Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fortitude - Virtue and Gift of the Holy Spirit

Three gifts of the Holy Spirit that stood out to me as my son was preparing for his Confirmation were:
  • Fortitude - is the strength to arise above adversity and cultivate virtues beyond the basic requirements of Christianity;
  • Fear of the Lord - this is akin to our respect for our parents and our desire to please and not to offend them. It is not to be frightened but to want to please God, be one with him and be holy.
  • Piety - "a supernatural communication conferred by the Holy Spirit" (Fr. John Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary) that instills in us to do what is pleasing to God and to those who serve him;
Fortitude stood out the most because when I look at myself, my friends, my children, even my children in a Christian school where the value of standing strong in your following of Christ is praised and valued, I see too often breakdowns in the practice of the gift of Fortitude.

Is it the practice of the gift that is when our soul is beautified with the virtue of Fortitude? 
Is it the practice of the gift of fortitude that enables our faith in Jesus Christ to be fruitful?

Certainly any faith that is repressed by personal fear for the reactions of others is weaker and less than the ideal, and less convincing to others. 

Certainly any faith that is not worth talking about, or explaining is more likely to convince others who are entertaining doubts or subscribing to secular society's indictment of Christianity and Catholicism that those doubts, uncertainties, or criticisms are valid and need to be expounded.

If, however, someone in lock-step with deriding Catholics, their beliefs, and the teachings of our Church is confronted with intelligent and sincere understanding, coupled with an unabashed love of Jesus, Our Savior and King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, it will give anyone of good will pause to maybe reconsider the validity of the opinions they were accepting as true.

John 12:36-43

36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.37Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.38This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
‘Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
39And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
40 ‘He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’
41Isaiah said this because* he saw his glory and spoke about him.42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

I don't want to be among those that believed in Jesus, but did not confess it for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.  The scripture is clear this isn't just for Jews.  It is for anyone that loves human glory more than the glory that comes from God. 

I have received a beautiful necklace that is an icon of the face of the Mother of God.  Sometimes I go in to get my earrings and I see it there and I think, "I should wear that."  I also have a Celtic gold-plated cross - one tiny and one larger.  I could go for the softer approach and wear the cross that is not a crucifix, and even so tiny that it could be a knot necklace unless someone looked more closely.  But when it hits me, I should wear that, I have going through my mind the teaching from these verses:

Matthew 10:32-33

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven."

Mark 8:38

38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Luke 9:26

26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 12:8-9

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God;but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God."

2 Timothy 2:12

12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us;

So I wear it.  Why not?  Why is it something that even takes fortitude?  Others wear little American Indian spiritual items.  Others wear crystals right out there for all to see harboring a belief that they increase their health or their appeal to others.

Why is there any hesitation to wear this beautiful icon that reflects my faith not just in the Mother of God that suffered so much grief watching her beloved Son suffer on hers and my behalf?  So I put it on.  Sometimes I see people I don't know catch it in the elevator.  They see it and there is something that I see in their facial expression.  Something like, "Wow that is really being out there."

Then to others who already know me, the first reaction of a female is, "That is really beautiful."

To others it does seem to embolden them to tell me about their faith. Especially other Catholics.  I find out that a man that I've been working with on a project once studied to be a priest, has a devotion to St. Anne.  I get asked questions like, "Don't Catholics believe that everyone else is going to hell?" and I have an opportunity to share what Catholics really believe.

What do I get out of that one moment deciding whether to wear or not wear this beautiful icon, this beautiful sign of what I believe and in my heart I know that by wearing it, I am not denying him, nor the mother whom he loves.  I am happy for the promise, that he will not deny me, but happier still that the Holy Spirit has given me the fortitude to not fear the reaction of others, especially when I wear it around Protestants that I know deride Catholics who pray to Mary.  I can feel how it would be easier to not wear this sign of my Catholicism, but I do it anyway.

I was especially praying that the Holy Spirit would give my son the gift of Fortitude. 

Fear of the Lord (rather than fear of men) is important too.  If he, we, I believe the words of Jesus, and are so grateful that the Lamb of God left his Body and Blood and absolution of sins in Baptism and in Confession, why would we fear the opinions and derision of men more than fearing to offend Our Lord whom we love, and desire to serve?

Piety is important because it helps to strengthen us. When we come to find joy in praying, in seeking after God in studying Scripture, in receiving His grace regularly in the Sacraments, despite the plentifold opportunity to engage in leisure activities that bring us pleasure, we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit transforming our souls, our child to Father to Savior love into that which is compassionate and strong in serving and witnessing, and confessing our faith to others.

John 6:51-58

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Philippians 1:6

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

May the Holy Spirit help all of us and our children and grandchildren to not be ashamed of Jesus or his words in this adulterous and sinful generation.

Make no mistake, when we listen to the teachings of our Church, as recorded for us in the Catechism, we listen to Jesus.  When we reject them, we reject Our Savior and the Father who sent Him.

Luke 10:16

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

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