December 27, 2017
All Resurrectionists have a special interest in the Feast of the Holy Family because our mission, as Resurrectionists, is to “call others, especially youth and families, to communities of the Risen Lord in which faith, hope, and love radiate as a sign of union with Christ and his mother, Mary, in the Church” (Resurrectionist Mission Statement). Contemplating and praying over the story of the birth of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel provides a particular way to think about how a virtue cultivated within the Holy Family might assist us in our own families. Reflecting upon and applying the virtue of fortitude within our own family life will not only help us to become better communities of faith, hope, and love, but we will be able to radiate the fruits of this virtue outward to help and inspire others.
A great theologian and a good friend of mine, William Mattison, includes a chapter on the virtue of fortitude in his book about the moral life, Introducing Moral Theology. We might think of fortitude as the courage or bravery that we need in certain situations of life. In his chapter, Mattison points out that fortitude is comprised of two main parts, which he refers to as “attack” and “endurance.” We might think, in the first instance (what he calls “attack”), of the situations in life where we need to act in a decisive way to address or eliminate a threat or problem. It may be, for example, that your child has been unfairly treated by his or her peers, and you need the courage to approach another parent to talk about this situation. We might also think, in the second instance (what he calls “endurance”), of situations in life where there is no particular action that we can take to remove some threat or problem, and so, we must endure in the midst of this hardship. Here, we might, for example, think of the long term care that we might provide for an elderly parent who has been incapacitated in some way.
Reflecting upon Luke’s nativity story of Jesus provides plenty of examples of courage that Joseph and Mary exercised. They needed, for instance, to respond to the census, returning to Bethlehem, even though Mary was pregnant. They also needed to act bravely to find a place for Mary to give birth to her child. In each of these instances, Joseph and Mary were called to act decisively and courageously, responding to the dire situations in which they found themselves. We see another kind of courage in our gospel today, where we hear that Mary and Joseph “were amazed at what was said about Jesus.” Just as in the story of the birth of Jesus, when Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart,” Mary and Joseph are faced with news about the future of Jesus that they have no power to change, hearing that “you yourself a sword will pierce.” The gospel points to the dangers and hardships that Mary and Joseph will face as they see Jesus scorned and ridiculed in his ministry to the lowly and marginalized. Because they have no way of changing this, it will take courage or fortitude on their part to endure these sufferings.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we might contemplate the ways that we are called to embrace fortitude in our own families. We might reflect upon ways that we are called to act decisively and courageously in certain situations, asking God to give us courage and consideration in our dealings with others when we need to act. We might also reflect upon situations beyond our control where we are called to endure certain hardships with courage and resolve. This virtue will enhance the lives of our own families, and, if lived well, will be a sign of unity and love for others.