In late June, the Trustee Directors of Mercy Ministry Companions spent some time with Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph. The Trustee-Directors were meeting at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney, where St Mary of the Cross MacKillop is buried in the chapel.
Among the things we chatted about with Monica was Mary MacKillop’s extraordinary life and faith, which led to her canonisation in 2010 as Australia’s first saint. Monica told us stories about the different stages of Mary’s life and the ongoing work of the Sisters. When asked what she hoped would live on as Mary’s legacy, Monica said it was for people to approach life with the same courage and compassion Mary had shown throughout her lifetime.
Monica’s mention of courage set me pondering. Life requires courage, possibly more often than we realise. A few years ago, I came across this quote: “Courage is when you speak aloud about something, even when your voice is shaking”. It’s the deep reservoir within us that we call on when, at gut level, we sense something isn’t right and this needs to be said aloud. For our ministries, this might be individual advocacy for someone receiving support from us, or it might be when we speak out about an injustice that impacts a whole sector of the community. Sometimes we can speak with courage and confidence so that our voice isn’t shaking as we speak, but sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes, courage is accompanied by fear, and that’s when our voice trembles…
The book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ by Charles Mackesy, a series of conversations between the four characters, contains some gems of wisdom about courage and bravery:
- ‘Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid’ (said by the boy).
- ‘Everyone is a bit scared’, said the horse, ‘but we are less scared together’.
- ‘Sometimes’, said the horse. ‘Sometimes what?’, asked the boy. ‘Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent’.
In your own life, ponder some of the times when you’ve needed to find courage within you to speak out or take action to address a wrong. What made you speak or act with courage? Are there some inner, personal values you have that rose to the surface and wouldn’t let you walk away from a situation you felt was wrong?
Sr Joan Chittister OSB, a Benedictine Sister, has written a moving prayer for Conscience and Courage. As you read through this prayer, consider your ministry role. Is there any situation you need to find courage to act or speak up about? Spend some time quietly pondering the situation and reflecting on the most effective way to respond, to uphold the dignity of those involved, as well as improve the circumstance that is of concern to you.
lead us beyond ourselves
to care and protect,
to nourish and shape,
to challenge and energize
both the life and the world
You have given us.
God of light and God of darkness,
God of conscience and God of courage
lead us through this time
of spiritual confusion and public uncertainty.
Lead us beyond fear, apathy and defensiveness
to new hope in You and to hearts full of faith.
Give us the conscience it takes
to comprehend what we’re facing,
to see what we’re looking at
and to say what we see
so that others, hearing us,
may also brave the pressure that comes
with being out of public step.
Give us the courage we need
to confront those things
that compromise our consciences
or threaten our integrity.
Give us, most of all,
the courage to follow those before us
who challenged wrong and changed it,
whatever the cost to themselves.
Carmel Ross, Trustee Director of Mercy Ministry Companions