The Lord is with me; I am not afraid. Psalm 118:6
Recently, he spoke about “apostolic courage” in the early church. He said, “When the church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled church, a tidy church, a nice church, a church that is nice to look at, but a church that is without fertility, because she has lost the courage to go to the outskirts.
“ ‘But, Father,’ you might say, ‘We might make mistakes,’ ” he noted. “Well, what of it? I might respond, ‘Get on with it. If you make a mistake, get up and go forward.’ That is the way. Those who do not walk in order not to err, make a more serious mistake.”
Pope Francis reminded me of the words of the great American protestant preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, who said something similar.
“I don’t like these cold, precise, perfect people, who, in order not to speak wrong, never speak at all, and in order not to do wrong, never do anything,” he said.
The reason I notice these things is that they speak to me personally and directly. Until I was about 20, my life was ruled by fear — fear of failure, fear of criticism and fear of the unknown.
I was like the man in a flood clinging to the roof of his house. When some people in a boat came by and offered to take him to safety, he said, “No, thank you, God has promised to help me!”
Another boat came by and his response was the same. “No, thank you, God has promised to help me!” As the water rose over the roof and the man was clinging to the chimney, a helicopter came by and offered to take him to safety. “No, thank you, God has promised to help me!”
Finally the man drowned and went to heaven. When he got there, he screamed at God, “Where were you? You promised to help!” God answered, “I can’t imagine what happened. I sent two boats and a helicopter!”
One day, at age 20, in what had to be a moment of sheer grace, I decided to confront my fears.
Kathie Lee Gifford summarized my dilemma when she said, “A fear of the unknown keeps a lot of people from leaving bad situations.”
Bill Cosby summarized the solution to my predicament when he said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”
Pope Francis is right. “So what if you make mistakes?” John C. Maxwell said it even more simply. “The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”
Louis E. Boone was yet more concise when he said, “The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have and should have!”
Father J. Ronald Knott