A solitary ship set out from harbor toward the open sea, a spirit of hope carrying it along. The sun slowly rose above the horizon; the morning had just barely broken. Strong winds filled the broad sails of the ship, invisibly drawing the sailors out to sea, as if subtly yet powerfully urging them onward. The captain, marked with determination to reach their destination, decided what course they were to take. They planned to come upon the rich island port in two weeks’ time. If only they could reach the island, perhaps they too could share in its renowned wealth and prosperity.
The next morning, a vivid yellow-orange sun rose to greet the wearied travelers, dispelling their darkest clouds. They survived the night. They lived to see another day. The tired captain sat himself to the side for a moment, with a gleam in his eyes. He was proud of his sailors and the fight they had put up to attain their goal. They were going to make it.
Like a son who loyally follows his father’s guidance, like the sheep who hears the beckoning voice of a shepherd, like a sailor who knows the voice of his commanding office and is faithful to his decrees, the one who desires to cultivate true virtue must have a heart open to the voice of truth. We must be rooted in a fundamental openness to the truth of what is required of us in each moment. The intrinsic worth and splendor of the good, of the valuable, should illumine our hearts and minds, giving us the fortitude to live up to the demands of the most difficult situations.
There are a multitude of examples from our daily life. The career man who is suddenly laid off must not despair. He must adapt, perhaps taking a different job in order to support his family. Or when a friendship is tried by a difficult time, one must respond to the dignity of the other, forgiving them and asking for forgiveness. Or consider: the wife whose husband has come under some deathly illness must be a light of confidence and hope for her children in the darkness of uncertainty. These challenges may seem overwhelming in the moment, like an immense wave that is going to crush us, but with the help of our loved ones and with a heart that firmly believes in the truth of love, we can make it through.
Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ (San Francisco, Ignatius Press: 2001). Cf. "Chapter 1: Readiness to Change". Image 1: Un Clipper. by James E. Butterworth (1817-1894). 1859-1860. (source) Image 2: "Sonnenuntergang 01" by Ec-hasslau.de (source) Image 3: The Gust. by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707). c. 1680. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (source)