Saturday, December 12, 2020 –
All right, team! We are half done with the Four Cardinal Virtues, which means that today we will be covering Fortitude!
Our basic definition from the back of our Catechism is blessedly short and to the point today:
Fortitude: One of the four cardinal moral virtues which ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in doing the good (1808). Fortitude (sometimes called strength, courage, or might) is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (1299; cf. 712)
And we are going to follow that up with a longer definition from the Catholic Dictionary because it goes into a good comparison of fear vs. recklessness in terms of fortitude, and that is something I want to touch on in our example way down below:
Fortitude: Firmness of spirit. As a virtue, it is a steadiness of will in doing good in spite of difficulties faced in the performance of one’s duty.
There are two levels to the practice of fortitude: one is the suppression of inordinate fear and the other is the curbing of recklessness. The control of fear is the main role of fortitude. Hence the primary effect of fortitude is to keep unreasonable fears under control and not allow them to prevent one from doing what one’s mind says should be done. But fortitude or courage also moderates rashness, which tends to lead the headstrong to excess in the face of difficulties and dangers. It is the special virtue of pioneers in any endeavor.
As a human virtue, fortitude is essentially different from what has come to be called animal courage. Animals attack either from pain, as when they go after humans because they are angered, whom they would leave alone if they were unmolested. The are not virtuously brave, for they face danger from pain or rage or some other sense instinct, not from choice, as do those who act with foresight. True courage is from deliberate choice, not mere emotion. (Etym. Latin fortitudo, strength; firmness of soul; courage of soul.)
Of course, no Super Basic Primer would be complete without us consulting our much-loved Bishop Morrow:
How do prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives? –Prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives, as indicated below:
3. Fortitude disposes us to do what is good in spite of any difficulty.—It gives us strength to do good and avoid evil in spite of all obstacles and afflictions.
We possess fortitude when we are not hindered by ridicule, threats, or persecution from doing what is right; when we are ready, if necessary, to suffer death. The greatest fortitude is shown by bearing great suffering rather than undertaking great works. No saint was ever a coward. The martyrs had fortitude. (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 87)
Naturally, the next step is to see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
1837 Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.
Our standard pile of candy example is a little difficult for explaining fortitude because while I really want to tell you that fortitude is the will to make it to the bottom of the pile, that just is not an accurate representation of fortitude (or good judgement, for that matter). However, today’s pandemic nuttiness provides the perfect example…
There is a HUGE lack of fortitude in today’s world. People are inordinately scared to go to Mass, but they willingly, unnecessarily, and possibly recklessly go to an overcrowded salon to get their hair did.
Fortitude gives you strength to go to Mass (doing what is good) despite the threat of a virus (a difficulty). It allows us to conquer the fear of that .1% of unknown in order to put God first in our life, while also tempering our recklessness of licking people if you happen to coincide with that .1%. It gives us strength to do what is right and good (Mass), despite the government (and neighbors) ridiculing, threatening, or persecuting us. As one of my favorite bearded priests said recently in a homily, “Saint John the Baptist taught us that you may get beheaded for standing up to the government, but a lot of times they are wrong and need to be corrected, even if that mean losing your head!” #YaIWentThere
Sancte Vincenti, ora pro nobis!