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Moral Courage in the Face of Adversity

By Susan Ciancio

“I will die but I will not let you go in,” volunteer security guard Akash Bashir allegedly told a terrorist armed with an explosive device in 2015. That man was attempting to enter a Catholic church in Pakistan with more than one thousand people inside, but Bashir would not let him pass. The terrorist then triggered the bomb, which killed both him and Bashir but spared the life of nearly everyone inside. Seventeen people died in the blast, and dozens were injured, but the casualty count would have been much higher if Bashir hadn’t stopped the man from going inside the church.

Today, Bashir has been recognized as a Servant of God—a man on the path to sainthood. The Church must now examine his life to determine if he can move forward to being declared Venerable.

It’s likely a long road, but regardless of the outcome for his possible sainthood, we must thank God for his moral courage and his example. How many of us could have stood up to a terrorist and stopped him? Might we instead have run away as quickly as possible?

We all hope that we would have made the same choice, but the truth is, we will likely never know. And we can thank God for that.

At the same time, we all need moral courage, and we all have opportunities every day to stand up to those attacking our faith. Those attacks may come only in the form of verbal or written attacks, but it is our duty to do as Bashir did and say enough is enough.

We are not born with moral courage. We must learn it; then we must practice it.

As adults, most of us have learned about moral courage. We’ve seen examples of it in the saints and in the holy people in our lives. But how hard do we work at living it? Do we shine the light of Christ to others, or do we stifle that light under a blanket and only allow it to shine for those closest to us? Are we afraid to take a stand? If so, what do we fear?

It takes a lot of courage to speak out when others denigrate our faith. It takes courage to immerse yourself in Church teaching and live it openly and outwardly so that others see. This is why we must constantly look to others who have lived out their courage. There are so many who either died for our faith or who devoted their lives to teaching others that we would be counting all day if we could, but let’s just highlight a few. Saints Felicity and Perpetua died in an amphitheater when they wouldn’t renounce their faith. St. Stephen was stoned to death. St. Peter was crucified upside down. St. Lawrence was grilled to death. St. Dymphna was beheaded. The list could go on and on.

Their stories serve as beautiful examples when we fear speaking up for our faith.  

Many people say they feel hopeless and overwhelmed by the evils of the secular world today. Our society has no regard for human beings. Women scream for abortion “rights.” Assisted suicide laws are becoming more prevalent. Murders and violent crimes are on the rise. Road rage incidents are increasing. Smash and grab incidents are forcing stores to close. Hatred of others fills the news. Politicians claiming to be Catholic blatantly repudiate Church teaching. There’s so much bad news out there.

But we cannot allow that bad news to keep us from speaking out. We must be like Bashir and protect Christ and the Church. How do we do that? We practice every day. We fill our lives with examples of holy men and women. We join groups at church. We read books that help us learn. We then model our lives after these holy people, and we act on that faith, always putting God first in our lives.

We must also teach our kids and grandkids to do the same. We do this through our example and with the example of the saints. If we do not teach them moral courage, they will learn from peers, from teachers, and from social media that morality is something personal between “me and my God.” We know that God’s laws do not change. Nor are they different from one person to the next. And these laws never condone killing or hurting another person—born or preborn. So while we cannot protect our children from the outside world, we can teach them how to navigate it.

The Culture of Life Studies Program has many awesome lessons that teach moral courage, but three in particular will help your children learn to stand up for others and for their faith.

Caring for the Least of These is a lesson for kids in pre-K-2nd grade. This lesson teaches that every person has a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable people around us. This lesson builds a foundation for caring for others and teaches kids to give of themselves. As they get older, they will be more likely to stand up and protect the vulnerable.

No Greater Love: St. Maximilian Kolbe teaches middle-school students about the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe—his vocation as a Franciscan priest, his devotion to the Immaculata, his evangelization efforts, and his martyrdom for the sake of another man.

Dr. Jérôme Lejeune and Trisomy 21 teaches middle-school students about this brilliant scientist and saintly man who became an outspoken advocate for children with Down syndrome. While he was not a martyr for our faith, he sacrificed his career and worldly accolades to speak out against abortion and to advocate for children and preborn babies who were diagnosed as having Down syndrome.

The Apostles were scared to preach the word of God, but they used the gifts of the Holy Spirit to go out and teach about Christ. Let us pray that we have the moral courage to do as the Apostles did and to teach our children to do the same.