Heroic virtue, martyrdom, and putting on Christ

In April 2014, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-250 which adds “sexual orientation” to the list of classes that the Canadian Criminal Code protects under its hate provisions. With this provision in place, how long will it be before Canadians who oppose gay “marriage” are prosecuted for their defence of traditional marriage between one man and one woman?

Pro-life candidates need not apply to the Liberal Party is the message from Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. With his words of intolerance, he has further silenced the political voice of pro-life Canadians.

Loyola High School in Quebec appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada seeking the right to teach the mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course from a Catholic perspective. The province of Quebec has mandated that Catholic schools are required to teach ERC from a neutral (secular) point of view, without a Catholic moral perspective.

Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, a Dominican nun, came under attack because of a talk she gave at Charlotte Catholic High School. Her presentation was based on Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body but many of the students and their parents were of the opinion that it was homophobic.

Earlier this month, the United Nations attacked the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion saying that it is a form of “psychological torture” and should be repealed. The United Nations Committee Against Torture alleged that the Catholic Church has caused women to seek out dangerous abortions.

In non-Christian countries, persecution of Christians regularly results in the loss of livelihood and property, forced conversions, and death. Jihad rebels terrorized the ancient Christian village of Ma’loula, Syria, forcing residents to convert to Islam. Some of those who refused were crucified; others were subjected to beheadings, rape, infanticide, and other barbaric acts.

In a world that is increasingly anti-Christian, there will be those who steadfastly refuse to buckle to the diabolical forces that continue to grow in strength. Their witness and sacrifice will require heroic virtue. In the book The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet author Thomas Dubay, S.M., describes virtue as “the qualities, traits, and characteristics that make a man or woman true, good, and beautiful as a person.” He explains that a “virtue is a power to be and to act, to live a gospel goodness such as love, patience, chastity, honesty, affability, magnanimity, justice, humility.” Further he explains that theological virtues (faith, hope, charity) are about our relationship with God. We say “yes” to God in faith, remain with Him in hope, and in love we give Him our will. Moral virtues “deal with our actions and reactions to the realities of this world: justice, temperance, prudence, fortitude.”

Fr. Dubay highlights the importance of determination. “A virtuous man or woman does not simply happen to be honest and chaste but is determined so to be and so to live, resolved to suffer, work, and even to die for what is right. This is the stuff of which martyrs are made. The stronger the determination, the deeper the virtue.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, according to Fr. Dubay, wrote that virtue perfects a person: ultimum potentiae. “Through each of the theological and moral virtues, we gradually become all we can be … love becomes burning, prudence becomes wise, chastity becomes most liberating and delightful, and so with all the virtues. The highly virtuous man or woman is complete with a fullness of human beauty and excellence. This is what Saint Paul had in mind when he spoke of ‘putting on Christ,’ for the incarnate Word of the Father is the supreme splendour of our face.”

Heroic virtue, St. Thomas Aquinas clarified, “surpass[es] human capacity.” Heroic virtue “cannot be attained with ordinary efforts and strength but only by those who far surpass them in determination and a complete cooperation with grace.” It is a call to holiness which Scripture and the Church teach us is “universal, directed to men and women in every state in life.”

Along with virtues, especially heroic virtues, we must have an intimate relationship with the Trinity. There is “a mutual intercausality between [the two]: each brings about the other.” These interconnected qualities are what makes saints; not just canonized saints but also ordinary people “head over heels in love with God” who heroically live out the Gospel and “put living flesh” on the Church. God in His wisdom sends the world the saints it needs in any given age.

In these morally confused times, we are called to put on Christ boldly, without hesitation or fear. In a recent homily, Fr. Marco Testa urged us: “We must adhere with all our strength to the word of Truth that Jesus speaks and we must speak that word with all boldness because our salvation and that of the world depends on it.” We are called to live a life of holiness. We are called to be saints. Rejection and martyrdom in their various forms will surely follow but we are prepared because Jesus warned us. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first” (Jn 15:18).

We don’t have a moment to lose in the heroic fight for Truth. Fortify yourselves and your families by prayer, contemplation, and good deeds. Pray the Rosary for the Rosary will save the world. Pray for an abundance of heroic virtue. Offer up your sufferings for the redemption of mankind. Put on Christ. Choose to be a saint. This is the only way we can be a light for a world that is determined to live in darkness.

Dubay, T. The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.

Painting: Titian (1490 – 1576), Crucifixion. Wikimedia commons, in public domain.

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