Disciples of courage

December 2, 2022 in Books, Featured News, News

Disciples of Courage: Ten Christian Lives that Inspire (Messenger Publications) » by Brendan Comerford SJ is an exploration of the lives of ten unique people who showed immense courage and daring in their commitment to their religion and to the Christian values that guided their lives. The author offers short, reflective accounts of Edith Stein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pope St John XXIII, Pope St Paul VI, Dorothy Day, St Oscar Romero, Pedro Arrupe, St Teresa of Calcutta, Thomas Merton, and Roger of Taizé.

Readers learn about the motivations, the challenges, the sacrifices – in some cases involving death – that these individuals endured as they drew attention to injustice, discrimination, inequity and intolerance in the world in which they lived. For instance, Edith Stein’s struggle with her Jewish family can be seen when she decides to become a Roman Catholic and then a Carmelite nun. Both Edith Stein and Dietrich Bonhoeffer became victims of the Nazi regime in Germany and ultimately of the concentration camps.

Popes John XXIII and Paul VI led the Church through Vatican II. Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Pedro Arrupe and Teresa of Calcutta had a particular care for the poor. Thomas Merton and Roger of Taizé were devoted to inter-religious dialogue. These are only some aspects of their very rich lives of service. Many of these were agents of change, creating better lives for those around them, or for future generations.

The author explores the personalities of the inspirational Christians from different perspectives. For example, he gives an account of what others thought of Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Anti-war activist Daniel Berrigan SJ is quoted as saying:

“He [Thomas Merton] was totally unselfconscious about anything like fame. He was very much himself – plain-spoken, warm-hearted, open to friendship, and very modest about his attainment.”

A monk in Merton’s community is quoted as saying:

“The monks made nothing of him because he didn’t make anything of himself. He was not our famous writer and poet – or our holy mystic. He was just one of the boys.”

A helpful section that brings the inspirational Christians more alive is the reflection at the end of the biographies. It consists of a powerful message in the person’s own words. For example, Roger of Taizé says:

“There is no hope for us to be bearers of peace if we are not, first and foremost, men and women of encounter, that encounter which takes place through the watches of the night and throughout our days with Jesus Christ.

We can find no other way to express our friendship than by listening … Listen, and keep on listening, with a heart of flesh, in order to understand. Keep your emotions in check, not out of insensitivity, but in order to leave the other free.”

The author outlines each spiritual odyssey and the joy, humour, searching, and suffering as they experience the cost of Christian discipleship in very different ways.

Disciples of Courage: Ten Christian Lives that Inspire by Brendan Comerford SJ is published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications. It is priced at €19.95/£18.95.