King David tells his son Solomon: Take Courage. Be a Man. (1 Kings 2:2). It\’s a great one-liner and a bestowal of manhood from a father to his son. More than any other virtue, courage helps us put others needs first, and to sacrifice our own desires. When people assume power, it becomes very easy to make sure our own needs and desires are met first. And thus, we get selfish and egocentric leaders. King David wants his son to be a great king, generous and magnanimous. He wants his son to stay true to God, and to take care of all the people of God. The one virtue that he asks his son to take is courage. Why?
Courage, or fortitude, according to Fr. Bruce Williams, OP, is \”that cardinal virtue which strengthens the irascible appetite (and will), enabling it to continue its pursuit of difficult good even in the face of the greatest dangers to bodily life.\” Someone seeking the good of faith and the good of people may say they want what\’s best for them. But when it becomes hard to obtain this good for someone, they make excuses or give up. They pass the buck. Or, they man up and get the job done. That\’s courage. Getting it done no matter what difficulty arises. No matter how hard it is to get, we push forward to get this good. That\’s a king\’s virtue. Even if it means his death, he wants what\’s best for his God and kingdom…
St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit martyr of the 16th century, also showed the heroic virtue of fortitude. He probably had moments in his life that he was not being threatened, because he was Christian. He easily obtained the \’good\’ of being Christian. But when the Japanese threatened his life for his beliefs, this good became difficult. So much so that it required the virtue of fortitude so that he could endure the pain and keep his Christian beliefs. In the case of a Christian martyr, what is more at the forefront is endurance. Even if at the time they are not physically engaged in resisting an evil enemy, what brought the martyr to the point of death is their activity challenging injustice, idolatry, or whatever it was that provoked the enemies of the faith to take them down.
Where did St. Paul Miki get this fortitude? Where did he find strength to give his life up so that others would believe in Jesus? From the Eucharist, the ultimate gift of self that visibly brings the fruits of Jesus\’ sacrifice on the cross into our daily lives. Here we become courageous when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask for the virtue and the Gift of the Holy Spirit of Fortitude.
Faced with the temptations in your life, against any threat to your health or life, we need fortitude to keep seeking the good, no matter how hard it is to reach. Using fortitude in the moment may not be fun, but it will be satisfying in the end. Compared with martyrdom, looking lame by giving up fleeting pleasures doesn\’t seem that bad, right? We have not suffered to the point of shedding blood! (Heb 12:4) Pray that Jesus would give you fortitude today to overcome all obstacles that separate your life from His. Take courage; be a man. That goes for women, too! \”We will be true to thee till death\” (Faith of our Fathers).
©2014. Fr. James Melnick. All rights reserved.