By Andrew Kreye
There are times when I can’t help but grin and think, “I love being Catholic.”
But there are also times when I have to ask myself the question: “Why am I Christian?” and more specifically: “Why am I Catholic?”
For a long time, I didn’t know how to answer that question. I would always immediately try to come up with some logical explanation that no one could disprove.
I wanted to prove that the Catholic faith made sense and that I wasn’t a fool for believing it.
I tried to come up with that explanation for a long time, but I finally realized something…
It doesn’t matter.
That is, it doesn’t matter if people think I’m a fool.
“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” – St. Augustine
Have you ever heard of the four cardinal virtues? Well you have now! And no, they aren’t just virtues for birds.
The four cardinal virtues are prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice. They go all the way back to Plato. Saints like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas talked about them, too.
Today, we’re going to focus on fortitude, which is also called courage.
Let’s look at what our good ol’ Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about this virtue:
“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. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” (CCC 1808)
To sum up, fortitude is consistent bravery.
An Attitude of Fortitude
“I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
Fortitude is the virtue you are exercising when you choose to keep doing something, even when it would be easier to stop, because you know that it’s good.
OR if you choose to stop doing something that’s wrong, even though it would be easier to keep doing it.
However, it’s more than just a one-off decision to be courageous. That’s how it starts, but true fortitude needs to be consistent.
Fortitude is a disposition, an attitude. A repeated choice to follow Jesus and his commandments when it would be easier to ignore him.
But notice how the Catechism says that fortitude “enables one to conquer fear;” it doesn’t say that you won’t be afraid.
It wouldn’t be courageous if you weren’t afraid to do it.
As you start to fight small fears, and you choose to be brave in little ways, it will become easier to choose the fortitudinous thing (can you believe that’s actually a word???).
What are some little ways to practice being courageous for the Lord?
- Pray in the cafeteria before your meal.
You may feel awkward or like everyone’s watching you, but most people don’t pay attention. There have been times when the people at my table haven’t even noticed that I was praying, and I wasn’t even trying to hide it!
If someone asks what you’re doing, you can say, “I’m asking God to bless my food, do you want to join me?”
- Tell people that you went to Mass.
Most of the time when someone asks me what I did over the weekend, my answer is usually something like, “I saw some friends, did some homework, and read a bit.”
I don’t mention going to Mass on Sunday because of course I did! It’s just a given to me. But that isn’t true for everyone.
The next time someone asks you about your weekend, don’t forget about Mass!
- Lead the prayer.
Has this ever happened at your Bible study?
And then everyone looks at the floor, and people glance around the room, and you all sit in silence until either the leader or that one guy who’s way too excited to be there says, “I can do it!”
Maybe it’s time for you to volunteer. You might be nervous, or think you’re going to “pray badly,” but don’t worry! You aren’t talking to the people in the room, you’re talking with God.
The Heart of Courage
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19
It takes courage to love God and to love others, because when we love, we open ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable, which means we might get hurt.
The Lord calls us to love him. To give yourself to him in that love. To keep choosing to love when it gets hard. To keep trusting in the Lord, even when you have doubts because although life gets hard, and it doesn’t always make sense, we know that God keeps his promises.
Christ promised that he would never abandon us when he said, “And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20).
No matter what happens, trust in his words.
Christ has kept his promise. He is with us in the Eucharist. He gives himself, his own body and blood, to us.
Not just a part; Christ never gives himself in pieces. He gives himself to us completely. Everything. His soul and divinity.
So, why am I Catholic?
Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Because God loves me so much that he was willing to be mocked, beaten, and executed for my sake and for the sake of every other individual person.
And because, even though he knows all my sins and has suffered for them, even though he knows all my imperfections and shortcomings, he still chooses to give himself to me in the Eucharist.
This explanation may not win anyone over. It may not convince them. They may think I’m a fool when I say it, but that doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that you open yourself to Christ. He may use you as a door, through which he will enter into someone else’s heart.
Aw, wait… I messed it up!
“Lord, Show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not abandon me to the desires of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me. I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:11-14