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Spiritual Life

On Cheese and Fortitude

By February 5, 2021No Comments
Image by Alexey Klen from Pixabay

Who Moved My Cheese? was a self-help book written in 1998 by Dr. Spencer Johnson on how to adapt to changes in the business world—like a mouse running through a maze to find cheese. Now, with the circumstances we are living in, his philosophy is more relevant than ever. The metaphor of all of us being mice running through a maze to achieve our goals (i.e., the cheese) is nothing new. However, it is difficult to find the cheese when the circumstances of life cause the cheese to move—and during times like this, it can be very discouraging.

Due to Covid, the cheese seems to be moving for everyone at an accelerating rate. Those who are able to adapt are able to survive, while the rest of us flounder: stuck in a maze, lost, like being stuck forever in the Minotaur’s ever-changing labyrinth. If the cheese is constantly being moved, it becomes simply exhausting constantly trying to find it. To have to move forward with so many new daily decisions has become downright burdensome for most. It would be so nice if the cheese—that is, ultimately, Heaven—would come to us.

Oh wait, it has! Through the Incarnation, God himself, our final destiny, has come to us (as we so recently celebrated yet again this Christmas). Jesus is here, present with us in the middle of this maze of life, so that we do not have go chasing Him all over the universe. We do not need to go looking for Him at every twist and turn, because in reality He has found us—and He is with us.

The fullness of God finding us is given to us at the Mass, where Christ comes to us. We get to receive the Incarnate Lord in the Eucharist. In this Most Blessed Sacrament, Heaven has come to all of us. In a sense, the “cheese”—our final goal—has come to us (please note I am not reducing Christ or the Eucharist to a piece of cheese; the cheese is a metaphor!). The temptation, unfortunately, is to leave Christ behind and to look for other things in this maze of life that we think will satisfy us, only to find ourselves lost and confused.

This is where the virtue of fortitude must be exercised, so that we can remain in Him and He in us. Fortitude is the cardinal virtue that gives us the strength to reach our final destination. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, fortitude “ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good” (paragraph 1808). However, since our final destination is Jesus Christ, and He has already come to us through the Incarnation, what else do we need to do? Here is where the phrase “both/and” comes into practice: God is both with us now in the middle of this maze of life, and He is our final destination.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.” —John 14:2-4

Notice that Jesus will take you to Himself. This means that Christ is with us while He is leading us to himself at the same time. The virtue of fortitude makes us aware of Christ’s presence in our lives today, so that we have the strength to remain with him unto our dying day and onward into eternity. Fortitude helps us to overcome the obstacles and temptations at this moment as well as those in future, particularly the hour of our death. This is why we ask Mary to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Both of these moments are the most important moments of our lives and both require the most fortitude in order to live a life of holiness.

How does one practice the virtue of fortitude? Thomas à Kempis gives us some sound advice on this:

“One day when a certain man who wavered often and anxiously between hope and fear was struck with sadness, he knelt in humble prayer before the altar of the Church. While meditating on these things he said: ‘Oh if I but knew how to persevere to the end!’ Instantly he heard within the divine answer: ‘If you knew this, what would you do? Do now what you would do and then you will be quite secure.’” —Imitation of Christ Book I Chapter 25

God has have given us everything we need and more to find the way out of this maze of life. All we need to do is to persevere in making these hard decisions throughout this life so that we can find our eternal home at the end of the maze.

John Cox

John Cox grew up in Charlton, Massachusetts and studied mechanical engineering in high school. After his conversion in high school, John went to Franciscan University of Steubenville and majored in Philosophy and minored in Theology with a concentration in Franciscan Spirituality. He taught Middle School Religion and was the Assistant Principal at St. Bernadette Academy for 5 years in Keller, TX. He then became the Director of Faith Formation at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington, TX for 8 years. While there, John received his Masters in Theological Studies through the Institute of Pastoral Theology (I.P.T.) from Ave Maria University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. In 2015 John became the Director of Adult Formation at St. Francis of Assisi in Longmont, CO, and then transitioned to the Director of Catechesis at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial, CO. He is also an instructor for the Catechetical School. John is married to his wife Amanda and has five children: Josh, Abigail, Monica, Emily, and Colette.

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