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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 26th July 2020.

As we all know, the highest British award for courage is the Victoria Cross, which bears the inscription, ‘For Valour’. One of the earliest recipients of the Victoria Cross was a 20 year old midshipman, Charles Lucas, for bravery during the Crimean War in the 1850s. When a Russian bomb landed on his ship, HMS Hecla, all hands were ordered to throw themselves down on the deck, but Lucas went and picked up the bomb, with its fuse still burning, and threw it over the side of the ship, thus saving many lives.

The word ‘courage’ is derived from the Latin word ‘cor’, meaning ‘heart’. ‘Courage’ originally meant, according to one writer, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” I expect this original meaning of courage is why we have the phrase, ‘having the courage of one’s own convictions’, which means either speaking up for what we believe in, or acting on what we believe in. Over time the meaning of courage has been more focussed on action – acting with heroism or bravery, doing what one believes is the best and right thing to do, without fear for one’s own safety.

I expect that most people reading this reflection will have heard of Bear Grylls, the former SAS soldier, adventurer, writer and television presenter, who is also the Chief Scout. What you may not be aware of is that he has written a book of reflections based on his Christian faith and entitled ‘Soul Fuel’. I recommend it to you. There are 360 reflections, each of which would probably only take you 1 to 2 minutes to read (much shorter than this one!), and they do make you think. I have just been reading his chapter of short reflections on courage, which has prompted me to choose ‘Courage’ as my theme for the day.

Bear Grylls says that we need courage to cope with our fears. And conversely we need fears to develop courage. (I am reminded of the phrase: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.) A constant theme of Grylls’ reflections is that we can defeat our fears and increase our courage, if we place our trust in God and our Lord Jesus Christ. And we shouldn’t be afraid to ask them for help. If we walk with God, then, by definition, he is with us, to help us and support us. Grylls says: “We have to learn to walk to the rhythm of the Almighty, rather than marching to our own drum. We’ll stumble much of the time. But what matters is that we get up and that we never give up. Because when we walk with the love of God shining inside us, we start to live ‘freely and lightly’ – a life empowered.”

When we suffer, when we have fear, the best way to deal with it is not to ignore it, but to face it head on, just as an aircraft taking off has to face the wind head on, in order to rise above it. It’s about being positive in the face of sickness or adversity. And by being courageous, we may even inspire others. Grylls quotes Albert Schweitzer, the French theologian, philosopher and physician, who said: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others – it is the only thing.”

Throughout the pandemic lockdown, we have seen and read about many examples of courage amongst those working in the medical professions, putting their own lives at risk to look after those suffering and those dying from the Covid virus. And individual sufferers have had to face their illnesses with courage and hope of recovery. And aside from the pandemic, there are people who have to face other health fears day in and day out and need courage to get them through.

It’s easy to tell someone who is suffering from a serious illness not to worry. It’s not so easy for them to put it into practice. That’s part of our human nature. We all worry. But we are not alone. Many great men have been frightened, but have overcome. In the Bible, Moses and St. Paul were often terrified and often felt inadequate. And in more recent history the Duke of Wellington said: “The only thing I am afraid of is fear.” (He also once said of his own men, “I don’t know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me.”)

Courage is about facing our fears – facing our worries, facing our demons, facing those things that we feel are holding us back – and looking for the positives. I leave you with this brief extract from Bear Grylls’ book. These words were written by his godson, Jonathan:

“Being disabled, I know what it is like to depend on others and a small amount of the sacrifice God’s grace paid for us. Recently l was asked why I thought God gave me cerebral palsy. This question is so flawed. Why would people think God gives out illness? God is good, and illness was never part of His plan. But illness is not a barrier to God having a plan for you. Through God’s grace l am accepted for who l am by a God who loves me as l am. When l invite Jesus to share my life, not because of what I can do, but because of who He is, I learn the truth of 2 Corinthians 129: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ With Jesus life is richer, life is deeper, life is fulfilled.”

Courageous words from a young boy with a serious illness. I don’t know about you, but it certainly makes my own concerns seem small by comparison.

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

Fr. Ray