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Courage: This Is What It Takes

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By Joan Lamar (Nov 7, 2016)
We don't speak a lot about courage these days, and we don't see an abundance of examples of it. Instead, our celebrity-saturated culture holds up a sort of adolescent, self-centered narcissism as a model to emulate. Even our political candidates display much of that same strain.

But a recent conference I attended at the Portsmouth Institute for Faith and Culture in Rhode Island had as its theme the virtue of courage.

In a talk entitled "Are We Ashamed of the Gospel?" renowned Princeton University scholar Robert George spoke about the kind of courage necessary today to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel. He said that, as Catholics, if we are open about our beliefs and how those beliefs inform our private and public lives, then a price is demanded of us. In other words, "there are costs to discipleship."

But on the other hand, if we are silent about Catholic teaching about life, marriage, and human sexuality, we will be safe in this culture — "still socially acceptable," he said.

A courageous Catholic witness — a Catholic who makes it evident that he or she is not afraid to accept and proclaim the Gospel — is taking risks and is prepared to make sacrifices. George said that Catholic teaching on marriage and on life is an integral part of the Gospel. And "if we are to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel, we must proclaim these truths along with all the rest." So we can't pick and choose. And we can't be silent.

But there is pressure in the culture to yield on the teachings on life and marriage, he added.

George said that we have the same challenges that Peter had in accepting the Gospel and the truth of Christ. Peter denied Christ three times. He fled when Christ was arrested. Our questions today come in a different form, he said. "The questions Christ is asking us today [concern whether] we believe in the dignity of human life and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman."

Do we stand with Christ and the teachings of the Church on these issues? Or do we stand with the culture on these issues — a culture that has redefined what marriage is? A culture that aborts the weakest of its members in their mothers' wombs?

"Will we flee? Or will we stand faithfully at the foot of the Cross in solidarity with Jesus?" George asked.

Standing at the foot of the Cross requires courage. It will probably require a certain amount of suffering, too — a sort of "white" or bloodless martyrdom. We may lose some of our secular friendships. We may risk our social standings. If we are in certain sectors of the workforce, such as academia or in a progressively minded corporation, we may even lose our livelihood. But we won't lose our souls. And if we are courageous witnesses, we will not only save our own soul, but the souls of others, too. And salvation is the goal of the Christian life.

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