Great is a word I use all the time. It is a word used by almost everyone all the time. When this happens with words, they become vulgar – meaning common (as opposed to foul or dirty). With that, they can sometimes lose their magnificence.
We live in a fabulous country. We are blessed. We are also in need of a resurgence of greatness. The American culture influences the entire world robustly. As Catholic men, we should be leading the charge to shape the shaper of cultures. To do so, we need to equip ourselves. Here are two areas I think we need to consider.
Within our own sphere of influence, we have to set the tone. It is imperative for each one of us to first pursue greatness in our own life if we hope to transform and inspire a culture to be great. This is the first area we need to awaken. Our culture needs men seeking to live magnanimous lives in the image of Christ Jesus. The story of the rich young man in Scripture illustrates the personal need for us to answer the call to be great, to live magnanimous lives.
The young man asks our Lord what he must do to have eternal life. The conversation ends by Jesus telling him to sell all he has and follow Him. “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). When the rich young man was invited to do something magnanimous, his refusal lead him to a deep sense of sadness. So many of us men are walking around today with this same feeling. We might not perceive it as sadness, but it truly is. Our souls were made to be great and refusing that pursuit creates an unnatural existence that is sad.
The term mentioned above, magnanimity, is understood as “greatness of soul.” As Catholics, we are told stories from Scripture and about the Saints that illustrate the virtue of magnanimity. We know what it is even if we have never heard of the word. St. Thomas Aquinas says it “denotes stretching forth of the mind to great things.” A magnanimous man pursues noble activities for the sake of their goodness. These tasks can be less grand in their appearance (changing a diaper in the middle of the night) or more (starting a religious organization). A magnanimous man lives counter to the current trend in our culture to be mediocre…to be selfish and comfortable. In short, magnanimity is the virtue of pursuing greatness.
The second area we need to examine is simply what greatness actually is. Great and greatness aren’t as mundane and vulgar as we have allowed them to become. To be great is to raise a bar high in a world broken by original sin. It is a challenge that reaches into the soul of every human being because it speaks to something we were made for. Greatness, for each of us, means we pursue excellence using the fullness of the gifts and talents we have been given. To quote St. Thomas again, “Magnanimity makes a man deem himself worthy of great things in consideration of the gifts he holds from God.”
Great is our God. Great is a high level of excellence no matter the task. It is living the life we were meant to live by being who we were meant to be.
To make America great again, we need to pursue greatness in our personal lives and have a true understanding of what greatness is. And of course at the center of that is always Jesus Christ.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 129, Art 1.
 Ibid., Q.129, Art 3.