The Holy See
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Sunday 14 May 1989



1. "Come, Holy Spirit!". Dear brothers and sisters, this is the invocation which insistently and confidently arises from the whole Church today, the Solemnity of Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit, come and

"on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend" (Sequence of Pentecost).

Among these gifts of the Spirit there is one on which I wish to dwell this morning: the gift of Fortitude. In our time many extol physical force, to the extent of also approving the extreme forms of violence. In fact, man has daily experience of his own weakness, especially in the spiritual and moral sphere, yielding to the impulses of internal passions and external pressures.

2. Precisely to resist these multiple stimuli, it is necessary to have the virtue of fortitude, which is one of the four cardinal virtues on which the whole structure of the moral life rests. It is the virtue by which one does not compromise in fulfilling one's duty.

This virtue finds little room in a society in which surrender and accommodation on the one hand, and domination and toughness on the other, are widespread in economic, social and political relations. Timidity and aggressiveness are two forms of lack of fortitude which are often found in human behaviour; they result repeatedly in the distressing sight of one who is weak and cowardly towards the powerful, or of one who is arrogant and overbearing towards the defenceless.

3. Perhaps today as never before the moral virtue of fortitude needs the support of the corresponding gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of Fortitude is a supernatural impulse which gives strength to the soul, not only on exceptional occasions such as that of martyrdom, but also in normal difficulties: in the struggle to remain consistent with one's principles: in putting up with insults and unjust attacks: in courageous perseverance on the path of truth and uprightness, in spite of lack of understanding and hostility.

When, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we experience "the weakness of the flesh" (cf. Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38), or rather, of human nature subject to physical and psychological infirmities, we should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of Fortitude to remain firm and decisive on the path of goodness. Then we will be able to repeat with St Paul: "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (1 Cor 12:10).

4. There are many of Christ's followers - pastors and faithful, priests, religious, and laity, engaged in every area of apostolic and social work who in all times, including our own, have experienced and experience martyrdom of body and spirit, in intimate union with the Mother of Sorrows beside the Cross. All have been victorious thanks to this gift of the Spirit.

Let us ask Mary, whom we now greet as Queen of Heaven, to obtain for us the gift of Fortitude in all the vicissitudes of life and at the hour of death.