Let’s continue our discussion of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit by examining the gift of fortitude. For this post, I’d like to step aside and present the thoughts of three great Catholic theologians: Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mother Angelica, and Fr. John Hardon. They do a much better job explaining fortitude than I ever could!
Pope John Paul II (from a homily on Sunday, May 14, 1989)
The gift of fortitude is a supernatural impulse which gives strength to the soul, not only on exceptional occasions such as that of martyrdom, but also in normal difficulties: in the struggle to remain consistent with one’s principles: in putting up with insults and unjust attacks: in courageous perseverance on the path of truth and uprightness, in spite of lack of understanding and hostility. When, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we experience “the weakness of the flesh” (cf. Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38), or rather, of human nature subject to physical and psychological infirmities, we should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of fortitude to remain firm and decisive on the path of goodness. Then we will be able to repeat with St Paul: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor 12:10).
There are many of Christ’s followers – pastors and faithful, priests, religious, and laity, engaged in every area of apostolic and social work who in all times, including our own, have experienced and experience martyrdom of body and spirit, in intimate union with the Mother of Sorrows beside the Cross. All have been victorious thanks to this gift of the Spirit.
Let us ask Mary, whom we now greet as Queen of Heaven, to obtain for us the gift of fortitude in all the vicissitudes of life and at the hour of death.
Mother Angelica (various reflections on fortitude)
He strengthens me with fortitude when I feel too weak to accomplish the tasks He has given me.
It is one thing to accept the cross; but when there is no end in view and the cross gets heavier, the Spirit of fortitude gives me the power to endure the things I can neither change nor eliminate.
I can accept a headache with comfortable ease knowing it will be better tomorrow, but if it were a painful cancer, I would have to ask for the Spirit of fortitude.
I can accept a difficult personality for an hour or so, but if it is for a lifetime, I need the gift of fortitude.
I can accept misunderstanding for a little while, but when it turns into hatred and I am helpless to correct it, I need the gift of fortitude.
“My Power is at its best in weakness,” said Jesus to Paul—and this is fortitude. (2 Cor. 12:9)
This brings me to another aspect of fortitude—the ability to wait. It takes an inner power to wait and maintain any semblance of serenity. When I must wait for:
the conversion of a friend
the return of health, mine or others
the recognition of a job well done
the arrival of a loved one
the settlement of a dispute
the forgiveness of a friend
the reconciliation with an enemy
the cessation of pain
the control of my own weaknesses
the time when all men will be brothers
and the journey’s end
I need the gift of fortitude.
Fr John Hardon, S.J. (from a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity)
So the gift of fortitude, first of all, implies, that doing the will of God is not easy. We need help from the God who tells us what His will is, to do His will. Again, the gift of fortitude implies that there are obstacles to doing God’s will. I’ve got six obstacles, this is my way of preparation.
First, the obstacle from the very nature of things. Any things that we have to do are simply not easy.
Secondly, the difficulties that we have in doing God’s will, secondly, arise from our fallen human nature. We just are not inclined to do what is God’s will. We want to do what we want. May not be very hard to do, but you’re not telling me what to do!
Thirdly, the difficulties arise from the world in which we live. The world makes doing God’s will difficult. And in fact, very difficult. It tries to make it impossible.
Number 4, what makes doing God’s will difficult? The devil. And he knows us. As I’ve said over the years to so many people, the more sincerely you want to serve God, the more the devil will tempt you, especially through discouragement, worry, anxiety.
Number 5, what can make doing God’s will difficult? It can be God’s plan for us. God has His own plan. He may have ours. God planned that I would become a religious, and go on for the Priesthood. You can’t imagine the obstacles that He put in the way.
Number 6, God designs of what He wants done. In other words, God has His own ideas. Once our minds are clear on what is God’s will, then we need fortitude. In other words, no matter what anybody else is doing, we know what God wants us to do, and we do it!
The gift of fortitude is a supernatural, inclination which enables the will to do great things for God with joy, without fear, and in spite of all obstacles.
Next: The Gift of Piety