Have you ever watched movies about heroic feats and actions of larger than life individuals who defeat the odds, brave adversity, and survive against something insurmountable? Have you heard real-life news accounts of courage and resilience? I have watched many of these types of films, heard many of these stories, and instead of walking away feeling validated as a human being and empowered, I feel downtrodden and vulnerable. I enviously look at these characters and say to myself, “I could never do that!” However, I do often think, “Maybe I underestimate myself?” or “I never know unless I was placed into that situation,” but deep down, I have to admit to myself, and now to you, that I am not brave. If I were stranded on a deserted island, would I build a hut, talk to a volleyball, and learn to fish to eat? Probably not. If I were stuck with my hand in between two rocks, could I drink my own urine and sever my own hand in an attempt to survive. Not likely. No, I am not brave.
What makes these stories great is the superhuman ability to go beyond what an average person could do. I am quite average, and I have never thought there was anything great within me. In a society that values physical prowess and fortitude, I find myself at a loss and very mediocre, but if I am able to focus on the spiritual side of things, I find that I am not so drab. If I try to compare myself to characters who are physically strong and powerful, I fail, but if I strive for a life of sainthood, though it seems harder in many ways, I don’t feel like so inadequate. God gives us all different gifts, but he enables us all to gain heaven. We are all superhuman in this regard.
We are lucky to have role models in the form of the saints. St. Teresa of Avila taught me to step away from the physical focus of appearances and the romance of the world and seek the romance of the Kingdom. St. Francis models the ability to reject worldly material wants and search for the want for Heaven. St. John Paul II enables me to accept what is needed of me and embrace it as part of God’s Will, as well the ability and necessity of forgiving others. St. Catherine of Alexandria helps me embrace my intellect as a means of evangelization and conversion. St. John of the Cross shows me a poetic life of beauty and words. St. Thomas makes me feel that my normal doubts are a part of being human and I too can become a saint despite these doubts.
I need these examples to prove to myself that I can be courageous and extraordinary, if I choose. I choose the unpopular path of Catholicism and bravely pursue a Faith and Truth aside from the mainstream. For some reason, I feel I actually have the tenacity to survive—spiritually. My mind and my spirit unite, just as for some the mind and body unite, to accomplish great things.
When I tell myself that I am not brave, I have to realize that it is a standard to which I do not wish to adhere. When I tell myself I can be courageous, it is because God has enabled me with the desire and the will. He has blessed me with that longing for Him and I have been brave enough to listen and be receptive to it. This has to be a daily decision to be strong and tenacious in this way. I fail often, but I have to continue despite the difficulties. So may I am indeed extraordinary and brave because God has enabled me to be.
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” St. Francis de Sales
How have the saints influenced you to be brave in spirit?