As I was contemplating making holy boldness the topic of this post, surfing TV channels took me to a preacher who was speaking on— guess what? holy boldness! Talk about affirmation. Perhaps someone (maybe me) needs to be encouraged to practice this virtue. Holy boldness is the courage to do something daring for God’s sake, the faith, or the love of others. Back in 2016, I wrote about Mary’s holy boldness https://bit.ly/2S5UEGG. This was manifested in her original yes to being God’s mother and again when as a young pregnant girl, she braved the difficult journey to help her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. There are other bold ancestors in our spiritual tree. At the ripe old age of seventy-five, Abraham dared to move his household to an unknown land. Moses confronted Pharaoh and made an outrageous demand to free his slaves. David dared to face Goliath. Esther came before her Gentile husband and king, knowing that she might be killed for it. Ruth followed her mother-in-law to a land of strangers. Peter got out of a boat and walked on water. Jesus spoke out against the misguided religious leaders, knowing that it would not end well.
Down through the centuries, saints have exhibited extraordinary courage: Thomas More standing firm against King Henry VIII who declared himself head of the Church; Isaac Jogues and the other North American martyrs preaching to the Native Americans; Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini overcoming her fear of the ocean and crossing it thirty-four times; and Oscar Romero speaking up for the poor in El Salvador despite death threats.
Two young Vietnamese sisters moved in with us this month in order to attend college. I marvel at their bravery in going to a foreign land, learning English in Wisconsin, living with a different community, and learning how to drive. They now have to drive in snow, which they don’t have in their country! Their love for God powers their courage.
The Holy Spirit is the source of holy boldness. This was brought out dramatically on Pentecost. When those cowardly apostles who deserted Jesus in his hour of need were filled with the Holy Spirit a few days later, they were new men. None of them was a rabbi or well educated, but they boldly went forth preaching the Good News. Yes, they were aware that they could be executed for this as Jesus was. It made no difference.
That same Holy Spirit was given to us at Baptism and deepened at Confirmation. Fortitude is one of the seven gifts the Spirit infused into us. We can tap into this gift and be daring ourselves. This sometimes requires a leap of faith. The first time I was invited to speak to catechists in Abu Dhabi, I had to muster all my courage and say yes. And what a wonderful experience that visit turned out to be. I can recall other times when I had the opportunity do something that called for courage (and trust), but I said no. Bet you can too. One motivation to act with courage is the conviction that God is always with us, supporting us to do what is good. With divine help, we too can walk on water.
Here are eight ways to exercise holy boldness:
- Speak up when someone is being bullied, gossiped about, or slandered.
- Travel somewhere that may be dangerous in order to help, for example, to the border to assist immigrants or to a flooded area to rescue victims.
- State your opinion when it differs from what the majority in the group thinks, such as in discussions about abortion or capital punishment.
- Go to Sunday Mass when no one else in your family or group of friends does, or when it might snow.
- Say grace before meals even in a restaurant.
- Take advantage of opportunities to explain the Catholic faith but in a sensitive way.
- Pray for people in need of prayers on the spot so they can hear your prayers.
- Offer to give a witness talk, teach a course, or give a presentation on the faith. (Speaking in front of a group is known to be the number one human fear.)
Can you add a way or two?
When have you conquered fear to spread the faith or to live it out?
Josh Groban sings “Be Not Afraid”: