What will it cost?

During a recent conference the speaker recalled a quote taken from the film The Princess Diaries, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.” He used this quote to explain the cardinal virtue of fortitude. He went further to say that for one to exemplify fortitude one must have a stout heart, a heart that will not be confused by fear.

The Martyrdom of Saint Paul

The Martyrdom of Saint Paul

Fortitude, unlike the theological virtues, is not a gift of God through grace but the outgrowth of habit. While it is often understood to be synonymous with courage, it is considerably different in both meaning and action. When one exhibits fortitude one always acts in a reasoned and reasonable way, willing to place one’s self in danger if necessary, but without seeking danger for danger’s sake. Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome our fear and to remain steady in the face of danger; it is the courage to never give up on the good.

Fortitude is neither foolhardiness nor rashness, it is not “rushing in where angels fear to tread” but rather, as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, fortitude is the “curbing of recklessness.” In other words, placing our lives in unnecessary danger is not fortitude at all but simply foolishness.

There are times in which we may be called upon to pay the ultimate price in order to save our souls. We have seen this in recent days with those Christian martyrs who have been brutally and savagely murdered for refusing to renounce their faith in Syria and Iraq. Those martyrs who died exhibited the highest form of the virtue of fortitude. While they had no desire to become martyrs for their faith they resolutely faced their deaths rather than succumb to the fear of it and in doing so they elevated their virtue beyond the cardinal to the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit.

But the cardinal virtue of fortitude does not require or demand that one must pay the ultimate price. “It is what, as Christians, we must always have in mind in order to make our actions acceptable for eternal life. Our exercise is mainly not in war strictly so-called, but in moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous. We need courage also to be patient under poverty or privation, and to make laudable struggles to rise in the social scale. It requires fortitude to mount above the dead level of average Christianity into the region of magnanimity, and if opportunity allows it, of magnificence, which are the allied virtues of fortitude, while another is perseverance, which tolerates no occasional remissness, still less occasional bouts of dissipation to relieve the strain of high-toned morality and religion.”[1]

Within our society today we find ourselves far removed from the imminent threat of martyrdom but whether we will or will not be called to make such an unimaginable choice, we are called by God to have the moral courage, the fortitude to combat evil in all its forms.


[1] J. Rickaby, Fortitude, Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.ecatholic2000.com.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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