Medieval Philosophy and Theology 11 (2):147-180 (2003)

On Aquinas’s account of this virtue, martyrdom fits best as its paradigm act. By this choice of paradigm, he underscores the way that the virtues of faith, hope, and charity inform courage, and the way grace infuses virtue and produces a joy that can overcome even the greatest fear and sorrow this world has to offer. Martyrdom, as the exemplar act of courage, is best suited to illustrate the features of this virtue so as to counter any mistaken conceptions of courage—those relying solely on human power and control— that ancient and modern ideals alike might tempt us to hold. Aquinas’s choice ofmartyrdom as his paradigm introduces new dimensions of courage and redefines the standard elements of other portraits. His paradigm introduces a new understanding of power, one that resists the world’s eager use of force and offers grace-filled possibilities for human beings precisely in their vulnerability and weakness. Aquinas’s portrait of courage supplies new dimensions of love to counteract fear, and transforms the basis of hope and daring from human heroics to a relationship of humble dependence on divine assistance. In doing so, it also opens up this virtue to an entirely new range of practitioners. The infant in the baptismal waters is a fitting picture of human frailness and trust before the gift of divine grace and power, and captures the essential point of Aquinas’s baptismal transformation of courage. By modeling courage on the example of Christ’s own suffering and steadfast witness, Aquinas directs our moral gaze beyond the limits of human life and power to a life in which virtue and happiness are perfected by a power that is both beyond us and yet can become our own.
Keywords Aquinas  Virtue  Courage
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ISBN(s) 1057-0608
DOI 10.1017/S1057060803000069
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