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Gift of Fortitude

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Tape 10, Side 1

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. And one reason, listen to this. One reason why God made some things light - like this clock…is very light…it is easy to pick it up. Other objects God made. hard even to lift. Hear it…everything in this world is an analogy, a comparison with the mysteries of our faith. Hear it and don’t forget. Everything. Everything in this world is a symbol, an analogy, a basis of comparison, to understand the mysteries of our faith. Everything, everything!! So true is this that we would know nothing, nothing about the mysteries of the faith, we could not begin to understand them, unless we saw how the mysteries of the faith are, and I repeat, symbolized, signified, compared, where the things in this world. For example, there is such a thing in this world as life. Well, so there is. What is the mystery of our faith that the life that God gives those who are in His friendship. That in fact, is what life is. God provides life in this world, the natural order to help us understand the mysteries of faith. Unless we have things in nature whether which we could compare the mysteries of faith, we would know zero. On any mystery of the faith. We go on. The Gift of Fortitude.

There are obstacles to doing God’s Will. No. 1, some things are just naturally harder to do. Like lifting up a table compared to lifting up a watch. Why did God make some things heavier than others? To teach us something about the mysteries of the faith.

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. Now, however the world makes it for us to practice the virtues that Christ prescribed. That’s why some people, otherwise known as religious, can you imagine? They leave the world and they join a community, so they won’t be subjected to the pressures of the world. Soon, from our fallen human nature from the world. The world makes doing God’s will difficult. And in fact, very difficult. It tries to make it impossible. And the man I met in Chicago, he was from Montana. He happened to be in Chicago, because one of his sister’s was dying. So he introduced himself and it turned out that this man was married to a woman. This woman was a medical doctor. But, this woman medical doctor, once she became a doctor, she decided she could do without her husband. She found another man. And that woman, living a sinful life. And the father taught her protection of those children. So, doing God’s will, the world stands in the way.

Number 4, what makes doing God’s will difficult? The devil. And he know, 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. So the devil….

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, and let me tell you, doing God’s will...first of all, we need the Gift of Counsel to know just how we’re suppose to cope. And I say this I order to help Him, never sisters, in my wildest nightmare, when I entered the Society of Jesus, did I expect what I have since found. So many of my own fellow Jesuits, St. Ignatius, is a name. When I was in Georgetown University in Washington, 95 Jesuits! Many times, I was the only Priest in clerics. Everybody else, in shirt sleeves, in shorts, you name it! We usually have a world full of silence. Gone! We have to have hours for rising. Gone! Rule after rule after rule. Gone! You’re talking about Fortitude, Sisters. First of all, that’s why, these first four gifts come first. Our minds must be clear. 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! Did I tell you about the movies, the first movie that I encountered as a Jesuit? Did I tell you about this?

Sisters: No.

Fr. Hardon: Well, after three years in the society, as we call ourselves. I had my first vow. I was sent into Philosophy. And then in the first month, I noticed on the bulletin board a notice, “Double feature movie tonight, starting at 7:00.” Oh well, I’m supposed to be obedient. So, I showed up at the movie. The auditorium there, everybody seated, watching the movie. In my younger days, before I became a Jesuit, of course, I went to the movies. ___________ myself to watch the movie. It was a clean movie, but it was a romance. So I said to myself, Hardon, look you dated girls. A girl you were supposed to marry, and you’re watching these, well, this film about a love story. It’s crazy. So I sat through the first movie. At the break between the two movies, they had Coke and cookies. Coke-a-Cola and cookies. So I took my Coke. I took my share of cookies, and back to my room. It was in 1939. I have not been to a Jesuit movie ever since. Here is the pay off. About a month later, these scholastics would serve warm meals to the Fathers. So at one breakfast, I was putting the coffeepot on the table, in front of the priests. And the priest right next to me with a coffeepot, on the coffee table, said “John, did you see the movie last night? So I leaned over and said, “Father, you live your spiritual life and I’ll live mine. Okay? And to his credit, that same morning, he wrapped on my door and apologized. Sister’s this gift of Fortitude, as we say at home, is more is very important. Now what is it? What is the Gift of Fortitude? The Gift of Fortitude is the supernatural, supernatural inclination. In my own writing, when I was in grammar school, sisters, all at once, I had my fingers (we had sisters teaching, they used 18 inch rulers) my writing was so bad, I was called to the front of the room, told to put out my hands, and they would hit my fingers with a big ruler. It hurt! I tried, oh, how I tried to write legibly. But now there’s no sister to punish me, I am back to normal!

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. Let me repeat. 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. Let me tell you sisters, we all need this Gift of Fortitude.

I’ve said this before, and I will repeat it. The devil is very angry with the Missionaries of Charity. More than you think. I know. The degree of Fortitude until 1996, you will need even more Fortitude in the years to come. And no profit, but I know what’s going on. Now, by way of explanation. This gift enables us to put into action, that is, to practice, and thirdly, even enjoy doing what we would naturally not do, and want to do, because it is either unpleasant, or painful or trying. And even be repugnant. Repeat, the Gift of Fortitude, now this is concretely. Enables us to put into action that is, to practice and enjoy doing what we would naturally not do, what naturally not want to do, because it is either unpleasant, or painful or trying or even repugnant. And to be obedient, sisters, but and this is what I keep telling you sisters not just you here, but when ever I speak to the Missionaries of Charity. God has blessed your community phenomenally. Keep praying for this blessing from God, that your superiors are obedient to the Vicar of Christ. That makes an awful difference. Remember some years ago, a sister in the community, everybody in the community, all the women, except a handful, took off their habits and began to doll up. This one nun, wearing a full habit, was a seamstress. Her superior had her make, I’m quoting the Sister...”a new dress every week”. And then the Sister told me, “Here I am, on my knees ranging the skirts. Not so low, a little higher.” There’s a mirror, and the Superior, well admire herself in the mirror, and the poor nun, on her knees, measuring this fancy dress for her superior! God has been, I repeat, extremely good to you. Keep praying for that grace, which has both created your community and preserved your community almost uniquely, in the world today. More over, this Gift of Fortitude enables us, and I’ve got six things, it enables us to do. It enables us to suffer, to accept, to put up with, not avoid, not run away from, none. Shun what is contrary to our faith. As I’ve said more than once, my 26th year in working for the Holy Sea, and most of that work has been for the congregation for religious. In the United States, on the 362 communities of women, I think I’ve told you at the very least, the very least, 150 of these communities will disappear. No way of surviving. And this is where you Missionaries of Charity, you’ve got to realize that you have been phenomenally blessed and not allow yourselves to be misguided or mislead by those who call themselves religious, but are not living a religious life. This will take Fortitude, and not just among you Sister’s as individuals, but, among the Sisters’ as a community. Because the gift sisters, has given both to individuals and to the church at large to communities. In speaking of the Gift of Fortitude, to be stressed as this is a superhuman gift. It is not only a gift of resignation, not only the gift of patience, or endurance, or courage. It is the practice of which the practical desire to love God as He had chosen to love us. We too, with Him, choose, prefer, select, elect what naturally speaking is not to our liking. I cannot exaggerate the importance of this gift of Fortitude. In other words, the Gift of Fortitude is the gift that is necessary for us to live faithful to our vowed commitments. Now the necessity. It is absolutely necessary, even for living a good Christian life, not to say to live the religious life. Our Christian faith places, what shall we say, places burdens on us. That are beyond, not just beyond human nature, but that are beyond our duty to follow. In other words, we are living a consecrated life, which means doing more than we’re obliged to do under pain of sin. The Gift of Fortitude is therefore, the gift and I mean this, a martyrdom. It testifies to the truth of Christ. That’s how our Lord lived His life. He proclaimed the truth, as we said this morning at Mass and He was opposed, persecuted and finally crucified. Our age, it is now at least 15 years that I’ve been telling people, our age, is the age of martyrs. And remember, a martyr by definition it was, to testify to Christ, and pays for it. There’s no martyrdom without suffering. In fact, martyrdom without suffering is a contradiction. And the irony, talk about irony. The irony is, that who remembers the martyr whereas he was being roasted?

Sisters: Saint Lawrence.

Fr. Hardon: Saint Lawrence. This side is cooked well enough to _____ my body. But as we begin, and continue to the very end, the bottom line is the love of Jesus Christ. Everything we are saying about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is nonsense, it’s psychosis, unless we have faith. Christ, we know, was opposed, He was rejected, He was condemned, He was even crucified, He tells us, you read it sister’s, hear me say, well, gosh, I guess some followers of Christ really have to pay for it and not identity Christ prediction with ourselves. You’re still on the Gift of Fortitude. Just one word. We say the gifts go beyond the virtues. There is a virtue of Fortitude. Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

How does the Gift of Fortitude differ from the virtue of Fortitude? The virtue of fortitude can already be a natural virtue. The Philosopher, 300 years BC, Aristotle, spoke about the four virtues, including fortitude. Fortitude, as a virtue, as the power we have, not to fear future evils. WE define desire as the hope of some future good. We define fear as the dread of some future evil that bread and butter in philosophy. But, if fortitude is the power we have…

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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