Robert George recently observed that “the days of comfortable Catholicism are past.” I’m not sure being Catholic was ever “comfortable,” but his point is clear that witnessing for the Faith will require an increasing amount of grit. When the Faith is mocked—and you practice that Faith—you will be mocked.
When the Faith is persecuted—and you practice that Faith—you will be persecuted. Because we have been entrusted with the care of our wives and children, we fathers need to be especially courageous. The Church needs men who will stand up when standing up is heroic. The Church needs men who practice that virtue which overcomes fear.
The church has a word for this virtue: fortitude.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. (CCC, 1808)
Fortitude seems to be one of the harder of the cardinal virtues to practice. For some of us, the virtues of justice, temperance, and prudence seem like child’s play compared to fortitude. But one thing is sure: God desires to see this virtue in us. Consider the Book of Job.
After Job has questioned God, God responds:
Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
God goes on to explain to Job that he does not understand the ways of God. God then makes a speech illustrating that He has created wondrous things that Job cannot fully comprehend. God points to the lion, the raven, the ostrich, and the deer. It is clear from the text that God is illustrating to Job His magnificence that is shown in His Creation. And then God says this:
“Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing…
God is describing the horse, but He seems to be illustrating the horse as a picture of fortitude. As you read these words about the horse, you might ask yourself: Are these the qualities that God desires in men?
Doesn’t God desire men who laugh at fear? Throughout history, God has sought men such as these to lead his people. Why does the horse laugh at fear? Why is he so excited to go into battle? The answer is simple: because the horse loves his master, and he knows his master loves Him. The horse isn’t afraid of battle. The horse isn’t afraid of injury. The horse has one fear and one fear only: separation from His master. That’s all any of us should truly fear: separation from God. We need to fear nothing except separation from Jesus.
The horse rejoices in his strength, not out of pride, but because he knows that the source of his strength is his master. Our Master is the source of our strength, too. And when we stand up for our Faith, we do not stand alone. This is the promise God made to us:
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
Standing up for our faith might mean being unpopular. It might mean losing our job or losing our friends. It might mean being mocked and ridiculed. But we must always remember that God is with us. And the deeper we love God, the stronger our fortitude is likely to be.