Virtue – Fortitude
Fortitude means strength in three ways — courage to make the right choices, perseverance in goodness over time and with lasting effort, and patience when things are tough.
1. Understand Fortitude
What is Fortitude?
Everyone understands the need for strength and perseverance in business and sports in order to succeed. There is much to learn from these examples of everyday life. Those who put in long efforts over time reap the rewards of diligence or practice.
At the same time, we recognize that just as much or even more strength is needed, for example, by the individual battling the physical and psychological trials of cancer.
So it is in the spiritual life, we need fortitude both in the pursuit of goodness as in the patient resistance against temptation, or endurance in persecution for the sake of God’s name.
“How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life,” said Jesus. (Mt. 7:14) To gain heaven, we must face the world with fortitude.
From the Catechism
CCC 1837 Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.
The Virtue Lived – St. Thomas More
When King Henry VIII separated from Rome in 1527 he asked all bishops and officials to sign the Oath of Supremacy, recognizing him as the head of the Church. As chancellor, St. Thomas More was the highest-ranking official after the king himself. However, instead of signing, he resigned from his position, giving up wealth, honor, and power. In the end, he even gave up his own life to be faithful to his conscience. He is an example of fortitude, and courageously saying: “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”
“Give us the courage to proclaim our faith by the witness of our lives”
2. Virtue In My Life
Questions geared towards self knowledge and personal growth
- When I consider the areas of my life, where do I find that I struggle the most to give consistent effort or to persevere in the face of adversity: would it be physical work, emotional struggles, or maybe intellectual effort?
- Are there concrete responsibilities that I consistently put off or avoid? Can I name them?
- Do I struggle more with deciding to start or with persevering to the end of a difficult task?
- Do I fear the opinions of others? Do I do bad things, or avoid doing good things, because of the influence of people I care about? Or even strangers?
- Are there areas in my life where hard work is easy for me? Do I have hobbies or personal interests that prove that I am capable of pushing myself to do a good job? What characteristics about myself in these areas can I apply to areas where I tend to give up sooner?
- In dealing with the people that I love the most, are there sacrifices that I make again and again, both joyfully and willingly out of love? What gives me my ability to be strong: motivation, love, the desire to get things done, routine?
- Do I honor the body that God gave me, and put in the necessary effort to remain in good health as an excellent means of practicing the virtue of fortitude?
- When I feel tempted to give up on a hard task, do I reach out to God for help?
- Do I regularly offer my good works and perseverance through tough times for the good of others? Am I motivated to keep going, because I know the value of my sacrifices lived out of love?
- Do I dedicate time to prayer in a consistent and persevering way, even though I may not always enjoy it? In other words, do I grow in the virtue of fortitude by being strong in my practice of daily prayer?
3. Growing In Virtue
A Prayer for Virtue
Dear Jesus, grant me wisdom to choose what is right; fortitude to persevere in goodness; and courage to patiently endure hardships. Help me to rely on your guidance and strength with humility, as I imitate your example of doing your Father’s will. Amen!
St. Thomas More // Pray for us!
Practical Tips for Living This Virtue
- When you do the hardest tasks on your list first; the reward is natural, because things get easier as you advance. Try to apply this principle to different areas of your life: study, work, shopping, etc.
- However, sometimes the opposite can seem to be true. Depending on the situation, at times it can be easier to challenge yourself with little victories first and build up to greater ones.
- Take the time to notice the effort you give to the things that you enjoy or find easy, and try to imitate your own example in the harder things.
- Reward yourself for your hard work, by allowing yourself to do the things you enjoy.
- Since self-knowledge makes acceptance easier, take time to reflect on why certain things are harder for you than others.
- Think ahead to one moment on your calendar today where you might be faced with difficulty, and decide prayerfully to give your best.
4. Other Resources
1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.”64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.
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.”70 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”71
1809 […] We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”74
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only (God) (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75
1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. the virtuous man is happy to practice them.
1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.
1834 The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
Quotes From Saints
Fortitude is the disposition of soul that enables us to despise all inconveniences and the loss. – Augustine of Hippo
The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them. – Thomas Aquinas
Though the path is plain and smooth for men of good will, he who walks it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty, if he does not have good feet: that is, courage and a persevering spirit. – John of the Cross
Courage! In the spiritual life, whoever doesn’t go forward goes backward. It’s the same as with a boat that must always go forward. If it stands still, the wind will blow it back. – Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
I am God’s wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of wild beasts to make a pure loaf for Christ. – Ignatius of Antioch
The perfection of a Christian consists in mortifying himself for the love of Christ. Where there is no great mortification, there is no great sanctity. – Philip Neri