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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

What’s the Most Courageous Thing You Ever Did?

Today let’s reflect on courage. We’ll begin with this definition: Courage is the mental or moral strength to withstand or endure despite danger, pain, difficulty, or fear. If that’s our working definition, then how would you answer this question: What’s the most courageous thing you ever did? Don’t sell yourself short. You can’t be an adult without having made some decisions along the way that took real courage!

Let me suggest a few possible answers to that question. You might say: I got married… There’s certainly a lot of risk and involved in making a life-long commitment to someone—not to mention trying to live out that commitment. Or maybe your answer is: I got divorced… Talk about pain and difficulty! As we can see, courage is not a simple thing. What looks like courage could actually be a cowardly thing to do—depending on the circumstances. And what looks cowardly could really be the courageous thing to do.

Here are a few other answers to the question: What’s the most courageous thing you ever did? I had children… (As we’ve just celebrated Father’s Day, I marvel at the courage it takes to bring children into the world and raise those children with unconditional love and lots of hard work! On Father’s Day, I went to 8:00 Mass at St. Mary’s in Chardon. Fr. Steve asked all the fathers to stand while he read a beautiful prayer for fathers. I must admit, as I looked at all those fathers [all ages, shapes, and heights] I was really inspired!) Or we might say things like these: I accepted that job… I quit that job… I chose chemo… I declined chemo… I said I was sorry… I forgave him (her)… On the school playground years ago, I defended the kid everyone was making fun of… I entered into a relationship… I ended a relationship… I joined AA… I accepted a particular limitation I have… I told the truth—and it had serious consequences for me… I made the decision to pray every day… I got involved in an issue I felt passionate about… I changed my mind… I accepted growing older… I got out of bed that day when all I wanted to do was to hide under the covers forever… I handed my life over to God. Again. And then again.

Courage is not always a showy thing. Writer Mary Anne Radmacher said, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” Courage doesn’t always do the talking either. Someone once wrote, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” I also appreciate Sue Monk Kidd’s words about courage: “The opposite of courage isn’t only fear but security.” And finally, sometimes courage can be on opposite sides of an issue. As John Kerry said, “I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it.”

Now it’s your turn to reflect on courage. These questions might help:

What are some of the most courageous things you’ve done in your life? Why did these things take courage?

If you were writing a book entitled Profiles in Courage, who would you put into the book—and why? (They do not have to be famous people.)

Here’s a simple song called “Take Courage” by Kristene Di Marco. My favorite line is this: “God is in the Waiting.”

Once again, I invite you to share below some of your thoughts on this reflection and/or video. Don’t be afraid. Have courage!

21 Responses

  1. Sr Melannie and everyone, hello!

    Courageous, hmm. Two things come to mind.

    When I was in my early 40s, I was chattering about current events to my therapist Erin. I had commented on one of the hot-button issues of the day, advancing a point of view which was (perhaps) consonant with Catholic doctrine, but expressed in a callous and glib way, without nuance and without understanding of how others might arrive at a different conclusion. I saw my therapist stiffen (to her credit, she did try to hide her reaction) and her eyes took on an angry look. At the beginning of the next session, I apologized to my therapist. I said that while I had convictions on the subject, I regretted expressing myself in a way that seemed to disrespect those who had a different view, and showed a lack of understanding about the many circumstances which would drive someone toward certain choices. I took several tearful minutes to apologize, and my apology was received with gratitude.

    Currently (the second thing), I’m going through a period of profound spiritual reassessment. I’m finding that many of the “religious habits” of my last 25+ years were performed more out of indolence and familiarity than out of conviction. I’m reassessing where my home might be. And my views both ecclesial and political are undergoing a major overhaul. It takes more courage than one might think to figure out where one is, and who one is!

    For my Profiles in Courage awards? Hmm, another good question. A 95-year-old friend of mine once pushed back against a priest who was hurling insults at him in the confessional (this was in preconciliar days). He calmly said, “Father, you are not here to abuse me, you are here to absolve me.” The priest forsook his rantings and absolved my friend. I still marvel at my friend’s presence of mind and at his salutary boldness (I’ve always been cowed by authority).

    I marvel at the artistic courage of Walt Whitman. At the moral and political courage of John Lewis. At the courage of new parents. At the courage of women who come forward to call out powerful men for their abusive behavior. At the courage of some of the church’s martyrs, Margaret Clitheroe, Thomas More, and others. I marvel at the courage of women who during the last 50 years have been asking good and necessary questions about ministry in the various Christian communions. I marvel at the courage of teenagers in religiously conservative families or environments who are candid about their sexuality. I applaud the serious courage of those in recovery from alcohol or other addictions, who are “doing their amends” and rebuilding their lives.

    Long comment. Peace and light to all!

  2. January 2021- Setting a goal & promising myself within a year to make changes for the better. June 2021 I have moved further South which will help my copd/asthmatic lungs immensely. Now I’m working for one of the top hospital in the nation and I close on my next house this Friday. With the help of prayer, my family and friends this goal I set out to achieve happened much quicker than anticipated. I am proof a strong faith & prayer changes everything! 🙏💝

  3. I called the abuse hotline and reported the abuse I experienced more than 47 years ago. I spoke with the police when they called me and I accepted my limitations on the outcome of my report.

  4. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    In 1988, my wife and I had just bought our first (and only) house, our third child had recently been born, and due to his birth, my wife was not working. That was also the year the Hanover Teachers Association went on strike.

    It is illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts, and so we were warned by union leadership that such an action could lead to our termination. (PS: We didn’t strike over money; it was because our elementary school sisters and brothers were being deprived of their preparation time!)

    So on the day of the “strike vote” I had much to consider, but ultimately I chose the picket line. Filled with quixotic zeal, we walked with placards for two weeks, and in the end no one was fired and prep-time was restored at the elementary school.

    I really appreciate what Tom says about teenagers “coming out” to their religiously conservative parents. Those are truly profiles in courage!

  5. Courage: my dad and uncles who served in WWII. It is also the lives of those who never made it back. So that we may have the freedoms we have today. That is true courage.

  6. I think back on my retirement years, choosing to walk as a solo hiker from the most southern point in the US, in the Keys, to Mt Katahdin in Maine. That took courage. BUT not as much courage as it took for me to decide to profess as a secular Franciscan in my advanced years. That is a decision i will never regret. Thanks Sister.

  7. Respectfully, I had always known the quote “Courage doesn’t always roar…” to be by Mary Anne Radmacher.

    1. Mary, Thanks for calling my attention to my error. I made the correction. Not only is the quote attributed to Mary Anne Radmacher, it is the title of her best selling book. I always try to give writers their due! But obviously, I slipped up on this one! Thanks again! Sr. Melannie

    2. Yesterday I was privileged to have my smart 7 year old granddaughter at my side at church, she turned to me during mass and asked me if only men were Jesus’ apostles. What a courageous question! Those full brown eyes were thoughtful and sincere. The Holy Spirit helped me and we looked at the stained glass window and I noted that Mary His Mother was also a disciple. I also talked to her about Mary Magdeline and told her how she was the first to see Jesus on His day of Resurrection. I have been looking for a book for little girls about Mary Magdeline, not the unfortunate prostitute narrative, but the biblically based story. If you know of a book, like that let me know. If I have to I will be courageous enough to write that book. How could I not?

  8. Yesterday I was privileged to have my smart 7 year old granddaughter at my side at church, she turned to me during mass and asked me if only men were Jesus’ apostles. What a courageous question! Those full brown eyes were thoughtful and sincere. The Holy Spirit helped me and we looked at the stained glass window and I noted that Mary His Mother was also a disciple. I also talked to her about Mary Magdeline and told her how she was the first to see Jesus on His day of Resurrection. I have been looking for a book for little girls about Mary Magdeline, not the unfortunate prostitute narrative, but the biblically based story. If you know of a book, like that let me know. If I have to I will be courageous enough to write that book. How could I not?

  9. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” was my mantra during the 5 years to learn how to fly a plane. As a child living on the west side of Cleveland I watched planes coming to and from Hopkins Airport and wished I could do that. I retired at age 60 and given the courage to complete the training to become a pilot of single engine-land.

  10. I used to think that courage was sky diving, bungee jumping, cliff jumping, etc, but now I know it takes lots more courage for life experiences.
    Love the Profiles in Courage idea. My choices for this would be all the gymnasts who spoke about their experiences with sexual abuse.

  11. In 2019 I experienced my second breast cancer diagnosis and its subsequent treatment for over 18 months. During those months – this was one of the songs that was on repeat – I found much comfort knowing God was in the waiting – waiting between treatments – waiting between shots – waiting between nausea – waiting – waiting – waiting

  12. To have faith……why?…..because you have to believe stuff that cant be picked up on the body radar…..

  13. I can’t tell about my own courage, but I can add to the examples of your other commentators:

    An excellent book illustrating the courage of individuals taking exception to prevailing injustice in their society or work milieu is “Beautiful Souls” by Eyal Press. Besides telling six powerful stories, he analyzes the personal values of the central figures.

  14. Years ago I returned to hospital nursing after being inactive for 10 yrs. With children ages, 10.
    8, 6, and 4 I accepted a weekend nights in OB in a small hospital nearby. My experience in
    OB was limited but I was hired anyway.
    Each night on my drive to the hospital I bargained with God the whole way there. I asked
    for his help in making decisions and using my rusty skills. This era was pre fetal monitoring
    and less technology and more assessment by the nurse and doctor.
    All my patients survived and in fact I received an e mail today from a former pt., telling me
    her son is 41 years old….she thanked me and I cried.

  15. Two things on courage. 35 years ago,, when I was newly married and about 31 years old, I drove alone from Buffalo New York to Gainesville Georgia to stay with an aunt-in-law while looking for employment. God was with me every step of the way. I found a job and husband and I moved there, and lived there for 2 years, then moved to Tampa, Florida, where our children were born, 4 years later we returned to Buffalo to be with family, or our ‘roots’. it was a good experince but there’s no place like home.
    Secondly, this is courage or cowardice. I live with a recovering alcoholic who is in declining health. It is not the best situation. So – stay or leave – after 40 years of marriage. In Alanon, there’s a saying – when you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot. There a many knots. So, courage or cowardice. I pray to God every day for guidance.

  16. The most courageous thing I ever did was leave the convent. With both of my parents deceased and my knowledge of the “outside world” somewhat limited and leaving a bunch of good friends, it was a huge step. But no regrets — I needed to do it and I survived!

    1. Congratulations , Yes religious life is not for all but Having been in a convent wide our vision of another world where people easily make assumptions far away from the reality … some times false assumptions in the negative way or false assumptions in the positive way …The reflection of this experiences lived there can enlighten ourselves to understand better the lives of those in the Convents … Once again You did the right thing and you are Courageous person.. Hoan

  17. Looking back over the past 81 years, I hope I don’t seem to be bragging when I say I have done many courageous things. Two situations stand out.
    1) On December 21, 2001, our middle son was arrested at 5am in our home. The officers told me they were transporting him to the Federal Courthouse in Tampa and that it would do no good for his Dad & I to come because there was no way bail would even be set until after the Christmas recess. We immediately dressed and and drove from Orlando to Tampa. We attended his preliminary hearing, talked to his court appointed attorney and took up residence in the hallway outside the courtroom where every time a court official walked by they had to look at us. To make a long story short, we brought him home with us that evening.
    2) When my husband contracted an infectious disease which resulted in a bacterial stroke in the autumn of 1998, I learned to research the disease, stand my ground with the medical field and to fire and hire doctors. As a result, he survived an illness which had only a 20% survival rate.
    We loved the music video-especially the pictures. Thank you Sr. Melannie for always giving us so much food for thought.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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