A group of military service veterans were enjoying each other’s company recently when the discussion of “heroes” began.
The word, they agreed, is tossed around pretty easily these days by news media and commentators on the myriad social media outlets.
So what exactly is a hero, they debated?
Is it a soldier who, in fighting a war, is wounded severely? You bet, they all agreed.
But what about the soldier who enters the service voluntarily and winds up driving a truck or cooking meals in the war zone? Is that person a hero? There was little disagreement.
You volunteer to serve your country and they send you into a place where you might get killed, you’re a hero. What about someone in the service who never serves in a war zone?
There was a little more discussion about that one, but finally everyone agreed that by joining the military, you’ve agreed to serve wherever they send you in service to your country. That counts as a form of heroism, they all finally agreed.
And the police officers who ran toward the shooters in various cities recently, trying to defend their fallen comrades. Those guys were heroes by any measure. The ones who shoot unarmed civilians? Not so much, the group of friends decided.
How about the 80 or so firefighters who battled a house fire in the Highlands the last week of July. Heroes, definitely.
The same goes for those who face off with the seemingly ubiquitous forest and brush fires in the west. They are making heroic efforts to halt those huge infernos.
There are other heroes hidden in our midst who we often overlook or simply forget. And for guidance in determining who they are, perhaps we should follow the lead of Pope Francis.
Last year during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope noted that “the hidden heroes of this world are those family members who still go to work and get their jobs done after staying up all night tending to a sick loved one.”
“How many times do we see at work — we’ve all seen it — a man or woman whose face looks tired … and when asked what’s wrong they explain how they got little sleep after tending to a loved one who was ill.”
They go on with their obligations, with their work, he said, despite their fatigue and weariness.
“These things are heroic,” the pope said. “This is the heroism of families; this is the hidden heroism that is done when someone is sick … and is done with tenderness and courage.”
Often we forget heroes of the church, too.
We call on our priests day or night when a family emergency arises. We depend upon them each week to guide us to a closer relationship with our God, to explain to us what we are called to do to serve the church.
We, in fact, take them for granted. We assume that despite whatever personal difficulties they may be facing, they will always be there for us. All we have to do is call and ask for help and someone from the presbyterate or the diaconate will come to our aid.
Women religious who served and cared for soldiers at Camp Taylor, as chronicled recently in The Record, were certainly heroes, too. Today, they are heroic in their constant service to the poor and marginalized here in the archdiocese and around the world.
They serve in education, tutoring immigrants and refugees; they run hospitals; they rescue and educate young women from brothels and they work to combat human trafficking, to name a few of their efforts.
It’s one of the great strengths of the church, the personal resolve to serve her people that our church leaders demonstrate to us daily.
The people of the Archdiocese of Louisville shouldn’t forget the priests, deacons, women religious and lay leaders who make the local church the vibrant and caring entity that it is.
You don’t have to look to the news for heroes. There are plenty here in our own back yard.
Record Editor Emeritus