Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO
Acts 2:1-11, 1Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13, Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
Since we celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost today the spotlight is on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be a pretty broad topic so I would like to narrow the spotlight a bit to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. Now I would like to narrow the spotlight a bit more to just the gift of fortitude. According to a definition I found, fortitude is “courage in pain or adversity.” We’re probably more familiar with the word “courage” than the word “fortitude.”
Fear is one of the opposites of courage and fortitude. I remember a lady telling me one time that the opposite of love is fear. I found that interesting. She seemed very convinced. I would have thought the opposite of love is hate. But there have been times in my life when I have seen fear hold me back from showing love—for instance, showing kindness and friendliness to someone visiting our monastery.
The contrast between fear and courage is very evident in the apostles. Before Pentecost they ran away when Jesus was arrested and crucified. Peter denied him at the words of a maidservant. After the Resurrection when Jesus appeared to them, the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. But after Pentecost and receiving the gift of fortitude, they were strong and courageous. They preached about Jesus with boldness, even after being sternly warned by the Sanhedrin and whipped. As we read in Acts 5, “Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah.”
As the society we live in becomes increasingly unmoored from the principles of Christianity, more and more opportunities present themselves for us to be courageous and exercise the gift of fortitude. I recently read an article about a 16-year-old girl named Nichole Pagano. She is a sophomore at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey. Her sister Vanessa is a senior at the same school.
Nichole told Catholic News Agency on May 24 that when she and Vanessa, both Catholics, saw around 200 students forming a pro-abortion protest in the middle of the school’s campus during class hours on May 16th, they immediately felt a call to action: they needed to stand up for the unborn—and they did. But as Nichole walked around the protest holding a pro-life sign that said “Equal Rights For Babies in the Womb,” she was physically attacked and screamed at by students.
Nichole later said, “There’s like 200 kids there and then all of a sudden they come surrounding us—mostly trying to come at me and attack me because I had the sign—and then they came at me all up in my face, verbally screaming at me, and physically even grabbed me and ripped me down.”
She said her 18-year-old sister was the only one protecting her, “trying to get these kids away from me and almost pushing them off of me, off my arm, and blocking them so they wouldn’t get my sign.” Nichole said that after the protest she had scratches on her arm and legs, and her shoulder hurt. It must have been distressing to be mobbed by that many people.
Wokeness has become the new dogmatics. If you do not promote the agenda of the far left, then you get canceled. It takes courage not to be bullied by them. We in the monastery are for the most part protected from this coercion, but many, many of our Christian brothers and sisters are soldiers on the front line. We can be like Moses on the mount with his arms raised in prayer while Joshua is down on the plain in the thick of battle (cf. Ex. 17).