Finding the Strength to Overcome Adversity and Live Well in Christ
It is not uncommon for people to have the wisdom to know what is the right thing to do, and genuinely to want to be virtuous in order to lead a good and truly happy life, and yet they lack the will power to actually do the right and just thing, including fully living our Christian faith. It could be that worldly desires have the better of them, as they did with Saint Augustine before his conversion. Later, he came to understand that sin impairs the will so that instead of being master of his passions, he was captive to them. Saint Paul similarly wrote about an inner conflict where the desires of the flesh are at war with the things of the Spirit (e.g. Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:23, 8:5).
Peer pressure is another factor that might lead people to do something they know is wrong, like Augustine did in stealing pears with his friends. Also, fear of possible adverse consequences might lead one to “go along to get along” in order to avoid ridicule, condemnation, getting a bad grade or losing a job, or even imprisonment or death. For example, many people knew segregation was wrong, but they did not speak out because they feared possible social censure. Today, those who believe in the transcendent moral order, in genuine marriage, human dignity and the value of all human life are told to be quiet or else be disparaged as mean and bigoted.
In view of these struggles in the human condition, the Lord sends us his Holy Spirit to give us strength to rise triumphant over our human weakness. Like the applied wisdom of prudence, such fortitude is also a human virtue, which “strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life” (CCC 1808). Just like you can get physically stronger by lifting weights, so you can strengthen your will and spirit by doing things that involve a measure of firmness of mind and heart.
The good we cannot do on our own, the Holy Spirit helps us to do in grace. We receive the gift of strength in a particular way in the sacrament of Confirmation so that we might better and more fully live our faith and be true witnesses of Jesus Christ even in the face of opposition (CCC 1303). This fortitude was given to the Apostles at Pentecost and to the martyrs who stood fast in the Christian faith unto death, and this strength of the Spirit is given to us in order to meet the challenges of the day.
Typically in the United States, the sacrament of Confirmation is received in the teenaged years, but it is never too late to receive this essential gift if you missed it at that time. On Pentecost Sunday at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, our local Church will celebrate our annual Mass for the Confirmation of adults from across the archdiocese. If you are such an adult who was baptized Catholic, but never confirmed, I encourage you to contact your local parish to begin sacramental preparation for the future. The Holy Spirit is stronger than all our human weaknesses and the evils of the world.