Monday, May 25, 2009

The Gift of Fortitude

If I were King of the Forest, Not queen, not duke, not prince.
My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl.
With a woof and a woof and a royal growl - woof.
As I'd click my heel, all the trees would kneel.
And the mountains bow and the bulls kowtow. And the sparrow would take wing - If I - If I - were King!
Each rabbit would show respect to me. The chipmunks
genuflect to me.
Though my tail would lash, I would show compash
For every underling!
If I - If I - were King!
Just King!
Monarch of all
I survey -- Mo--na-a-a--a-arch Of all I survey!

Several years ago in seminary a few friends and I got into a rousing discussion on the moral and philosophical meanings of the Wizard of Oz. Much time has passed and I don’t recall very much (not simply but probably in part because we were enjoying adult beverages at far too early an age). I do recollect the reflection of one of my classmates on the dilemma of the Cowardly Lion, though. “His problem wasn’t that he lacked the characteristics of a fearless lion. He didn’t just need to be brave or careless in the face of fearful things or walk around growling at everyone. The great lacking in him was that he was meant to be a king, and he was too afraid to be it.”
I have pondered that conclusion several times since that evening of cocktails and conversation. I believe my friend was correct in his estimation of the Cowardly Lion, and though I have not studied the author’s interpretation of his character, I suspect we hit the nail on the head. He was meant to be a king, and he was too afraid to be it.

When I left the seminary some time later a wise and insightful priest who had supported me through my discernment sent me a letter wishing me well and offering his continued prayers. In his letter he wrote, “I have no doubt that you will succeed in whatever you endeavor to do, for God has given you many gifts”. I was flattered, but the words did not flesh themselves out over the ensuing years. I took a job as a paint mixer in a home-improvement store, then as a paper-stacker in a small printing firm. I drifted away from my faith and settled into spiritual mediocrity. My new wife and I struggled in our marriage over finances and responsibilities as we attempted to live a sacramental marriage without comprehension of its sacramentality.

God is patient, thankfully, and he waited for me. He waits for all of us to wake up from our spiritual slumber, and sends us little spiritual “alarm clocks” to rouse us from sleep. Often we ignore them. We roll over in our comfy little beds and press the “snooze” button for a little more time. There are many distractions and enticements that lead us into deeper and deeper sleep: materialism, sports fanaticism and gambling, pornography, alcohol and drugs, etc. But most often indifference and apathy keeps us in bed. It is easier to do nothing. Besides, sticking out your neck is like asking for someone to chop off your head…but God makes clear His stance on the sleeper:

"I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were
either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will
spit you out of my mouth.” Rev. 3:15-16

Like the Cowardly Lion, we have a calling. He was meant to be the King of the Forest, yet feared the role immensely. By virtue of our Baptism we are called to be priest, prophet and king. No, that doesn’t mean we should all be priests, stand on the corner and preach like a sidewalk prophet, or aspire to crimson robes and crowns. What does it mean? We share in the priesthood of Jesus by putting the faith we have been given in its proper primary perspective. We are prophets by living our lives in such a way that our actions and example point to a loving God. And we are kings because we have been promised a place in God’s Kingdom. We are His heirs. It is ours to choose or refuse. And, incidentally, sleeping is considered a refusal.

What are we called to be? A loving and supportive parent? A teacher and example to others? A compassionate caregiver? A defender of the weak and defenseless? A wise and kind leader? A faithful and uplifting spouse? Only God knows, and He’s more than willing to share. He has given us talents and gifts to be the best we can be, fully human, fully alive, and full of the Holy Spirit. We just need to be brave enough to use them.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Fortitude. Keep us from fear and obstacles that lead us to mediocrity and inaction. Rouse us from our spiritual slumber and give us the courage to take our place as the heirs and children in the Kingdom of our loving God.


  1. Great insight. I've never thought of the Cowardly Lion that way, but I think you got it right.

    I was always partial to the Scarecrow myself. Pretentions of intellectualism on my part! - Lee

  2. nice blog pops
    i would ask to make
    one but....i know the answer.
    besides i dont have enough pataince
    to write all that! LUV YUH! ~mary

  3. hi! your reflection is so enlightening. let me take this chance to ask your permission to include some of your quotations in my article in our parish weekly bulletin about the gift of fortitude. thanks - ara :)

  4. Anon-
    Certainly; please email specifics and I would be honored to allow you to quote my reflection. Email:
    God bless!


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