Since the order in which I am presenting the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the order which I find easier to understand (under the assumption that others have the same difficulties that I do), the next gift I will try to explain is the gift of fortitude.
Note that there is the natural virtue of fortitude. This is the habit which anyone can acquire with human effort in which the person does the right thing despite fear or pain. By “right thing” is mean that the person acting sees the goal as good. Whenever you ought perform any action, like give a talk, you can feel fear. By overcoming this fear repeatedly, it becomes easier and easier to deal with your nerves, perform the action, and obtain the benefit of that action. Similarly, it is painful to exercise, but by keeping exercising day after day, despite the pain, it gets easier to exercise and to get the benefits that exercise provides.
There is also the infused virtue of fortitude. This is the grace-assisted virtue by which we are able to do God’s will despite fear or pain. Here is what John Hardon says about Christian fortitude. It is:
The virtue of fortitude, based on faith and motivated by the love of God. Many adversities confront those who would devoutly follow Christ, as he foretold. But they are not heavy, for the suffering, though real, is lightened by love. When someone is in love, that person does not feel overwhelmed by the sufferings endured for the sake of the beloved. One makes little of them. And so the New Law is not oppressive. “My yoke is easy,” Christ promised, “and my burden light” (Matthew 11:29). It is love that makes it so.
Finally, there is the gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude. Again, from Fr. Hardon, we learn the gift of fortitude:
gives a person a special strength of will. This gift confers an extraordinary readiness to undergo trials for love of God or in fulfillment of the divine will; unusual courage to bear difficulties even for many years; firmness in carrying arduous tasks to their completion; perseverance in a lifetime fidelity to one’s vocation in spite of heavy trials or disappointments sent by God; and gladness in being privileged to suffer persecution or humiliation in union with Christ and for the sake of his name.
I think a person of prayer can begin to distinguish these three levels of fortitude in his or her life. As human beings, we should never be surprised when we feel fear or experience pain and we should be willing to shoulder these burdens and do the right thing to the extent we are able. As children of God, we should also rely of God’s grace to help us do the right thing, however difficult, and show gratitude to God when we are able to succeed. And there are other times when we recognize that the achievement of some difficult good was easy. I think, that is the gift of the Holy Spirit of fortitude.
For a full doctrinal homily outline for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, click here.