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The everyday, unseen courage of the young


Hazel, from the Chaplaincy Team at Savio Salesian College, Bootle, reflects on the often unseen courage of young people. (NB: names have been changed)


Do you like my lion? I do. He is truly brave - lion-hearted in fact. He is also kind and cuddly and when I feel low, he makes me happy again. He’s only small but he has the courage of a lion proper.

As brave as a lion, we say. Nobody argues with a lion. They are big cats: very big cats. They can weigh 150-250 kilos when full grown and have paws the size of an average man’s head. Some people have great courage: they are lion-hearted – like King Richard! But even that did not prevent him from being captured and imprisoned.

EE Cummins talked about having ‘the courage to grow into what we want to be'. Growing up does take courage: one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is Fortitude – the courage to acknowledge God.

Heroes have courage. Members of the armed forces have to prove that they are courageous day after day. People in the Fire Service have courage. They go into situations most of us would flee from – they don’t – it’s their job.

We always think of saints having great courage; Maximillin Kolbe who substituted himself for a fellow prisoner under sentence of death in the concentration camps; Oscar Romero spoke out against a cruel regime; St Laurence on his gridiron; St Sebastian arrayed with arrows. …

There are other kinds of courage : Mother Teresa who gave up a comfortable life to nurse the dying on the streets of Calcutta; Saint Vincent de Paul who encouraged the wealthy to provide clothing, food or shelter to those without.

Courage has to develop.

Who would have thought that the character from St Luke’s Gospel who said this: 'Woman, I don’t know him!’ (Gospel According to St Luke) would become a man of great courage? Would go on to be our first pope? Would go on to spread the Gospels fearlessly?  

I see courage every single day as I go around our school. Beneath the spotlessly clean faces and neatly styled hair, the crisp neatly laundered uniforms lie some tremendous challenges.

Mary comes to school every day her heart breaking over what she has left behind at home: a brother who has multiple seizures and could die any minute as a result of them.

Kevin struggles with school work, slower than all the rest but still attending.
Michael cannot read or write. He is teased by some students.
Elizabeth has dyspraxia.
Peter is severely dyslexic.
Jean’s parents are getting divorced and the divorce is very acrimonious with her in the middle forever being asked to choose sides.
Richard grieves for the loss of his mother.
Lucy grieves for the loss of a beloved grandma.
Paul is sometimes bullied.
James dreads going home where his older brother will have again smashed up the house to find something he can sell to fuel his drug addiction.

At school, these students do not stand out. They come and are swallowed up in the boiling pot of school – their refuge. These are the people who pass you on the corridor with shy smiles or a high five. They come to Mass and enjoy it or, amazingly, are involved in doing something to raise money for charity. They have learned confidence and the courage to withstand those who tease. They have learned how to overcome their nerves and stand in front of their peers to pray. They will speak out confidently about the needs of others in an assembly. They have learned how to develop their talents.

All this takes courage and they have it: they have become lion hearted. Such were the boys in don Bosco’s Oratory. They are the ones who struggle with normal life and have the courage to face up to it and take it by the horns and shake until it begs for mercy. They are the ones who are growing up with courage, and I am proud that they are in my Bosco group.

Hazel Fort


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