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Fortitude has to go two ways, says Pope

Pope Francis waves to the crowd during the weekly general audience on April 10, 2024 at St Peter's square in The Vatican.

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 04/10/24

The first person we need to confront with fortitude is the one looking at us in the mirror.

To be a good Christian, we certainly need fortitude. “A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian,” Pope Francis said. Instead, we have to be like Jesus, who had emotion and courage. “Jesus had passion.”

The Pope said this as he continued his general audience series on vices and virtues, this April 10 considering the virtue of fortitude. On this breezy Roman morning, the Pope had to first show some fortitude against the wind!

Fortitude has to be directed in two directions, the Pope said, referring to the teaching of both Greek philosophers and Christian theologians.

First: within ourselves

Fortitude first of all has to be used in dealing with ourselves, the Pope said.

There are internal enemies we must defeat, which go by the name of anxiety, anguish, fear, guilt: All forces that stir in our innermost selves and in some situations paralyze us. […] Fortitude is first and foremost a victory against ourselves.

The Pope considered that most of our interior fears are unrealistic anyway. “It is better, then, to invoke the Holy Spirit and face everything with patient fortitude: One problem at a time, as we are able, but not alone! The Lord is with us, if we trust in Him and sincerely seek the good. Then in every situation we can count on God’s providence to shield and armor us,” he said.

Second: external enemies

The second movement of fortitude is toward external enemies, which could include “the trials of life, persecutions, difficulties that we did not expect and that surprise us.”

In fact, it’s a fundamental virtue because “it takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously,” the Pope said. 

Some pretend it does not exist, that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history. But it suffices to leaf through a history book, or unfortunately even the newspapers, to discover the nefarious deeds of which we are partly victims and partly perpetrators: wars, violence, slavery, oppression of the poor, wounds that have never healed and continue to bleed.

With fortitude, the Pope said, we “react and cry out ‘no’ — an emphatic ‘no’ — to all of this.”

In our comfortable Western world, which has watered everything down somewhat, which has transformed the pursuit of perfection into a simple organic development, which has no need for struggle because everything looks the same, we sometimes feel a healthy nostalgia for prophets. But disruptive, visionary people are very rare. There is a need for someone who can rouse us from the soft place in which we have lain down and make us resolutely repeat our “no” to evil and to everything that leads to indifference. “No” to evil and “no” to indifference; “yes” to progress, to the path that moves us forward, and for this we must fight.

Let us therefore rediscover in the Gospel the fortitude of Jesus, and learn it from the witness of the saints.

Pope FrancisSpiritual LifeVirtue
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