Gifts of the Spirit are not meant for mystics they are meant for all of us. I recently heard a simple but profound definition of Fortitude as: “what makes you do the right thing.” The “right thing” is shaping our lives to the call of Christ rather than the call of the world.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us that Christianity is counter-cultural in today’s world. In one of his final teachings, he observed that, “the tests that Christians are subjected to by society today are numerous and affect our personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, to practice mercy in our everyday lives, or to leave space for prayer and inner silence.” It is the Gift of Fortitude that strengthens and sustains us to bear witness to Gospel values in an increasingly alien society.
Fortitude supports us in following the path of discipleship, it gives us the strength to embrace the difficulties of life instead of fighting them, it is what sustains us on our spiritual journey and gives us the ability to accept life’s changes with grace and confidence in Jesus. Fortitude enables us to turn each day over to God and not over to fear.
Just as the Spirit of Counsel prompts us to choose the right course when facing the unknown, it is the Spirit of Fortitude that enables us to make the decision and stay the course. Fortitude not only sustains us in doing good but also in enduring evil. It helps us remain firm in hope in the face of incomprehensible tragedy and desolation of spirit.
I think particularly of the importance of the Gift of Fortitude for those dealing with serious and debilitating illness and those preparing for death. Fortitude enables them to keep the faith in dark moments. Indeed, it is the same gift that enables those caring for the aging and the seriously ill or disabled to persevere in their ministry of love in times of weariness and frustration.
There can be no greater example of the Gift of Fortitude than Jesus, who “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)