Academic Papers,  Catholic Theology

FORTITUDE: TO BE A HERO OR TO ENDURE

In the world today, there is so much injustice, and evil that one needs to have Fortitude in order to withstand it. First, one needs to learn what Fortitude really is, how to develop it and enact it in one’s life, and how it interacts with the other three Cardinal Virtues. All before one decides to jump into something that they do not know about and make a blunder of a lifetime, or worse loss one’s life over something that was better endured than fought.

Fortitude is a virtue that ensures firmness and endurance in times of difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good. Fortitude is often misconstrued as strength, or bravery, but those are just individual parts of Fortitude. Anyone can be brave or strong for good and evil reasons, however, one cannot just having a part of Fortitude; one must process all the facets of Fortitude to possess it. The most obvious exercise of Fortitude is Martyrdom or the willingness to attack and be willing to giving up one’s life to protect something more precious than their life.[1] However, one should not seek to give up one’s life because to do so would be a total disrespect for the preciousness of life. Moreover, if one were to seek out martyrdom, for the sake of glorifying themselves instead of the Lord, then the one who gives the strength to endure martyrdom would withdraw that gift leaving that person to wither.[2] The other less known form of Fortitude is Endurance. Endurance is something everyone does every day. Thomas Aquinas claims that endurance is the primary part of Fortitude, because “it is a resilient clutching to what is precious even when it is threatened and one is suffering” and because it is more difficult than just giving up one’s life.[3] Endurance is also for a longer period than someone attacking is. When one attacks, they know that there will be an end, however, with enduring, it is for an indefinite period, therefore, to endure suffering without losing spirit, or having one’s spirit broken is truly, what makes up a virtuous person.

Fortitude is a virtue that one does not possess without first practicing it. There are some who the Holy Spirit give the Grace to automatically stand firmly for what is right, but for most one has to stand up for what is right whenever they see evil being committed, even when the ground they stand on seems shaky and that they feel like they are going to fail. There is a saying that once a coward always a coward and it is true. The reason being is if one allows just one chance to stand up for good in the face of evil to pass without doing anything, even enduring, then the next time will only be harder, to the point that one cannot stand up at all or endure persecutions, unless they ask God for the grace to do so. As Catholics, we are given an opportunity each year, during Lent, to practice Fortitude. For by giving up some vice that one has, and enduring the temptations to take it up again, makes one grow stronger. For “by observing special strictness, we acquire a habit that we must persevere in.”[4]

Fortitude is live out daily, in the fight against abortions, and in the everyday life of a true Christian.  Pope Francis states that there are hidden saints amongst us, who exercise the virtue of Fortitude each day in their lives, by being mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. They also exercise Fortitude at work, at school, at the shopping center or even in traffic jams.[5] To some degree, individuals live out their lives enduring some form of sickness and injustice. St. Gregory Nazianzen states that when dealing with loss of a loved one does a true Christian bears that loss “with fortitude because he knows that the separation is only for a short time.”[6] At every turn of one’s life, is a chance at practicing Fortitude. Just watching the news, one gets to see hundreds of people who are living out the virtue of Fortitude. One sees the rape victim and their family, the family of a murder victim, the soldier who is defending her country, missionaries imprisoned, and the Pope praying on the news, every day. These are all people who live out the virtue of Fortitude. And, while some of these here that would not happen to many individuals, there are many other opportunities to live out a life practicing Fortitude, if one looks for them.

In order for one to have Fortitude, one needs to be familiar with all the other Cardinal Virtues. Justice is necessary for Fortitude to be a virtue, any action without Justice, “is an occasion of injustice; since the stronger a man is the more ready is he to oppress the weaker”.[7] For one to have Fortitude would mean that a person would be able to determine what is truly good, and be able to judge when lesser goods should be sacrifice for the greater good.[8] That person would also then be in the possession of Prudence. Without the Virtue Prudence, one cannot have Fortitude either. In addition, Temperance is need, because if one were attached sensible goods, or vices, then it would be impossible to have Fortitude, as Fortitude would require the sacrifice of those pleasures for the greater good.[9] Without Fortitude, one would not be able to uphold Justice because fear of death has the greatest power to make [one] recede from Justice, and without Fortitude one would not be able to endure the rigors that Temperance calls for in the moderation of the attraction of pleasure and created goods.[10]

As Christians, one must have Fortitude, to stand firm, and take any opportunity to develop it and live it out. For more often than not, one is called to have Fortitude, not just in action, but most often in the spiritual combat on the plan of thoughts, which cause fear, temptations, and discouragement. Yet happy is he who filled his quiver with the arrows to fortify one’ heart in the times of trial.[11]

Bibliography

Aquilina, Mike. A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living. Amazon Kindle. Saint Benedict Press. Charlotte, NC, 2010.

Aquinas, St. Thomas, and Ralph Mcinerney. Thomas Aquinas: Selected Works. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1998.

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica: Treatis On Fortitude and Temperance (QQ 123). 1947. http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum380.htm (accessed April 15, 2015).

Catechism of the Catholic Church with Modifications from the Edtio Typica. 2nd ed. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Francis, Pope. Pope Francis on the Spiritual Gift of Fortitude and the Hidden Saints Among Us. May 15, 2014. http://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=55408 (accessed April 15, 2015).

Mattison, William. Introducting Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues. Amazon Kindle. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2008.

Philippe, Jacques. Searching for and Maintaining Peace. Amazon Kindle. Staten Island, NY: ST PAULS/ Alba House, January 18, 2002.

[1] William Mattison, Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2008), under “Kindle Locations 3986-3991,” Amazon Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid, Kindle Locations 4064-4075.

[4] Mike Aquilina, A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living (Charlotte, NC: Saint Benedict Press, 2010), p 116, Amazon Kindle Edition.

[5] Pope Francis, “Pope Francis On the Spiritual Gift of Fortitude and the Hidden Saints Among Us,” Catholic Online, May 15, 2014, accessed April 15, 2015, http://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=55408.

[6] Aquilina, p 131.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica: Treatise On Fortitude and Temperance (QQ 123),” Internet Sacred Texts Archive, 1947, accessed April 15, 2015, http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum380.htm.

[8] Mattison, Kindle Location 3993-3998.

[9] Ibid, Kindle Location 4155-4157.

[10] Aquinas, QQ 123

[11] Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: a Small Treatise On Peace of Heart (New York: Alba House, 2002), Under “Kindle Locations 246-251,” Amazon Kindle Edition.

Frances Lejeune is a student at Catholic Distance University and is a Theology Major. She is expected to receive her Associates June of 2019. She also writes about day to day life about living with depression, anxiety and loss.

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