June 26, 2022
We’re continuing our series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This gift, also called courage, is especially helpful in the struggles we are facing today. Jesus gives us the example.
This is the fourth in a series of nine homilies on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The following are the links to all the homilies in this series:
1st – The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
2nd – The Gift of Fear of the Lord
3rd – The Gift of Piety
4th – The Gift of Fortitude
5th – The Gift of Understanding
6th – The Gift of Counsel
7th – The Gift of Knowledge
8th – The Gift of Wisdom
9th – Searching for Wisdom
- The gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude is also called the gift of courage.
- Thomas Aquinas says the virtue of fortitude is a firmness of mind, and spirit that helps us, especially in difficult situations to not yield to the pressure.
- The gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude, gives us a confidence in God, in facing the fears, and overcoming them, even the fear of death.
- King David, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio and St. Faustina are examples of those having the gift of fortitude, courage.
- Thomas sees a correspondence between two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. One is the fruit to endure evil and the other is to be able to hold on when there’s a long delay for the accomplishment of something good.
- Since baptism, each one of us has been given this gift of fortitude to give us a divine help in the difficulties that we are facing.
To be faithful to Jesus, to follow Him faithfully, is very difficult. It takes a lot of firmness, a lot of fortitude.
St. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian says that the virtue of fortitude is a firmness of mind, and spirit that helps us, especially in difficult situations, to not yield to the pressure. The virtue of fortitude is that human virtue, which gives us the firmness in difficult situations.
The gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude, gives us a confidence in God, in facing the fears, and overcoming them, overcoming even the fear of death, and coming to eternal life. It gives us the help of the Holy Spirit to stand our ground, amid all the dangers and fears that we’re facing, especially the fear of death. The paradox of this gift of fortitude, a gift of courage, that in our human weakness, when we turn to the Lord, then He can give us His strength, to overcome our own human weakness.
“When the days for Jesus being taken up or fulfilled, He resolutely determined the journey to Jerusalem.” St. Luke is showing us, Jesus knowing very well, what is awaiting Him in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, it says, resolutely determined to do this journey. So, he’s showing us the firmness of Jesus, the fortitude, and courage of Jesus to undertake this very terrible path, terribly painful path. And then the gospel also shows us, Jesus calling other persons to follow Him, but at the same time, making very clear to them how difficult it is, to follow Him, how difficult the path is. And we know today to be faithful to Jesus, to follow Him faithfully, is very difficult. It takes a lot of firmness, a lot of fortitude. We’ve been considering since Pentecost, we began a little series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And St. Paul, today is speaking about the battle between our flesh and the Holy Spirit that’s been given to us, he says, “live by the Spirit.” And that’s precisely what the gifts help us to do, to live by the Spirit. He says, “live by the Spirit, and you will certainly not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are opposed to each other, that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” So that’s what the gifts permit us to do, to live by the Spirit, to be guided by the Holy Spirit. And so today, we’re considering now the gift of fortitude, the gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude, also called the gift of courage. And the great thing about the gifts is, they show us that we’re not alone. We don’t have to fight this battle by ourselves. But we always have, by the sanctifying grace, we always have the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And the more we become aware of them, the more we can use them and call upon them. So, what is the gift of fortitude, or the gift of courage? Like for all the gifts, we have to distinguish the gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit from the virtue, because there’s also a virtue, of fortitude, and of courage. So, what’s the difference? Well, first of all, let’s look at the virtue, the human virtue of fortitude or courage. And we’re doing this series with the help of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian. So, he says that the virtue of fortitude is a firmness of mind, and spirit that helps us, especially in difficult situations, to not yield to the pressure. And it’s both in difficult situations, whether it’s a good that’s difficult to achieve, or whether it’s an evil that’s difficult to resist. And we can think of some examples. One would be like a soldier defending his country, or a person who is facing illness, with all the courage that requires, or illness or handicap, the person or in their caregivers to help us, all the fortitude, that requires. Or for instance, parenting, a common example that the fortitude, the firmness that a parent needs, to be a good parent. Or young persons fighting all the peer pressure that is so intense today. Or, for instance, a person fighting addiction, the courage needed to overcome an addiction. And many examples of Christians, the persecution of Christians, even giving their life. And with the recent Supreme Court decision, pro-life decision reminds us of this difficult work of many people for many years with the firmness they needed to continue that difficult effort, a prolife effort. And the example that all of us have, a vocation from the Lord and the Lord is telling us how challenging it is, how difficult it is to follow Him. So, the virtue of fortitude is that human virtue, which gives us the firmness in those difficult situations. So, then what is the gift of the Holy Spirit, of fortitude? So, like for all the virtues, the gifts help strengthen and perfect, and surpass the human virtues. There’s what we can do with our human efforts. And then there’s what we can’t, because there are some things which are beyond our ability, beyond even the ability of human nature. There’s goods that no human effort can attain, like the good of heaven. And there’s evils that no human ability can overcome, like the evil of death. And so, the gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude, gives us a confidence in God, in facing the fears, and overcoming them, overcoming even the fear of death, and coming to eternal life. It gives us the help of the Holy Spirit to stand our ground, amid all the dangers and fears that we’re facing, especially the fear of death. And we have the Psalm today, the Psalm from King David, I’ll read you a passage from that, speaking of that, fear of death and his trust in the Lord to overcome that. He says, “preserve me, oh Lord, oh God, for in You I take refuge. I keep the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” That is his confidence is in the presence of the Lord, giving him that firmness. It says, “you do not give me up to shield to death. Or let your godly one see the pit, the pit of death. You show me the path of life. And in your presence, there’s the fullness of joy.” So, David has this firmness which is based on his trust in the Lord. And David is a good example of the grace of fortitude. And here’s another Psalm where he says, “I love you, oh Lord, my strength.” So, the great King David is saying that his strength is not his own ability, it’s the Lord, His strength is in the Lord. “I love you oh Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my stronghold, my rock.” And so, David senses that what gives him firmness, is the Lord Himself. The Lord is his rock, “the cords of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me, the cords of shield entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. I called upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” David, facing the fear of death senses his salvation is in the Lord. And the Church’s history is full of so many examples, including right now. And these days, we were just thinking of those who were killed in Nigeria just a couple of weeks ago. So many examples of people who have had the grace to give their lives for their faith, give their lives for the Lord. I want to mention one, just to take one example, one who is not too long ago, and there’s still people living who were living at this time, the time he died, and not too far away. This happened in Mexico. His name is St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, Jose Sanchez del Rio. And I read this little description. He was serving with the Cristero’s army, in defense of the Catholic Church against the Mexican dictator Plutarco Elias Calles. So, this is in the 1920’s. From a young age he had a great love for Christ and strongly desired to die for his faith. Although a child, he pleaded to be allowed to fight alongside his brothers in the Cristero War for freedom of religion in his country and for the love of God. While in battle, after giving his horse to his general who had been dismounted, so that took a lot of courage to give up his horse in battle to the general. The boy was captured and locked up in a Church sacristy that had been converted into a prison. On the way to his execution, government soldiers struck him with machetes and cut off the soles of his feet. With every blow, the boy cried out, Viva Cristo Rey. The stones where he walked were covered in his blood, he said to the soldiers, “we will see each other in heaven. I want all of you to repent”. So, he’s not responding with hatred, he’s responding with Christian charity for those who are torturing him. The soldiers offered him an escape instead, if you shout death to Christ, the King, we will spare you. Jose only answered, long live Christ the King. Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe. Viva Cristo Rey. Viva la Vida de Guadalupe. Jose Luis Sanchez, del Rio was then stabbed and shot dead on February 10, 1928. Some accounts say that before his final breath, he made the sign of the cross with his blood. And he was just 14 years old, when he gave up life for the Lord. So, one example of so many examples of clergy, of religious, of many lay people, men and women, young and old, who have given their life for Christ, living this gift of fortitude. And a very different example, is in St. Faustina, I’ve often mentioned the Lord saying to her, “you’re silent, day to day martyrdom ushers many souls to heaven.” So he’s saying that she’s living martyrdom, she’s living a grace of fortitude, in a different way, a silent day to day, long stretched out martyrdom. And so, it can be helpful to read these passages, like reading those passages in the Psalms, reading the lives of the martyrs. And so, this grace of fortitude, this gift of fortitude, St. Thomas sees it related to two other gifts of the Holy Spirit, excuse me, two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so that that’s something different. There’s a gift of the Holy Spirit, which we’re looking at now, the seven gifts. And then there’s the traditional 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and the fruits. And so, St. Thomas sees a correspondence, a special correspondence between some of these, and so especially between two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is the fruit to endure evil, to be able to endure evil which we often translate as patience, or endurance, or steadfastness, steadfastness, to stand fast, to stand strong, in the face of an evil. And the other fruit is to be able to hold on when there’s a long delay, for the accomplishment of something good, or waiting for something good, that is long delayed, and that is translated, a word we don’t hear very often, but it’s a very helpful word, long suffering, long suffering. Also, it can be translated as perseverance, or forbearance, perseverance, forbearance, long suffering. So, endurance, steadfastness in the face of evil and long suffering. And how much those are necessary in our situation today, when the promises of the Lord often seem long delayed, and Christians are facing so much persecution, and it takes a grace of long suffering, to be able to hold on. And so, in conclusion, think of those words of St. Paul, where St. Paul’s ask him to be freed of a weakness that is attacking him. And the Lord says to him, “he says an angel of satan, a thorn in the flesh, we don’t know what that was. But the Lord says to him, “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” And St. Paul says, “Then, I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And so, this is the paradox of this gift of fortitude, a gift of courage, that in our human weakness, when we turn to the Lord, then He can give us His strength, to overcome our own human weakness. And so, our vocation is difficult. It’s not just, our vocation is not difficult, it’s not just difficult, it’s impossible. As Jesus says, “For man, it’s impossible, but not for God, for God, all things are possible.” And so, each one of us, has been given since baptism, this gift, of fortitude, of courage, to give us a divine help, in the difficulties that we’re facing. And so, it’s good for us to realize that we’re not facing this alone, but we’re facing it with the help of the Holy Spirit. And so, the more we realize that, the more we can call upon this grace. And so, in this Mass that we celebrate right now, it’s an opportunity for us, amidst all the difficulties that each one of us is facing, to call upon the gift of fortitude and of courage, that the Holy Spirit gives us. Amen.