Courage is ...

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This past week we held our Junior Retreat. It’s on being called to be a leader. As we prepare for our seniors to leave us (this is the hardest part of my job … loving them for four years and then letting them go), we prepare our juniors to become the leaders in the school. 

We discussed with them the qualities that make up a leader and we spoke much about our call to be courageous. This need to be courageous has been stuck in my head since that retreat and is something that I even felt with this week’s Gospel passage on the Good Shepherd.

As one of our leaders spoke about the fact that a good leader is humble and courageous, we had the students think about what they consider courage to be. They shared with the people around them a time when they needed to use courage. 

I invited them to share with the whole class that experience if they were comfortable and a few of them did. I was blown away by the moments of courage teen-agers face every single day. Sharing our moments of courage however, allows us to see that we are not really that different from one another. Though the experiences may be different, the need to stand up and face what holds us back is universal. 

I now have a banner outside my office that the juniors created. The words “Courage is …” are written on the banner and using post-it notes, the students shared with us what they believed courage to be. 

Here are some of those responses: “having hope even when times are tough,” “the ability to speak out when no one else does,” “believing you’re worth it,” and, lastly, “courage is not doing the scariest trick or leading a group of friends. It is doing the unusual for the better, risking reputation.”

I have always struggled going to Reconciliation to priests whom I consider a friend. It’s that whole not mixing business and pleasure thing. Recently, however, I found myself in a real need to receive the Sacrament. My only option at the time was to ask a friend who I was out with if he had his stole on him. I went to Confession, on the spot, with a good friend of mine. 

I was so nervous but the grace in that moment was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Instead of being uncomfortable around him now, I feel like I am more myself, since he knows the worst of my heart. 

It takes courage to present ourselves in the Sacrament and admit that we are not perfect. It takes courage to stand up to friends who are making poor choices and let them know that you love them but you do not support their decisions. It takes courage for some people who suffer from anxiety and/or depression just to get out of bed in the morning. 

We all have situations in our life that take courage for us to do and for some it might be simple, everyday tasks and for others it might be jumping out of a plane. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are given fortitude to help us to do what God has called us to do. This enables us to live out a life of holiness and gives us the strength to be who God calls us to be. 

Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Scripture constantly reminds us to not be afraid and that all things are possible with God. Let us courageously lead others to a God Who loves us beyond all measure. 

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.org.


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