Virtue in a time of Necessity

This article was first published in the November 2020 issue of our parish magazine. You can read it again here:

In the catholic periodical The Tablet. Entitled “The virus and the virtues” it was written by Julian Hughes, a retired professor and NHS psychiatrist. He reflected on the way doctors, nurses, refuse collectors and shop workers (to name but a few) all put their lives at risk during the lock down to keep the rest of us as safe as possible. They all showed courage, generosity and kindness. There was the nurse who stayed at her post at the end of a long shift because she knew that an anxious relative was hoping to ring her. She did it because she cared.

More difficult decisions were taken by care workers. Some bravely continued to work in care homes where residents had contracted the virus. Others left. But perhaps that was the prudent decision. Some were concerned about their own vulnerable relatives, who also depended on them for care. Others were the sole breadwinner in a family and could not afford to be ill. The managers, however, who went into infected care homes to cover nightshifts and raise morale were certainly both courageous and dedicated.

Professor Hughes argues that they didn’t stop and think through the ethics of the situation. They found within themselves the strength to act from moral character. You may think that all this is blindingly obvious but take it to another level. Head teachers have had to show practical wisdom, compassion, courage and strength in making arrangements for children in schools. They will have been given guidelines and protocols. The best school leaders will have not relied upon instructions “but as real feeling, empathic people of character, trying to be as good as they can be”. And now apply the same principles to our political leaders. For too long we have voted for candidates on the basis of political views. We hope for a level of competence, but we have almost ceased to hope for leaders of character who are courageous, truthful, honest and compassionate. Something has gone very wrong.

What can we do? Firstly, we can pray that God will give us leaders who we can respect in the way we respect the best of our nurses and our headteachers. We ask for people to set us an example, not just to tell us what to do. Secondly, we must ask God to develop in us the virtues that we need now and in the months to come.  We need courage, patience, strength and compassion. We need humour and cheerfulness, too, although I’m not sure they qualify as virtues! Let’s pledge ourselves to be the best people we can be, to put aside selfishness, cynicism and self-pity for the good of ourselves and our neighbours. Let’s be the best church, the best community and the best country that we can possibly be.

Rev Sue


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