of the saints and of Him who was the Saint of saints, what reason have you to think that you can reach Heaven by the way of pleasure and amusement? If you would share their glory, you must participate in their labors. If you would reign with them in Heaven, you must suffer with them on earth. May these considerations reanimate your courage, dear Christian, and stimulate you to follow, as far as your grace will enable you, such bright examples.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Sinner’s Guide by Ven. Louis of Granada which is available from TAN Books.



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