Moral Courage in a Declining Society

On February 15, we celebrated the Feast of Saints Faustinus and Jovita. These brothers, born in second-century Italy when Emperor Hadrian viciously persecuted those who professed a belief in God, eventually gave their lives for their faith.

Faustinus was a priest and Jovita a deacon, and both brothers were extremely devout in their faith. They never tired of teaching others about Christ. Though they knew they could be martyred for their faith, they preached openly and fervently, desiring as many people as possible to learn about the one true God.

The brothers were eventually arrested and briefly imprisoned, but it is said that angels provided them with food. They were then thrown to the lions, but it is said that the lions refused to attack. The men were thrown into a fire pit, but neither of them burned. Many witnesses to these events were awestruck and converted because of these miracles.

Faustinus and Jovita were eventually beheaded, but they died joyfully knowing that they would find their eternal reward in heaven with the God they so desperately loved.

As I read the news and see more and more evidence of the insidious “woke” culture permeating every aspect of our lives and creating daily threats to our families, I can’t help but think of saints like Faustinus and Jovita. They had the moral courage to teach about God when they knew—they KNEW—that they would be killed because of it.

Today we face the “cancel culture,” and if we don’t agree with every immoral practice foisted upon us by society, we are termed bigoted or hateful. Thankfully, most of us don’t face death, though with an increase in violence toward pregnancy resource centers and hatred from those who call themselves liberal, it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Moral courage—like we see from many of the Church’s saints—is a virtue more often talked about than seen. It can be difficult to put our faith into action, but as we read in the book of James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”

No, it cannot.

If we only talk about saving babies, but never donate to pregnancy resource centers, sponsor a pregnant mother, give to the second collection for a particular charity, or stand in front of Planned Parenthood, we aren’t really living our faith.

If we only talk about respecting the elderly but never check in on our aging family members, never visit a nursing home, and never care for an elderly neighbor, we aren’t really living our faith.

If we drive past the homeless man and look the other way, never buying him a meal, never giving him a coat, and not even saying a prayer for him, we are not living our faith.

If we tell our children to treat others with kindness but never show them how to do that, we are not living our faith.

Faith without works is dead.

Our country is in dire shape. And it’s only going to get worse unless we all do something. There is a term in psychology called the bystander effect. This phenomenon occurs “when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime” (emphasis added).

Though this is usually seen in a crisis situation, I submit that we are in a crisis situation in America—a crisis situation brought upon by bullies. Political bullies. Woke bullies. Loud and insensitive bullies. They can be intimidating. So our natural tendency is to think—or wish or hope—that someone else will do something so we don’t have to. We talk ourselves into thinking that we are just one person and thus powerless to make a difference. We convince ourselves that someone else is better suited to make change. And so we bury ourselves in our own little world while the outside world is crashing down around us.

But as everyone knows, the best way to shut down a bully is to stand up to him. And that takes courage.

However, courage doesn’t often come naturally. We need good role models; we need people to show us that we can make a difference in this world—even if we make that difference one person at a time. Saints like Faustinus and Jovita teach us the importance of standing up for the one true God, of worshiping only Him, and of doing what is right even when so many others are doing what’s wrong.

God did not put us on this earth to be bystanders. He put us on this earth to know, love, and serve Him. If we are to follow His command, we must take action. There is no other way.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.