Being a hero by not being a hero

Margaret Roper, Saint Thomas More’s daughter, tries to convince her father in his cell in the Tower of London not long before the date of his execution to give up on his faithfulness to God so that his momentary earthly life might be spared by Henry VIII. Her argument is that Thomas shouldn’t elect himself a hero by being unreasonably faithful:


Meg: In any state that was half good, you would be raised up high, not here, for what you’ve done already.

Thomas: All right.

Meg: It’s not your fault the state’s three-quarters bad.

Thomas: No.

Meg: If you elect to suffer for it, you elect to be a hero. [This could be a possible motive, which is self-referential, self-absorbed, Promethean, Neo-Pelagian… all the things Pope Francis condemns, and rightly so. Meg may have a point, unless she doesn’t, at least, not with her saintly father.]

Thomas: That’s very neat. But look now. If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought perhaps we must stand fast a little even at the risk of being heroes. [In other words, quietly being faithful, what everyone can and should do, nothing extraordinary, is that which will make one an heroic martyr by default, kind of like being a hero by not being a hero.]

Meg: But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?

Thomas: Well, finally it isn’t a matter of reason. Finally, it’s a matter of love. [And I would add for clarity: it’s love that makes it reasonable for him to go to his death for his faithfulness, and it’s not his love, mind you, it’s the love God provides him.]


In other words, if one would elect to do something good even at the risk of being hailed as a hero, that wouldn’t make one a hero merely for doing what anyone would or at least could and perhaps should do. It merely means that one is doing what is normal for a Christian to do even if there are few who also do this. Normal somehow is hailed these days as that which is extraordinary, heroic virtue and all that, perhaps so that those who don’t even strive to do what should be normal can make themselves feel better as it’s not really expected in their own selfish minds to do that which is heroic, otherwise known as normal, right? Such strange times we live in, ever since original sin, and until the end of time. May as well just do the right thing utterly regardless of what people think. Are the high poppies cut down? Sure. But, who cares. A high poppy is a high poppy in the eyes of the beholder, and there is no making sense of that kind of relativism. So, may as well just do the right thing, out of love of God, with God’s love, and no self-congratulation.