By Brother Luke
Every morning at Matins, the opening psalmody is followed by a reading and then a brief meditation time. Usually something in the readings will strike a chord in me and stay with me for the rest of the day. Sometimes it comes back to mind during my meditation time later in the day. A recent meditation reading about the gift of fortitude from a collection of readings by Thomas Keating hit home that day. When Fr Thomas listed the various ways fortitude can make a difference, the reference to frustration stuck in my mind. As I pondered the connection between fortitude and frustration, another image came to mind: the Pauline description of love always being patient.
In today’s world, it is not hard to feel frustration over much that we see in the news. Violence and hostility, fueled by fear, anger, and exasperation over many inequities and injustices, abound. As we notice ourselves getting pulled into that vortex, fortitude and patience may be the antidote. However, we may not want to go there. Every fiber in our being is screaming: outrage. How can love conquer all this evil? How can patience and fortitude be of any help? Maybe looking at frustrations closer to home can offer a clue. And this is where my thoughts and prayers turned that day. How do I respond to personal slights, insults, failures, disappointments, and hostility directed at me?
If my innermost emotions are telling me to strike back, then here is where fortitude and patience come in. Here is where the love that St Paul is writing about can make the difference. And the difference is striving to make the situation better. Often that process can begin if I attempt to understand the situation from the other’s point of view. It does not mean that I have to accept or agree with the other’s point of view; it means I have to at least look at it. In looking outside myself I can move away from the emotions fueling my frustration.
This is not an exercise in denial; the reality is there. Rather, it is an exercise in facing reality with a view to making a difference that brings peace to the situation. This will include peace within me and peace between me and the other. It may very well involve taking action, but that action is constructive, not destructive. If I need to speak with a brother about some incident that occurred between us, then that conversation needs to take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect born of love and not antagonism born of rancor. And this is hard to do—hence the place for the gift of fortitude.