“The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.”


Heroic Virtue & Sanctity

There are several critical factors that must be evaluated to determine if an individual is worthy of any type official declaration or veneration authorized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Flanagan’s mission work is known throughout the world and has inspired thousands to emulate his service to youth. Millions of at-risk youth have been saved through his own mission, inspiration and example. Those accomplishments while worthy of praise do not necessarily demonstrate heroic virtue or sanctity that would lead to any level of official veneration by the Church.

For this, we the laity (actors) and ultimately the Church, must thoroughly examine his motivations, his words and his actions. Who was this man and why did he do what he did, especially when it may have appeared no one was watching him?

His entire life from birth to death must be examined to determine among several things if his character and motivations provide evidence of heroic virtue and sanctity.

“Without God at the beginning,
there can be only confusion at the end.”

Servant of God Father Edward Joseph Flanagan, 1886-1948

  • Definition
  • Examine the Facts
  • Signs of Holiness

Definition of Heroic Virtue according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“Benedict XIV, whose chapters on heroic virtue are classical, thus describes heroicity: ‘In order to be heroic a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease and pleasure from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.'”

Heroic virtue is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, cable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable difficulties.

Such a degree of virtue belongs only to souls already purified from all attachments to things worldly, and solidly anchored in the love of God. Some characteristics of heroic virtue include:

  • Charity & Good Works
  • Conscience & Faith
  • Fortitude & Infinite Patience
  • Hope & Love
  • Imitation of God & Prayer
  • Justice & Piety
  • Prudence & Temperance

Definition of Sanctity according to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

  1. Holiness of life and character.
  2. The quality or state of being holy or sacred; inviolability.

Examine the Facts

We encourage everyone to go beyond the legend of Father Flanagan and the obvious success of his mission work, Boys Town. Instead we ask you to join us with examining his character and motivations. It’s there you will see the light of Christ shining through and all around Father Flanagan. His true example is that we are all called to holiness and will accomplish great works by surrendering ourselves completely to the will of God.

Signs of Holiness in Father Flanagan:

  • His ministry flowed out of a love for Christ.
  • He was a man of deep and constant prayer, who urged those who worked with him to pray.
  • He generated a community of loving concern in those who served youth with him.
  • His work ran contrary to society’s attitudes toward youth in need at the time.
  • His graced love transformed the lives of over 1400 youth in his time, and continues to transform thousands with equal vitality and validity to this day.
  • Confronted by both criticism and harsh judgments on the part of his fellow Catholics, he reacted with patience and renewed dedication.
  • After his death, when the Home was in crisis, his perceived presence was the ultimate guiding norm.
  • His person and his work have found a responsive echo universally; Boys Town is recognized as an image of Christ’s unconditional love.
  • He was a prophet in his time; recognizing and fearlessly proclaiming his conviction.
  • He never withdrew from direct ministry to his co-workers and the youth; he retained a humble opinion of himself and was available to all in need of his presence.
  • He ignored the prejudicial restrictions of his country ministering to all races and confronting racial in justices to his boys.
  • He did not allow his fragile health to prevent him from full dedication to his work.

Father Peter McVeery of Ireland honors Father Flanagan at a special Mass commemorating the dedication of a life size bronze statue of Father Flanagan unveiled in Ballymore, Ireland, Flanagan’s hometown, October 6, 2001.

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