COURAGE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF FEAR, BUT THE TRIUMPH OVER IT

Continuing the narrative from Eugene’s diary on his school days in Turin, we read:

In the interval between his first communion and his confirmation, namely, between Holy Thursday and Trinity 1792, Eugene gave fresh proof of the delicacy of his feelings and his strength of character. It is noteworthy on account of his age. The child had carried from birth a cyst in the inside corner of his left eye. His parents, fearful lest this cyst grow and disfigure him, decided to have it removed by a competent surgeon, such as was Doctor Pinchinati, first surgeon to the King. There was no trouble in getting the child’s consent, too reasonable to resist his family’s wishes. The day was fixed, and his mother was due to arrive from Nice the evening before to be present at this painful operation. Eugene wanted to spare her the pain of seeing him suffer. He insistently asked Reverend Father Rector to graciously allow the operation to be brought forward, so that his mother would find it already over when she arrived. The Reverend Father Rector was touched by this delicate thought, and gladly gave his consent.
Everything was got ready in the rooms of Father Rector who wished to be present at the operation. The first surgeon to the King arrives accompanied by his pupils; the child is praised for his courage, he was displaying a resolution that astonished everyone. It was here that God was waiting for him to give him a small humiliation which he drew down on himself perhaps by counting too much on his own strength. When all the instruments had been set out on a table which had been shut up in the doctor’s case, when the child saw the lancet, bistouri, hooked scissors, tongs, lint, etc., he thought they were going to cut off his head, and his courage deserted him; all those instruments of torture had to be put away again, and the surgeon and his pupils left.
Eugene went back to his room in total confusion, and with a movement of fervour he threw himself on his knees and invoked Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom it would seem he had not prayed to beforehand. We have heard him say he addressed himself to the Holy Spirit with a great confidence. This fervent prayer was agreeable to the Lord, for immediately the child rose with fresh courage, and going back into the room of Father Rector he asked him to recall the doctor, resolved that he would undergo the operation, however painful it might be. Father Rector, in wonder at this change, had Mr. Pinchinati recalled, and he immediately got ready to begin the operation. It was very long and painful, frightening even on account of the amount of blood which came from the vein that had to be severed to remove the cyst. The cyst could only be removed by repeatedly draining off the fatty matter which it contained, and cutting it each time with the hooked scissors, which considerably prolonged the operation. The supernatural strength that Eugene had obtained from the Holy Spirit by his prayer, did not show itself only in the resolution to undergo the operation, but in the courage which sustained him throughout: no cry came from him and he uttered not a single complaint. His mother arrived that very evening and was touched, as one can well imagine, by the thoughtfulness of her son who had wanted to spare her the pain of seeing him suffer.

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI p. 30

 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”   Nelson Mandela

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One Response to COURAGE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF FEAR, BUT THE TRIUMPH OVER IT

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Today we tend to marvel when we see on the TV an extraordinary child who is facing and coping with incredible health challenges and pain. I have found myself idly wondering how they are able to get face it all with such incredible courage and peace. Eugene, it would seem, was one of those children. I find myself silently singing “only in God will my soul be at rest….”

    I have thought of the times in my life, when I was young and when I was not so young, that I have shown courage and trust in the face of fear. I have faced fear before, and managed to bluff my way through it, I have stumbled through it. It is not always what I would call courageously, for I tend to be rather noisy, I do not suffer in silence. And as I look at Eugene – only 10 years of age – he loved his mother so much that he did not want her to suffer by seeing his pain. Would that I could have that much courage, only because it was born out of such a great love.

    I think sometimes that courage (big and small) can be born out of desperation, when there seems to be no other way than to move through it. The alcoholic who upon facing that there is no place left to turn than to stop drinking, that he or she must let go of everything in order to do that and to face life, and to move forward without the alcohol. To let go of all that is known (even if it is incredibly bad) – the fear is often overwhelming. It requires I believe great courage to face those fears, to walk through them. It so often demands that we (for sure me) have had to call on an unknown God, begging this higher power to get us through. That is courage and trust.

    There are the little fears, the everyday breathing in and breathing out fears. Like asking a priest that you like and admire for the sacrament of Reconciliation. For sure this man, who though he is a priest is also a human being, will then know of my deepest fears, my sin, my big and my little weaknesses. It might just take a little bit of courage to go and voice my needs for the sacrament at that particular moment.

    I am not sure that I conquer fear in my life, at most I probably stumble through and over it. For no matter how many times God seems to embrace me and give me the strength, the courage to face my fears and move on, they do rise up over and over again wearing new masks. All the “knowing” and “doing” in the world doesn’t change that.

    As I leave here to start my day I find myself once again singing. “Only in God will my soul be at rest, From Him comes my hope, my salvation. He alone is my rock of safety my strength, my glory, my God.”

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