(Photo by Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash.com)

The heroic act of just speaking up

  • March 9, 2023

There are heroes everywhere these days. Today, many of them are heroic just for the simple act of speaking a basic objective truth and refusing to retract, back down or apologize for it. Others go further and back up their conviction with action. 

Sixteen-year-old Josh Alexander comes to mind. If you haven’t heard the news yet, Josh, an Evangelical Christian, attends a Catholic high school in Renfrew, Ont. As you surely heard, in our upside down world, males are allowed into female’s bathrooms just about everywhere, including Catholic schools. It didn’t have to be this way in our Catholic schools, but those with the power and authority to prevent it caved. 

Josh was approached by at least one female student who said she didn’t feel safe with this arrangement, so Josh did something about it. Josh believes that men should try to protect and defend women whenever they can. He believes that’s part of being a man. Josh expressed his disagreement with the bathroom policy in a classroom when the topic came up. The repercussions: Josh was accused of bullying, suspended, received an exclusion, and was arrested for trespassing when he tried to go back to school to attend his classes. 

When asked by a Catholic YouTuber what the reaction has been, Josh had this to say: “It’s pretty disappointing to see the response from a lot of the grownups. It seems that people get more immature as they grow up.” To which the (adult) interviewer replied: “Adults are cowards. Most of them. Welcome to adulthood.” The wise-beyond-his-years young man thoughtfully added: “Well, our system binds people, right? They’re all afraid to lose their jobs or lose their income. It’s captivity. It’s prison without a cell.” 

Let’s look at this reality. So, we lose our employment. Not imprudently or recklessly, but because we will not go against our conscience and what is right, not to mention go against God’s law, if that’s the case. Will we have hardships and be ostracized? Absolutely. Could we find another job? Most likely. Will we starve? Probably not. 

The Catholic father interviewing Josh came from a previous experience of suddenly being fired — from his job as a Catholic high school teacher in the U.S. — for speaking simple truths. He was his family’s sole breadwinner, with six children, the eldest of whom is severely disabled and depended greatly on his health insurance. He and his family’s trust in God to provide was put to the test in earnest… and God took care. 

There are medical personnel in Canada and all over the world right now telling the truth and losing not only their jobs but their licences to practise medicine. And it’s not only about jobs, is it? It’s about losing prestige, esteem, and sadly, even friendships and family ties.

To trust in God is not to be Pollyanna. Just the opposite. To trust God requires that we get out of the boat, step out in faith, often with our heart in our throat, feeling like we’re in a freefall. We are instructed and commanded by God Himself to trust God! It’s easy to trust God when we have nothing at stake. But is that really trust? And we all have something at stake, don’t we? 

Almost everyone is attached to someone they love, or even responsible for vulnerable youth or adults. How could we dare put them at risk? And so the world ends with a whimper and not a bang. Did the soon-to-be-beatified Ulma family of Poland (who hid Jews) do the wrong thing to endanger the lives of their children for others’ lives and children? (The Ulmas were murdered by the Nazis.)

What will our line in the sand be? We all need to decide that now before a time of even greater testing comes. No one is “safe” or immune. Every generation has its uncomfortable and distressing challenge. Ours is to defend our youth who are being wickedly attacked from all sides right down to the hideous mutilation of their young bodies for profit and far darker motives.

What can we do to push back to support and encourage those who speak out in a big way… like Josh?

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.