VIRTUES: Fortitude, by Robert F. Morneau

Fortitude Robert F. Morneau

From: Pathways to Community

1. Be Not Afraid

Fear, like anger, is one of those universal emotions. When suffering and death approach us, we are afraid. Great courage is needed by warriors in battle, by patients facing terminal illnesses, by everyone who encounters the “slings and arrows” of life. The immediate impulse is to deny the danger if we can and if not, to run away. The person of fortitude and courage stays the course. For many that steadfastness is grounded in a faith that knows the support and presence of God. For others, the knowledge that others are with them as a supportive community enables this virtue to grow and become strong. The constant refrain arising out of the Bible is, do not be afraid.

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid. I go before you always.
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side,
know that I am with you through it all.

Blessed are your poor, for the kingdom shall be theirs.
Blessed are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh.
And if wicked tongues insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you!
(Robert J. Dufford)

Lord Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane you experienced our human condition in a powerful way. And even though your friends slept, failing to offer you the assistance you desired, you courageously drank the cup of suffering. Give us such courage, for we are weak and vulnerable creatures. Amen.

2. No Fright

It is a serious mistake to travel alone. Left to ourselves we become increasingly vulnerable. We need the support of family and friends; we need the support of the saints and angels. If our faith is strong, we will have the assurance that God’s protective concern will be with us. Mary, the Queen of Heaven, not only intercedes for us but sends forth the great Michael to assist us in the battles of life.


Michael is a prince of God and page of Mary.
He stands beside the tall throne of his Queen.
He is the warrior who made peace in Heaven
and keeps the Earth serene.

Then why should I take fright when foes or demons
assail me with their treacheries or wrath,
when I have knowledge that the Queen’s archangel
is keeper of my path?

O heart believe. The great winged prince of Heaven
watches the Queen’s child with a warrior’s eye
and lifts his flaming spear and comes like lightening
at the first cry.
(Jessica Powers)

Lord Jesus, you promise us your protection as we journey through life. Send your angels to be with us lest we fall. The dangers are many and the darkness is deep. Please make haste to help us. Amen.

3. An Ode of Courage

Discerning God’s will in a particular situation can be extremely difficult. Often our plans push for great achievement and productivity. We measure our service to God in light of bearing much fruit. Sometimes, however, God is served best by enduring the crosses sent our way. And what a cross blindness is, midway through life! To embrace this crux with patience (even joy) may well be God’s will. John Milton demonstrates that noble courage and fortitude that makes us stand in awe.

When I consider how my light is spent

When I consider how my light is spent
E’re half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
Doth God exact day-labor, light deny’d,
I fondly ask; But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly, Thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.
(John Milton)

Lord Jesus, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross and watched and waited. Give us the courage to stand near our suffering brothers and sisters. May our presence be a support to them. Amen.

4. The Great Mother Virtue

Courage counters the deep proclivity to flee danger and hardship. Quitting can easily become a way of life. It can happen in marriages and friendships, in jobs and sports. As soon as a major obstacle presents itself, we are out the back door. I don’t need this, is the conventional wisdom. This response erodes our moral character. Testings and temptations will come. The question will be: Have we prepared to deal with Fortune’s “slings and arrows” through discipline and training?

Early in my life I came to think of courage as the great Mother Virtue and of endurance as its chief manifestation. The patterns that have dominated my life have supported this view, and long ago it was expressed in mottoes on my bookplate: Don’t be a quitter; stay and break even; I win by delays.

In later years, when I had accumulated some knowledge of Fortune’s “slings and arrows,” I was able to write, with deep conviction and a soul-freeing sense of acceptance: Learn to work with a joyous absence of hope. John and I sometimes created absurd hardships by way of testing ourselves, like plodding all night on muddy roads in a pouring rain or walking forty-five miles without food or water.

That blizzard morning, as in other times of testing, there seemed to be two of me – the one who fought the storm, prevailing against it, and the other who observed the battle and was proud of me.
(John G. Neihardt)

Lord Jesus, it was in the desert that you were tested and again in the garden. Grant us the grace of your courage to endure hardships, to stay the course. Amen.

5. Letting Courage Loose

Just as an unexpected gift issues forth in thanksgiving, so, too, there are certain stimuli that activate the virtue of courage in the human heart. For some, fortitude emerges from a dream of some distant goal or the humble service of a Mother Teresa. For others, being affirmed by a teacher or encountering a crisis can stir a person to mighty deeds. Blessed is the person who experiences the letting loose of courage.

The great thing which the higher excitabilities give is courage; and the addition or subtraction of a certain amount of this quality makes me a different man, a different life. Various excitements let the courage loose. Trustful hope will do it; inspiring example will do it; love will do it; wrath will do it. In some people it is natively so high that the mere touch of danger does it, though danger is for most men the great inhibitor of action.
(William James)

Lord Jesus, your very Incarnation is cause for courage. You emptied yourself and came among us in total self-offering. May the example of this sacrifice be forever a witness of Christian courage for us all. Amen.

6. Fortitude: Biggest Thing We Can Have

In Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, the southern lawyer demonstrates tremendous courage in his defense of an innocent man accused of murder. Against all odds, the lawyer held his ground knowing full well that in a racist culture he had no chance of winning the case. More, by defending a black man in a white society, he and his family would endure shunning. One reason why the book and, later, the award winning movie, made such a deep impression is precisely that we are in such dire need of models of fortitude. This moral virtue is in short supply in our times.

But the big courage is the cold-blooded kind, the kind that never lets go even when you’re feeling empty inside, and your blood’s thin, and there’s no kind of fun or profit to be had, and the trouble’s not over in an hour or two but lasts for months and years. One of the men here was speaking about that kind, and he called it “Fortitude.” I reckon fortitude’s the biggest thing a man can have – just to go on enduring when there’s no guts or heart left in you. Billy had it when he trekked solitary from Garungoze to the Limpopo with fever and a broken arm just to show the Portugooses that he wouldn’t be downed by them. But the head man at the job was the Apostle Paul.
(John Buchan)

Lord Jesus, by your suffering and death, you have modeled for us the virtue of courage. When we face danger and harm, give us your strength to endure. When we are tempted to flee, give us the grace of fortitude. Amen.

7. Courage & Hope

In the diary of Anne Frank, we read of a young girl, surrounded by the threat of capture and deportation to a concentration camp, who continues to do her history lessons. Is this not a witness to hope and an example of supreme fortitude? Here is a young girl who does not let the forces of evil quell her spirit. She will live life as fully as possible in the midst of imminent danger. Anne Frank’s legacy of courage, her diary, has inspired thousands upon thousands of readers. Anne Frank’s courage has encouraged many to endure the perilous journey of life.

The kind of courage I am interested in here is linked to hopes for human creation, justice, or compassion; that is, linked to other gestures of humanitas – the artist who, against all odds and even in failing health, strives to finish his creative act; the man who risks his life to defend or save innocent victims of oppression; the man who sacrifices his own interests and comfort to come to the aid of afflicted fellow men.
(Peter Berger)

Lord Jesus, you have a plan for each of us. Instill in us the grace of hope so that as we venture into the future we will have the courage to do whatever you ask of us. May discouragement not conquer our hearts but rather may your fortitude strengthen us to embrace what will come. Amen.

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