Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Ascension. We read in Acts that after Jesus ascended, the disciples devoted themselves to prayer. One imagines that they were a little confused and frightened both by what had just transpired and by being on their own. And so it is easy to guess that one of the things they prayed for was the courage and strength to carry on without Jesus.

The strength to conquer their fear. The strength to face trials, persecutions and even death. What the disciples required was fortitude, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Fortitude is the virtue ensures firmness when we are faced with difficulties and constancy in our pursuit of the good. It strengthens our resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles.

As Christians in today’s world, most of us will not be called to face persecution and death for our faith. We will, however, face challenges, be asked to make sacrifices, and to choose to say and do difficult things. We will be asked to have the moral courage to act on our convictions, even if it costs something, such as convenience or social acceptance. As Christians, we are be asked to put Christ first, no matter what.

In less than a week we will celebrate the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Christ’s disciples, let us pray during this week for the gift of fortitude.