Critic’s Corner: Superheroes and saints: our call to heroic virtue


I don’t know about you, but superhero movies are my lifeblood. Every time Marvel comes out with a new film, I run to the theater to get my fix of action, adventure and that obnoxious confidence I feel after the credits roll, as if I can tackle my problems just like the heroes tackle theirs.

Superhero stories have so much to teach us and to ask of us. The characters who get the chance to be something great – someone super – also give us the chance to imagine what we would do if we had their powers.

Most of us can relate to drawing inspiration from a figure we relate to on the silver screen. When I saw “Wonder Woman” for the first time, I felt powerful enough to strangle a man with my bare hands – or at least finish writing the huge paper I had. After watching the comedic gold that is “Thor: Ragnarok,” I came away reveling in the power of a team of friends and siblings working together to protect what they love.

Sometimes hero stories raise situations that are fun to imagine ourselves in, but more often, they raise serious moral and ethical questions that we need to wrestle with. For example, should Batman employ the philosophy of utilitarianism (the greatest happiness for the most people) and kill the Joker in order to protect Gotham? How should heroes respond to the human dignity of their villains?

Ultimately, superhero stories give us a space to wrestle with who we are called to be: saints.

Inspiring us toward heroic actions and pushing us to examine our morality, the superheroes we see remind us of our longing to be great and to do extraordinary things.

To be a saint, you must have heroic virtue. Not just super great virtue! Heroic – above and beyond what is required of us, self-sacrificing and all in pursuit of the greatest good there is: our loving God. Hero stories are incredible reminders of this calling.

St. Joan of Arc didn’t have Captain America’s serum, but she still courageously led the French army when God asked her to. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati didn’t climb walls like Spiderman, but he still climbed mountains and encouraged us to climb to heaven.

I might not be Wonder Woman, but like St. Teresa of Calcutta, I can make the world better through compassion and love. I can fight injustice when I see it. I can sacrifice myself for the people around me. And the wonderful thing is, you can too.

So I’m not saying you have to fight aliens when a big purple space grape tries to invade your planet (looking at you, Thanos). But how will you live out heroic virtue?

You don’t have to be exposed to gamma rays or train for years with monks on a mountaintop (although the latter doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, if they’re the right type of monks). As superhero stories show us, we all get to choose what we will do with the time and talents that have been given to us. What will your hero story be?

1 Comment

  1. I really enjoyed that story. I can do what I can do with what I have today. Well done! Thank you!

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