Fear and courage seem incompatible. From early childhood we shrink before the charge that we’re afraid, a “scaredy-cat”. Yet we’re taught that “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. And the sacrament of confirmation is supposed to confer the Holy Spirit upon us to make us brave and courageous. Are fear and courage compatible? After all, one of the foundational virtues of the Christian life is courage (along with prudence, justice and temperance). How can two things so different from one another both be recommended to us? We think of the martyrs of the church, who underwent terrible torments. What courage! They certainly could not have been afraid. Courage is a matter of one’s testosterone’s level, so we’ve come to believe. But, if so, how could so many of the early martyrs have been woman, even young girls, with no testosterone whatsoever? We look to Medal of Honor awardees. Were they afraid in doing what earned them such an honor? Absolutely, they tell us. Can fear produce courage? Doesn’t fortitude preclude fear? On a (Lutheran) church sign standing in its front yard, in the small town of Escanaba, (Upper) Michigan, is the message: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” No fear, no courage, only a high testosterone level. Does this mean that one who experiences no fear cannot be courageous? Or would an injection of testosterone give us courage?
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.
One thought on “Fear vs Courage ?”
Fr. Sebastian, Thanks for this reflection. I have to agree with the sign at the Lutheran Church that courage is fear that has said it’s prayers. At different times of our lves we are called to act with courage. It doesn’t matter if we are male or female, young or old, , we are called upon to respond to a situation that can be scary. People jump onto el tracks to save someome who has fallen or jummped, people lift a car to remove a persom under the wheels, peopke stand alone in their cry to end injustice. Were they afraid, I think so. But something in their gut tells them to act, to speak, to stand in the way of a bullet meant for someone else. We call it courage. Soldiers are courageous, protesters are courageous, women, men and children are all courageous when they speak their truth. So many times I found myself praying for courage when I had to confront a situation with the teens I worked with, when my voice seemed to be the only voice expressing what I thought was important. If we waited to be courageous only in the absence of fear we’d never do anything. So I continue to pray for courage for myself and for others who speak our for injustice in thiw world of ours.