This week, I have been examining my heroes, and in doing that, I first had to consider just what makes someone a hero. I suppose everyone has their own definition of hero, and rather than look in a dictionary, I have instead thought about what “hero” means to me.

As I have listed my heroes this week, and spent a bit of time each day writing about each of them, I have found that they share some traits, and that my admiration of them is based, in no small part, on their courage and strength. My first reaction was, “Great! I admire traits that are ‘built-in,’ traits you either have or you don’t.” But, on second thought, I realized that God is at work in my life, and that through Him all things are possible. Having heroes, then, is a way of setting an example for myself, of giving myself models for living and acting and being.

A hero has the courage to act and the strength to stand up for what they’ve done or, conversely, admit when they were wrong. The heroes in my life spend a lot of energy serving others, whether through their prayer lives, through sharing their talents, or through contributions to the world at large. My heroes—at least, the ones I know personally (because, much as I would like to have it be so, JP2 wasn’t a chum of mine)—support me, whether by word or deed. They usually compile a cheering section in the stadium of my life, and sometimes, you’ll even catch them on the field, checking to make sure the injuries aren’t so bad.

My list of heroes is quite modest. I’ve seen other people’s lists, and they include a lot of people who seem inaccessible to me. While I do not mean to say that I think I can BECOME any of my heroes—because the Blessed Mother and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are saints, and I am only a student!—there is usually some similarity that I connect with in my heroes. One of my heroes has buried two sons. I haven’t buried any children, but I feel a heaviness in my stomach every time I think of it. I have watched her strength in her faith, and I truly believe Our Mother has reached down and stroked her temple many times, comforting her, standing at the foot of her cross with her, at the mouth of the grave, feeling every bit of her pain. Another of my heroes has never been blessed with children, through many years of trying. I have seen the acceptance, and the lack of bitterness, and find myself marveling at the grace God has given these women.

I am inspired in my prayer life through so many of the heroes in my life. A few of them are not Catholic, or even Christian, and yet they inspire me to go to God and to kneel before a crucifix in humility and consternation as a reminder of the universality of what that crucifix means. My heroes push me to be more than I am now, and as such, they serve as the gentle prod in my growth in the journey of who I am and what I am here to do.