Take Courage: Be a Man

Fr. James Melnick - Be a Man


King David tells his son Solomon: Take Courage. Be a Man. (1 Kings 2:2). It\’s a great one-liner and a bestowal of manhood from a father to his son. More than any other virtue, courage helps us put others needs first, and to sacrifice our own desires. When people assume power, it becomes very easy to make sure our own needs and desires are met first. And thus, we get selfish and egocentric leaders. King David wants his son to be a great king, generous and magnanimous. He wants his son to stay true to God, and to take care of all the people of God. The one virtue that he asks his son to take is courage. Why?

Courage, or fortitude, according to Fr. Bruce Williams, OP, is \”that cardinal virtue which strengthens the irascible appetite (and will), enabling it to continue its pursuit of difficult good even in the face of the greatest dangers to bodily life.\” Someone seeking the good of faith and the good of people may say they want what\’s best for them. But when it becomes hard to obtain this good for someone, they make excuses or give up. They pass the buck. Or, they man up and get the job done. That\’s courage. Getting it done no matter what difficulty arises. No matter how hard it is to get, we push forward to get this good. That\’s a king\’s virtue. Even if it means his death, he wants what\’s best for his God and kingdom…

St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit martyr of the 16th century, also showed the heroic virtue of fortitude. He probably had moments in his life that he was not being threatened, because he was Christian. He easily obtained  the \’good\’ of being Christian. But when the Japanese threatened his life for his beliefs, this good became difficult. So much so that it required the virtue of fortitude so that he could endure the pain and keep his Christian beliefs.  In the case of a Christian martyr, what is more at the forefront is endurance.  Even if at the time they are not physically engaged in resisting an evil enemy, what brought the martyr to the point of death is their activity challenging injustice, idolatry, or whatever it was that provoked the enemies of the faith to take them down.

Where did St. Paul Miki get this fortitude? Where did he find strength to give his life up so that others would believe in Jesus? From the Eucharist, the ultimate gift of self that visibly brings the fruits of Jesus\’ sacrifice on the cross into our daily lives. Here we become courageous when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask for the virtue and the Gift of the Holy Spirit of Fortitude.

Faced with the temptations in your life, against any threat to your health or life, we need fortitude to keep seeking the good, no matter how hard it is to reach. Using fortitude in the moment may not be fun, but it will be satisfying in the end. Compared with martyrdom, looking lame by giving up fleeting pleasures  doesn\’t seem that bad, right? We have not suffered to the point of shedding blood! (Heb 12:4) Pray that Jesus would give you fortitude today to overcome all obstacles that separate your life from His. Take courage; be a man. That goes for women, too! \”We will be true to thee till death\” (Faith of our Fathers).

©2014.  Fr. James Melnick. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Take Courage: Be a Man”

  1. Pingback: Remarkable Facts Concerning the Stigmata - BigPulpit.com

  2. Father thank you for this article. We need to seek the good and the right things regardless of the cost. We need this encouragement!

  3. According to the Apocrypha, Polycarp, Martyr, heard this too – SHOW YOUR SELF A MAN – and I think there is another writing -noncanonical-that Mary said this to the Apostles. We could say today the Prayer of Polycarp:

    “The Martyrdom of Polycarp (Epistle of the Church at Smyrna, about the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp)

    The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    We have written to you, brothers and sisters, what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously [to this one], took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbors. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one’s self to be saved, but also all the believers.

    Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to your old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom… Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ”; Polycarp declared, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

    And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,” he answered, “Since you are vainly urgent that, as you say, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretend not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said, “To you I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honor (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.”

    They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering to God, looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body… Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”

    When he had pronounced this Amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

    At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.”

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