Monday, July 25, 2016

Pope Francis' Recipe for Holiness: Ingredient 3: Fortitude

In last week's edition of "Recipe for Holiness", my partner in this series, blogger Allison Gingras, spoke of her own use of spiritual weapons to combat anxiety.   I too am a worrier, coming from a long line of worriers.  In fact, for a large part of my life, I considered my anxiety to be part of my identity, something I could not change, much like my blue eyes.  Fear and worry were as natural to me a breathing and I had long resigned myself to the fact that this was my genetic lot in life. 

After experiencing a major life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus, my outlook began to shift.  I saw and heard people around me talking about healing, spiritual growth, and holiness.  The burden of my own anxieties began to weigh more and more heavily on my shoulders.  Having children had ratcheted up the anxiety meter considerably.  The stakes were high, my worry was commensurately higher and I was miserable.  This was not the "glorious freedom of the children of God" which St. Paul talked about and I so desperately wanted. (Rom 8:21)

I was a slave to my own fears. 

One of my Spiritual Director's most frequent counsels when I am battling struggles, challenges, or obstacles is to encourage me not to pray for those to be removed but instead to ask for more of the Holy Spirit in my life and all the gifts that he brings with his holy and powerful presence.

In this counsel, he echoes the words of Pope Francis. In a General Audience on May 14, 2014, The Holy Father said these words: 

"With the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way."

Without the Holy Spirit and his gifts, we cannot live the Christian life fully.  I know this from experience. The fears in my life had all but paralyzed me and I was unable to move forward.  Again, Pope Francis speaks of the crippling power of fear: "A person who is afraid does nothing, doesn’t know what to do. He is focused on himself, so that nothing bad will happen." 

Story of my life.

The consequence of this was that my joy was hampered greatly by the anxiety that I was suffering from. As Pope Francis and many saints before him have pointed out, "a Christian without joy is not a Christian."

What to do?  The Holy Father provides the remedy: "Do not be afraid, and ask for the grace of courage, the courage of the Holy Spirit that He sends us."

I needed to beg the Holy Spirit to stir up the gift of Fortitude, and all of his 7 gifts which I had received at my Baptism, but which were lying unopened and covered with such a layer of dust that I hardly knew they were there.  I slowly began to open these beautiful gifts and discover in the Scriptures, the Sacraments and through the witness of other brothers and sisters in Christ that God had a plan for my life.  The result of  my use of the Gift of Fortitude and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit was a deep surrender of my heart to the Lord and a plea for him to reveal the roots of my anxiety to me and heal them! 

Over time, and after much prayer, the Lord did indeed heal me of my anxiety.  To HIM be the Glory!  More than that however, he revealed that my truest identity lies not in my "genetic lot in life" but instead in Him! 

If you are feeling crushed under the weight of your fears, I urge you to find yourself a quiet place of prayer, and soak in the knowledge that a life of fear and anxiety is NOT the life the God has planned for you - he has so much more for you and he has given all of us the Advocate, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit who desires to fill our hearts with the gifts we need to live out "the glorious freedom of the children of God."

Visit Allison at Reconciled to You for more #Recipe4Holiness!

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