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Enduring Difficulties with Fortitude

In the previous blog post, I discussed the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Piety—which strengthens the cardinal virtue of Justice. Our focus was on living fully the Spirit of Adoption, through which we cry “Abba Father!” (Romans 8:15).  The daily act of living as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father is made possible through the Spirit’s Gift of Fortitude (also known as courage).

Uganda Martyrs

The Gift of Fortitude moves us to endure difficulties for the sake of eternal life with God. It strengthens the will in the pursuit of goodness, thus enabling us to remain steadfast in great or small responsibilities. There becomes a distinguishable strength of soul and confidence in God.

In reflecting upon these gifts, my attention was drawn to Charles Lwanga and companions (Ugandan martyrs). For the past twenty years, we, the Dominican Sisters, have been blest to have several priests from Uganda serve as chaplains at our schools. Their devotion and enthusiasm for these courageous young men and boys has been contagious and a continuous source of inspiration.

Not willing to succumb to the vicious desires and lifestyle of King Mwanga, Charles, the master of pages, valiantly desired to preserve his purity and refused to betray his Christian beliefs. Noting the rage of the king, he secretly baptized four of the boys and encouraged them to remain steadfast in their belief.

Monument at Munyonyo, Uganda, marking the path the martyrs marched to their death

Strengthened by the Spirit’s gift, the young men and boys endured the rigorous 37-mile march to the massive execution pyre. Along the route, a grief-stricken  French missionary, Father Lourdel, witnessed the serenity and joy of the young men he had known and instructed. One boy, James, turned to him and said, “Why are you so sad? This is nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to.”

Jesus’ promise of the Spirit’s presence with us for strength (John 15:26) is evident in the martyrdom of these heroic and fearless sons of our Heavenly Father, who continued to sing and worship God amidst the flames which engulfed their young lives. They totaled thirteen Catholics and eleven Protestants, all of whom died calling the name of Jesus and proclaiming, “You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls.”

The effects of the Spirit’s Gift of Fortitude are:

  • Certain, unshakable, confidence in God, particularly in the face of sorrows or misfortune
  • Victory over lukewarmness, sloth, or laziness
  • Fidelity to one’s responsibilities, including enduring patiently the trials of everyday life
  • Ability to withstand temptation and pressure toward sin
  • Joy, even in the midst of suffering and pain

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