The Gift of Fortitude fills us with the spirit of professing and defending our Catholic Faith in an age of relativism and secularism. Every time I have an opportunity to do so (which is almost every time I celebrate confirmation), I speak about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Gifts, of course, enliven various aspects of particular spiritual valor in our day-to-day Christian living. I do, however, stress the fact that the Gifts, through the power of the Holy Spirit, energize us to live heroically—that is virtuously. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit especially awaken God’s life in us to live courageously in today’s world.
In many ways, since students for confirmation are usually in their mid-teens, opportunities are presented daily for them to speak-up for Jesus. This is not always easy to do when young people are bullied or shouted down or simply rejected and left out for espousing “unpopular” or politically “incorrect” points of view. Speaking up for Jesus, in some circles of peer pressure, counts for unpopular and politically incorrect points of view. It becomes easy then to fall back and simply follow the crowd, saying nothing at all about ideas or topics with which someone may disagree. This can and, unfortunately, does become habit-forming, and a timid or afraid young person in this regard can become an uninformed and timid adult, never speaking up for the truths of our Catholic Faith. Sadly, this is often true in today’s secular society.
The Gift of Fortitude underscores the concomitant virtue of courage—the virtue of the heart—giving us strength to stand for Jesus in times of trial and temptation. Fortitude comes from the Latin fortis, meaning “strong”—the ability of having strength against force or attack. The strength we need so much in today’s world is found in the ability to resist basic human weaknesses—particularly fear. We all naturally fear danger and suffering; but sometimes we have to endure such things for a greater good or for someone else’s well-being.
The path to Christian perfection is not an easy one. I often point to the crucifix in the Church where we are celebrating confirmation to make this connection. Jesus overcame the greatest temptation ever in the Agony in the Garden. The tempter came to lead Him away from the Crucifixion. Jesus was so afraid and prayed so deeply that His sweat became like drops of blood falling from His forehead. The Holy Spirit consoled Him in that moment with the Gift of Fortitude and renewed His love for His Father in a moment of courageously accepting the Passion for love of the Father and for the redemption of each and every one of us!
To be faithful in our Catholic Faith leads us, through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, to be courageous ourselves, passing through trials and tribulations for the sake of Jesus. We use Jesus as our model, our hero and our example. We pray that His love, given to us in the power of the Holy Spirit, may create a new person within us; a new person whose life begins in Baptism, is nourished by the Eucharist, and fully strengthened by the powerful anointing of Confirmation. These three unique sacraments of Christian Initiation empower us to love Jesus and accept our share of the cross that comes our way every day, to offer our lives in the strength of His example for the salvation of souls. This is our great joy!
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse.
Published in the July/August 2019 issue