By Natasha Lye
What is fortitude?
Strong as we think we are on our own, we all have our triggers and limits. When life throws us unexpected curveballs that derails us from the plans we made for ourselves, what can help us Trust in God’s plan for us?
This is where the importance and necessity of having and practising fortitude in faith comes in. Firstly, fortitude is defined as courage when dealing with (prolonged) pain or trial (Cambridge). However, with Jesus, fortitude is not just about being strong or brave by ourselves. Fortitude is learning to be strong in the Lord. As a cardinal virtue, fortitude is one of the fundamental virtues upon which all other moral virtues are grounded. Fortitude is what allows us to practise Prudence, Justice, Temperance especially when it is not easy to. Fortitude allows one to lead authentically virtuous lives, beyond superficial holiness that only practises virtues when convenient or easy.
As humans, we inevitably struggle with things such as faith, failure, death, sacrifice and our daily struggles. Being a virtuous disciple is not always easy, especially in moments where we are invited by the Lord to make sacrifices, or take the road less travelled. In these tough moments, fortitude is what Christians need to pray for in order to live out the faith that they profess. In CCC1808, it states: “Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and a constant pursuit of the good”. Fortitude is necessary especially in times of crises in our spiritual and moral lives, where we may feel challenged or stretched and tempted to run away. Fortitude is what allows us to remain open to encountering and returning to communion with God. Given that fortitude is a human/moral virtue, it may be acquired through intentional effort on our part, which is “purified and elevated by divine grace”, allowing us to build character and practise good (CCC 1810). Our relationship with God is not just initiated by Him, but it requires effort through our intellect, will, our attitudes and actions. As the Lord is good, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” Let us run to the Lord with all our strength and minds, to return and to stay with Him.
How do Catholics “stay strong”?
In CCC1801, it states: “Fortitude strengthens our resolve to resist temptations, overcome obstacles in the moral life and enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes us to renounce and sacrifice our lives in defense of a just cause”. Fortitude helps us to choose what is good and best for us, even when doing otherwise is easier. Today, many simply go through the motions of life, busy hustling trying to make themselves useful. Many live in sin, greed, impatience, laziness, selfishness, pride, lust. We require fortitude to help us fight against the temptation of sin. But the question is, do we draw strength from the Lord to say no to our selfishness, our pride? Do we die to our need to be self-reliant and learn to surrender ourselves to the Lord? Do we limit God and His movements to expand and stretch our hearts toward heaven? If our answer is no, fret not. Taking up the virtue of fortitude, practising courage and spiritual perseverance is a process of unlearning our timid ways, and relearning the spirit of courage.
Without fortitude, we could get sucked into this culture of hopelessness, faithlessness and lovelessness. Instead of giving up or fleeing in trial, Fortitude allows us to desire more than being fallen. The Lord has great plans to make us holy. He believes in us. However, if we don’t take up the virtue of fortitude, it will be difficult to truly become our best versions of ourselves as disciples of Jesus. Persevere and fight for Joy in Christ. In times of despair, cling desperately only to the Cross. The Lord desires more than happiness from earthly pleasures for us. He wants us to be filled with Joy in the Spirit, to receive the Joy of being His.
We can run with perseverance, by “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame (Heb 12:2). We need to practise Fortitude daily. Jesus seems to be the unpopular opinion in our culture today and sometimes we hide our Faith to fit in or avoid conflict. We need fortitude to stand up for the Gospel that we profess in our daily lives, even when it is uncomfortable. As Christians, it is our duty to profess the faith we believe in.
There is great Joy and Life found in Jesus Christ. Though not always easy, fortitude allows us to live with the unwavering conviction that Christ is alive and victory has been won. We fight our battles knowing that Christ is Savior and Christ is our reward.