Prior to our return to Canada from the sunny south this past winter, I had submitted this article as part of a series of seeking out the Ordinary Heroes in our lives. Though I have reproduced it below, you can find it at Catholic Online here.
That well known fictional American philosopher Pollyanna said: "If you search for the good in people, you will surely find it." If you do, you will encounter Jesus in the flesh; but if you really look hard, you might find an Ordinary Hero, whose example can be a lamp on your own path of salvation.
TUCSON, AZ (Catholic Online) - In the world in which we live, particularly here in North America, we have become enamoured with heroes. One dictionary definition of a hero is: "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life."
But, the modern day hero in our North American culture has been diminished to someone we look up to mainly for their wealth and/or fame. Today's heroes typically consist of star athletes, film and television stars, and musicians. When one of our heroes scores the Super Bowl winning touchdown, leads his team to the Stanley Cup or Olympic Gold, or wins an Academy or Grammy award, we rejoice and celebrate along with someone we don't even know. The media may even trumpet our sports heroes as showing great courage in playing a game, you know the star player, injured along the way, who comes back to lead his team in the final contest, as though that were a meaningful act of courage.
When one of our heroes falls out of grace, such as the most famous golfer in the world did recently, we lose a bit of our way too. These heroes are all larger than life, and thrust into our daily paths with great frequency. We have become vicariously invested in them and their success.
Though some folks are inspired to grow in the areas that they have become famous for, these heroes are by and large a distraction from real life, and one can easily question whether they really are worthy of being thought of as heroes.
For those of us who are committed to Christianity, we have a hero, well the ultimate Superhero really, who outshines all others, Jesus Christ. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13 NAB. That verse pretty well sums up the real definition of a hero. But, for us earth bound folks, it is hard to picture how we can emulate God made man on a day by day basis, now over 2,000 years later.
We can find our real Hero, Jesus Christ in others. In its immense wisdom, the Catholic Church has given us the saints, people of virtue, who have lived and in many cases died for the faith, to be heroes of the faith for us as well, to be examples of Jesus in the here and now. But, there too, is a difficult challenge for us earth bound folks, in this day and age. Most of those heroes are from a different here and now than we are. As well, our knowledge of them is mostly about their exploits for the propagation of the faith, and not about how they went about their daily lives, about their fears, sorrows and joys, trials and tribulations. Though it is true that they model the faith for us, there are things about them that are so much larger than life as we understand it, that following in their footsteps seems beyond our capabilities.
So, I concluded that we need not just to look to Jesus and the saints for guidance in our daily walk of faith, but must find Ordinary Heroes, men and women who choose to live the faith in their daily trials and tribulations, the ones who live out the words of the gospels. These Ordinary Heroes are normal everyday men and women, who are concerned with putting food on the table, clothing their families, giving them right guidance, loving God and their neighbor, all in a world that grows more hostile day by day to the faith of our fathers, and those who walk in it. They, or their spouse or kids get sick; they lose their jobs. They, like us, are tossed by the storms of daily life. But, in them we also see people who have ridden out those storms, and when it looked like they should call it a day, stepped up to the challenge in faith, and saw it through.
If we look to their lives, and let their perseverance in times of trial, and their determination to take opportunities seriously to live and share their faith, I believe that we too can become examples to those who look to us. We can make tough choices because we see them do so, and we can grow in love and service to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As I spoke about this with My Dear Wife, she reminded me of a story that Father Tom Lever gave us in a homily at St. Michael's Parish in London, Ontario many years ago. It went like this.
A man was walking between two towns, and stopped along his way to converse with a farmer who was in his field by the roadside. The man had left the first town to move to the second town, and asked the farmer this question: "What are the people like in the town I am going to?" The farmer replied with another question: "What were they like in the town you just left?" The man replied that they were kind and gentle, and that he had really hated to leave the first town. The farmer then told him that he would find the people in his new town to be just the same.
As it happened, another man came down the same road a short while later, having left the first town to go to work and live in the second town. He too asked the farmer: "What are the people like in the town I am going to?" The farmer replied yet again with his own question: "What were they like in the town you just left?" The man replied that they were mean spirited and unkind, and that he could hardly wait to get out of the first town. The farmer then told him that he would find the people in his new town to be just the same.
Finding Ordinary Heroes in our day to day lives is not about their aptitude, but about our attitude.
Michael Brandon is a Canadian Catholic, in love with God in His three persons, and in love with his wife and soul mate. He is also the father of three, step father of three, and step grandfather to 2 1/3. He and his wife spend part of winters keeping warm in sunny Arizona. You can visit him at his blog site Freedom Through Truth.
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