Start being brave about everything.
Drive out darkness and spread light.
Don’t look at your weaknesses.
Realize instead that in Christ crucified you can do everything.
–St. Catherine of Siena
I’ve been living with these words in my head for a little while now. It has opened my eyes to how often I have a choice to make–to be brave, or to be something else, usually something slightly selfish or overly cautious. I’ve been intentionally choosing to be brave and it’s incredibly liberating.
Being brave doesn’t mean being loud and aggressive. It doesn’t mean bulldozing people with your point of view.
Being brave means not letting our hearts be troubled and following Christ who has overcome the world. It can happen a hundred times a day, and each time it is transformative. What I love about the idea of being brave is that it clearly acknowledges the risk you see present and the potential for failure, then looks you in the eyes and says, “do it anyway. You belong to Jesus Christ.” This isn’t naïvely overlooking vulnerabilities, obstacles, pain, or problems. It’s looking them in the face and then turning your gaze to Christ & choosing to love bravely.
I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new ways to be brave, but the first step will always be being brave enough to trust. To be brave means the firm commitment to follow Christ where he leads, knowing that he loves you and that he is there, no matter how difficult “there” may be. Spoiler alert: all roads lead to the cross. But the cross leads to the resurrection.
“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” -Pope St. John Paul II
Here are some ways I’ve been challenged to brave.
Be brave enough to choose the better part, throwing yourself and all of your fears before Christ in prayer instead of rushing to try to control everything around you. Bring him every unanswered question and fear you have, let them spill out of you at the foot of the cross, and look into his eyes for the answer. He is the answer. Looking into his gaze, the questions and uncertainties dissolve, and it’s enough to know he is there with you. Women want to make everything better for everyone. It hurts when we can’t. We do our best to mend things and people with our love, but only God can heal. Be with him quietly while he does. Be brave enough to not have all the answers, walking by the light of faith.
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
– Matthew 14:27
Be brave enough to be joyful in a world where so many are anxious and angry. Dare to smile at people instead of giving in to a culture of isolation and insulation. It doesn’t mean you’re superficial or uninformed. It means you have the courage to look past the surface to the core, where Christ is present. Find him in people and in events, even if they are challenging. Love with a brave love that is willing to break boundaries and be vulnerable.
“…I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern… Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.” -Benedict XVI, Deus Caristas Est ,18
Be brave enough to dream. Not in the flaky, Instagram-style “follow your dreams” way, and not in the sense of coming up with a bunch of new ideas and life plans. Invite the Holy Spirit to stir your soul and show you your purpose. It can be comfortable and safe to be stuck in routine. God is creative, and he never stops inspiring new dreams, dreams that are yours and his–that you share together, and he never stops giving you the courage to live them. It requires bravery because it involves surrender and commitment to follow through. What is he calling you to be and do?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” – Frederick Buechner
Be brave enough to be stretched, growing past your limitations by letting Christ live and love through you. Be brave enough to suffer, knowing you are with Christ, very close to him on the cross.
“A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says, ‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands.” – Oswald Chambers
Be brave enough to be launched by God like that arrow. Be willing to make sacrifices, to make mistakes, to possibly fail, because loving doesn’t mean being successful, it means being a complete gift of self. Look at the Acts of the Apostles and the fruitful and brave love of St. Paul as he “failed” through shipwreck, imprisonment and wayward early churches time and time again.
“There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice” – Pope St. John Paul II
Take St. Catherine’s words to prayer, hold them in your heart and let them nudge you and speak to you in the days ahead. How are you being called to be brave?
If you want an anthem for your journey in bravery (and how could you not?), check out this song by Fr. John Klein, LC!
Love is Brave