Recent Posts

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Strong Hearts, Strong Minds

A bishop reminded me that the word "courage" comes from the Latin word for heart "cor". Courage, fortitude, steadfastness are all names for the virtue which men and women receive , along with the Theological Virtues and the other three Cardinal Virtues, at baptism.

See the posts on these virtues.

Today, thinking of the apostles cowering in the room, not knowing what to do, I am reminded that we know what to do in the face of danger.

Why? We have fortitude, or courage. All of these virtues must be used or they will go into dormancy, like unwrapped presents put back into a cupboard.

Courage does not mean one does not experience fear, which is normal, in the face of danger, but this virtue does give one the ability to act uprightly despite the feeling of fear.

One continues standing up for one's faith in the face of danger. Fortitude brings us patience and perseverance, virtues which follow fortitude. The cardinal virtues lead to other virtues, just as the capital sins lead to other sins.

Some people say to me, "Well, I would like to be a martyr, but I do not know how I would react in the face of persecution."

Why not? Why does someone not know? We are in bootcamp daily. We have to stand up for our Faith in the work place, in our families, even in our parishes.

We are given many opportunities to grow in courage, to nurture fortitude.

The Church Militant needs Her confirmed laity to become saints.

We should know ourselves well enough to know how we would react to persecution.

Daily prayer prepares us. Not compromising the Faith cleanses our minds, imaginations, wills and places fear on the back burner. We learn to walk through fear.

Since I have been very young, when I was afraid to do something, I purposefully chose to do it.

Take that first dive off the high board, enter speech contests, work in the worst of ghetto neighborhoods, get on a plane by myself, move to another continent, face those who are immoral and heretical in Catholic schools, colleges, universities, in the Church, homeschool in the face of derision, and so on...I chose to go against fear.

I was not a foolhardy, choleric child, adolescent, or adult, but reflective. Fortitude is not connected to temperaments, but is a gift from God. We all have this from baptism and strengthened in confirmation.

Practice makes perfect, literally.

Sometimes people who have been away from the Faith for years fear going back to Confession. They actually have the virtue hiding under all that sin, like a jewel under a pile of dead leaves, only needing a choice of the will to activate the virtue, which would come "fully alive" when one is free of mortal sin. God gives us the grace to re-vert. He moves reason with grace and we choose.

Choices are so much harder to make when one is in mortal sin, as reason falls into darkness. All the virtues inform reason. We need that special grace of conversion from God.

All the virtues lead us back to God and can become habits, and if we turn against the movement of the virtues, either through fear, which means that one is choosing cowardice, a sin, or because of spiritual sloth, we fall into greater sins.

Here is Aquinas on the virtue of fortitude:

Two things must be considered in the operation of fortitude. One is in regard to its choice: and thus fortitude is not about sudden occurrences: because the brave man chooses to think beforehand of the dangers that may arise, in order to be able to withstand them, or to bear them more easily: since according to Gregory (Hom. xxv in Evang.), "the blow that is foreseen strikes with less force, and we are able more easily to bear earthly wrongs, if we are forearmed with the shield of foreknowledge." The other thing to be considered in the operation of fortitude regards the display of the virtuous habit: and in this way fortitude is chiefly about sudden occurrences, because according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iii, 8) the habit of fortitude is displayed chiefly in sudden dangers: since a habit works by way of nature. Wherefore if a person without forethought does that which pertains to virtue, when necessity urges on account of some sudden danger, this is a very strong proof that habitual fortitude is firmly seated in his mind.

And, here is the answer to those who do not know how they will react to persecution; if not habit, then reflection.

Yet is it possible for a person even without the habit of fortitude, to prepare his mind against danger by long forethought: in the same way as a brave man prepares himself when necessary. (Aquinas)

Sometimes people, even children, lie out of fear.

Lying must be seen as the unwillingness to suffer. Fortitude helps us to suffer.

Choose suffering, choose life, be of strong hearts, and strong minds.

Tomorrow, on the glorious feast of Easter, I shall review the other three cardinal virtues.