Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Second Sunday of Advent—4 December AD 2016

Saint John the Baptist (Titian)

Immaculate Conception--Holy Day of Obligation
This Thursday, December 8th, 2016


Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Advent, and the Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Archbishop Humphreys' Advent 2016 Pastoral Letter

“What did you go out to the desert to see?”[1]

    If you ask people to name the virtues, there are some pretty common answers that you get.  Probably the three that come to mind most easily are faith, hope, and charity.  They just hang together, sort of poetically.  If pressed, most people will come up with a few more, such as chastity, or justice, or honesty, or prudence.

    But there is another very important virtue that should come to mind, particularly during this Advent season, and that is the virtue of fortitude.  I say that it is particularly associated with Advent for two reasons:  First of all because fortitude is the virtue that was required by the Jews to endure the thousands of years of waiting for the promised Redeemer—and those four thousand years or so are represented by the four weeks of Advent.  But secondly, and more to the point, during Advent we read a fair amount about Saint John the Baptist, who is an excellent role model to imitate in practicing the virtue of fortitude.

    Actually, there are two kinds of fortitude.  One prepares us to do battle with evil whenever that is appropriate.  The other enables us to endure evil and put up with it whenever that is the more appropriate course of action.  Both forms of this virtue act to give us self-control.  Like most of the virtues, it helps us to follow a “middle course,” avoiding excessive behavior or extremism.[2]   Specifically, fortitude helps us to avoid the extremes of boldness on the one hand, or cowardice on the other.  It should be obvious that we can't go through life boldly jumping on everything and everyone who offends us even slightly.  But, likewise, it is equally obvious that we cannot be cowardly; refusing to stand up for our basic rights, for the rights of others, and for the things we believe in.

    Fortitude helps us to control passions like anger and lust;  to put up with the difficulties of the world like hunger and toil; and it helps us to keep going even in the face of great personal loss, the death of a loved one or a natural disaster for example.  It helps us to hold on to our Faith and Christian principles, even though everyone around us has abandoned them and is urging us to give them up too.

    In a sense, fortitude is a virtue that underlies all of the other virtues.  It is easy to see that without fortitude it might be relatively easy for us to lose our Faith, or to abandon Hope, or to be unable to persevere in the love of God or neighbor.  Without fortitude we wouldn't continue very long in virtues like honesty of chastity.  Stated simply, we can think of fortitude as that thing that keeps the world from "wearing us down," and depriving us of our spirit and spirituality.

    Like most of the virtues, we can develop fortitude by understanding it, and especially by practicing it:

    1)  To have fortitude, we need to nourish our love of God.  If we spend a lot of our time considering the goodness of God and the joys of the kingdom of heaven, we are much less likely to allow ourselves to stray from the path that leads to God.  If we ignore God, we will have no motivation to stay on that path    we might not even think to try.

    2)  We are also wise to give some thought to the future; to anticipate the evils that may come upon us, both physical and spiritual, so that they don't take us by surprise and unprepared.  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

    3)  To develop fortitude, we ought not to give ourselves over to “rehashing” our problems and grumbling about our afflictions.  It is too easy to talk ourselves into believing that they are a greater burden than we can bear.  We ought to reflect, rather, on how past troubles have gone away; and how we can unite our sufferings with those of our Lord on the Cross, making them meritorious instead of frustrating.

    4)  Finally, we can imitate the fortitude demonstrated by our Lord and His saints.  That's why I mention John the Baptist during this Advent season.  It helps to keep saints like him in mind;  living on honey and wild locusts in the desert[3];  preaching to people who would never completely understand his message;  ultimately dying just for insisting on the truth that Herod’s adulterous marriage broke the moral law.[4]

    We live in a deeply secularized world.  One that would like to bring us down to its level;  that will try to wear us down and destroy our faith and break our spirit, and ultimately steal our soul.  All the more reason to work hard to build fortitude.

    All the more reason to agree with our Lord that we did not come out to see a man clothed in sort garments;  that we did no come out to hear one who lives in the houses of kings.  But rather that we came out to see the prophet;  to meet the prophet of fortitude;  who prepared the way of the Lord and who leads us down that middle way—the only way—that leads to the kingdom of heaven.



[1]   Gospel: Matthew  xi:210

[2]   Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II Q64. A.1

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