A Hero for Our Time by Anthony Esolen

A Hero for Our Time

All my life I have heard that, of the twelve apostles when the crisis came, one of them betrayed the Lord, and ten ran away, the chief among them denying that he even knew him. Paintings of the Crucifixion show Mary the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross, with Mary Magdalene, perhaps one or two of the other sorrowing women, and the Apostle John, who is young and beardless and for that reason, I suppose, of no concern to the Roman soldiers. Then came Pentecost, and the eleven, huddled in the upper room in Jerusalem, grew bold and cheerful in the Spirit, and they went forth and did as Jesus had commanded them when he last spoke to them at Bethany, in his risen flesh. They made disciples of all nations, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).

All this is true, yet it may be too easy for us to say—we who are not in danger of being sentenced to the protracted misery of the mines, or to the agony of the cross. Perhaps it is also too easy to say about those same apostles that they were transformed, no longer the slow-thinking, often-sulking, and danger-shying men they had been. They were a new creation, no doubt. But they were also the same men, in the same flesh, with memories that would haunt them or bless them till the day they died.

What must it have been like to be one of those apostles, and to know, years later, how little you understood of what Jesus had said, and how poor a part you had played in that brief time when he taught the people and wrought wonders among them? The apostles were heroic in a way we find hard to understand—heroic in self-knowledge, and duty, and love. We are encouraged at every pass to think well of ourselves, falsely. We are like Simon the Pharisee, who thought he had only smallish things to be forgiven—not like that woman with the ointment and the tears.

In Peter's Footsteps


Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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