Hope for the Church: Heroic Young Catholics
Last week, at the conclusion of our lively discussion of Beowulf, I asked the students in my seminar about the desire of young people for a heroic life. Do young adults today desire such a life? Some acknowledged that their peers in the broader culture can be too distracted to think much about this question. But others acknowledged that almost everyone wishes to have a life of meaning and importance, a life that leaves its mark on the world in a good and lasting way. And they are willing to make great sacrifices to achieve this.
I then asked the students to be more specific. One student proposed two very different role models for the heroic life: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Maximilian Kolbe. The “Little Way” of the former is, the student suggested, a model that each of us can follow every day as a kind of “hidden heroism” that is no less important than the heroism of the public stage. At the same time, we must be ready for those rare moments when we must act and sacrifice in an extraordinary way, following the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
As the conversation continued, we touched upon how Catholic liberal education should form the whole person to prepare us for these lives. The life of the classroom should help students to grow in wisdom, achieving an ever-deeper understanding of the truth of things, which in turn becomes the basis for a life well lived. We talked about how the robust spiritual life of a Catholic college should form the heart to love the highest goods and the One who is the source of all that is good. And we acknowledged that in a true community ordered to these goods, we are trained to grow, to mature, and to become the person whom each one of us is called to be.
It is inspiring to teach and learn from such students! These students are the future of our Church and we have great cause for hope.
For more reflections on Catholic liberal education as a preparation for heroism, consider Mary Mumbach’s podcast interview, “An Education for Heroism.”
George Harne serves as a member of the faculty and as president of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire where students are called to “Set out into the Deep.”