The Gift of Courage

We are called to stay strong, stand up for the truths of the Faith

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Coming on the heels of the Christmas season, there are stories of great individual courage throughout the Scripture verses pertaining to the Nativity of the Lord — first and foremost, the courage of Mary and her “yes” to God. We hear about her willingness to go wherever the Lord wanted to lead her, no matter the risks or the cost. We read about the courage of St. Joseph and how he decided to take a pregnant Mary as his wife despite the scandal it might cause him. There are the courageous Magi who make a monumental journey to find the Christ Child. We ponder the fortitude not only of the long journey, but also the shear guts it must have taken for them to leave via a different route without sharing information insisted upon by a murderous and self-obsessed King Herod, putting their own lives at risk. And even though the Gospel of St. Luke tells us the shepherds in the field who hear and see the angels announcing the birth of Christ were terrified at first, their fear turns to excitement, joy and, yes, courage as they head out not only to see the Christ Child but to tell others about him.

“When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds” (Lk 2:15-18).

Given the horrible story regarding the clergy abuse scandal in the Church that broke over the summer and continues to unfold, we all could use a dose of courage under the tree this year. As deacon couples, we share in the heartbreak and sadness of this crisis. As a result, we sometimes can feel hopeless even right now when it is supposed to be, as the Christmas carols that have been playing in the stores and on the radio since October have told us, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Courage certainly was lacking among many leaders in the Church, and we still don’t know to what extent. As wives of deacons, we may even have heard or seen our husbands — even ourselves — take the brunt of what some of the faithful are feeling toward clergy through harsh comments either in person, online or both. But now, as we recently celebrated the greatest gift of all, is not when we should be backing down about the truth of Church teaching and the Gospel.

About 10 years ago, when I was experiencing some persecution within the Church, I didn’t feel very courageous at all. As a matter of fact, I was ready to walk away from public ministry all together. Then a priest friend of mine told me, despite how I was being treated, if the Church teachings were true, then I really had no choice but to push through the pain and continue to witness to the best of my ability. Basically, I needed to suck it up and get some courage — or coraggio, as my Italian relatives would say.

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As deacons’ wives, among the best gifts we can give our husbands, one another and the Catholic Church is that shot in the arm of courage, reminding so many lost, lonely and discouraged sheep that rejection of the Church teachings and the denial of the basic kerygma message are the main reasons we found ourselves in this mess in the first place. Too many clergy and other evangelists have been living double lives, causing the majority — all of the good deacons, priests and bishops — to be labeled hypocrites (among other things) and painted with the same broad brush. As women of God in our own ministries, whatever they may be, we, too, must be courageous in pointing our brothers and sisters away from sin and toward Bethlehem and Calvary. Courage and the gift of Jesus himself, the Bread of Life, are the gifts that keep on giving. Buona Natale.

TERESA TOMEO is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95). She is married to Deacon Dom Pastore, an ordained deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit.