Summit breakout session:
Pastors offer thoughts on courage

"Saint Augustine," by Philippe de Champagne, circa 1650. (Public domain)

It was an inspiring scene. After lunch at Catholic Campus Ministries Summit on Saturday, Feb. 10, so many college students packed into the Greater Richmond Convention Center conference room reserved for Father Brian Capuano – judicial vicar and chancellor, as well as pastor of St. John, Highland Springs; St. Patrick, Richmond; and St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, Richmond – that the group had to move out into the hall, with many listeners taking spots on the floor.

The subject was “St. Augustine and the Virtue of Courage.” Father Capuano defined it in the words of St. Augustine, as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Fortitude, or courage, is love ready to bear all things for God’s sake.”

“It’s not facing danger out of the sake of facing danger,” Father Capuano continued. “If you want to embrace courage in your life, it’s … a willingness to love, ready to face anything that comes your way, not because you’re awesome, but because you love God and your life is bound up with him.”

Father Capuano also reminded listeners to focus on God in the present. As an example of what happens when distractions creep in, he gave the example of St. Peter’s attempt to walk on water.

“Peter’s mistake was that he looked down,” Father Capuano said. “If you want to face the dangers of your life, whether it’s in the classroom or on the battlefield, the goal is not to build yourself up so that you’re the perfect person. The goal is to focus on eternity.”

Tony Laux, Radford University campus minister, called the talk “grounding.” “I liked that he emphasized that courage is something we can enter into during any moment of our day,” said Laux.

In the same room an hour later, Father John David Ramsey, pastor of St. Benedict, Richmond, gave a talk titled “Be Courageous! Receive the Mercy of God.” Like Father Capuano’s talk, Father Ramsey’s also packed the room.

Father Ramsey spoke about the courage required to accept God’s love.

“We have a weird sense of embarrassment that God could give us something as wonderful as the fullness of his life,” Father Ramsey said. “The hardest thing for most Christians to believe is how much Jesus loves us.”

“We put up walls because we’re afraid, and that fear keeps us from receiving God’s love,” he continued. “Fear makes us protect ourselves. Fear makes us want to control everything, to fix everything.”

One image Father Ramsey suggested students meditate on is of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He compared the people of God to gold, which must be melted down in a crucible to remove impurities. Like putting gold into a crucible, we must unite our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so that he can remove our impurities.

“The point of the Gospel is that we cannot fix ourselves,” Father Ramsey explained. “The courage to receive mercy is the courage to let Jesus show us his love so that he can be our strength.”

In his remarks, Father Capuano drew a parallel between that story and the closing chapter of the Gospel of John, where the disciples see Jesus on the shore, and Peter leaps out of the boat and starts running towards him. (Jn. 21:7).

“‘When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea,’” Father Capuano quoted. “We see that this time, Peter doesn’t wait for the Lord to bid him to come. He launches himself out of the boat and starts running towards him immediately.”

He suggested students to emulate this example. “Make the leap without anxiety. He will catch you and heal you,” said Father Capuano. “In faith, hope and love, we launch ourselves out, knowing he will never fail us.”


Read the full report from Summit and DYC.


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