While counsel is the perfection of a cardinal virtue, fortitude is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a cardinal virtue. Fortitude is ranked as the fourth gift of the Holy Spirit because it gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel. While fortitude is sometimes called courage, it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than to renounce the Christian Faith.

Fortitude gives us the strength to be faithful to Christ even when it is difficult to do so. By the gift of Fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."

One of the Four Cardinal Virtues

Fortitude is one of the four cardinal virtues. As such, it can be practiced by anyone, since, unlike the theological virtues, the cardinal virtues are not, in themselves, the gifts of God through grace but the outgrowth of habit.

Fortitude is commonly called courage, but it is different from what much of what we think of as courage today. Fortitude is always reasoned and reasonable; the person exercising fortitude is willing to put himself in danger if necessary, but he does not seek danger for danger's sake.

 

The Third of the Cardinal Virtues

St. Thomas Aquinas ranked fortitude as the third of the cardinal virtues, because it serves prudence and justice, the higher virtues. Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it.

What Fortitude Is Not

Fortitude is not foolhardiness or rashness, "rushing in where angels fear to tread." Indeed, part of the virtue of fortitude, as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, is the "curbing of recklessness." Putting our bodies or lives in danger when it is not necessary is not fortitude but foolishness.

A Gift of the Holy Spirit

Sometimes, however, the ultimate sacrifice is necessary, in order to stand up for what is right and to save our souls. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs, who are willing to give their lives rather than to renounce their faith. That sacrifice may be passive—Christian martyrs do not actively seek martyrdom—but it is nonetheless determined and resolute.

It is in martyrdom that we see the best example of fortitude rising above a mere cardinal virtue (able to be practiced by anyone) into one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3. But it also shows itself, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "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."

Fortitude, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, also allows us to cope with poverty and loss, and to cultivate the Christian virtues that allow us to rise above the basic requirements of Christianity. The saints, in their love for God and their fellow man and their determination to do what is right, exhibit fortitude as a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, and not merely as a cardinal virtue.

Pope Francis Teaches On The Spiritual Gift of Fortitude

Pope Francis on the Spiritual Gift of Fortitude
Dear brothers and sisters!

In recent catechesis, we examined the first three gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding and counsel. Today we think about what the Lord does, He always comes to support us in our weakness with a special gift, the gift of fortitude .

1. There is a parable told by Jesus, which helps us to grasp the importance of this gift. A sower goes out to sow; not all the seed he sows, however, bears fruit. What ends up on the street is eaten by birds; what falls on stony ground or among thorns sprouting, but is soon dried by the sun or choked by the thorns. Only what ends up on the good soil can grow and bear fruit (cf. Mk 4.3 to 9 / / Mt 13:3-9 / / Luke 8.4 to 8 ) . 

As Jesus himself said to his disciples, the Father is the sower, who sows the seed of His Word abundantly. The seed, however, often clashes with the aridness of our hearts and, even when welcomed, is likely to remain sterile. 

Instead, with the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way. 

This is a real help, this gift of fortitude it gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.

2 . There are difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude is manifested in an extraordinary, exemplary way. This is the case of those who are facing particularly harsh and painful experiences, that disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones. 

The Church shines with the testimony of so many brothers and sisters who have not hesitated to give their lives, in order to remain faithful to the Lord and His Gospel. 

Even today there are numerous Christians in many parts of the world who continue to celebrate and witness to their faith with deep conviction and serenity, and resist even when they know that this can result in them paying a very high price. 

All of us know people, people who have experienced difficult situations, so much pain, let us think of those men and women who have a difficult life, who fight for the survival of their family, educate their children. 

They do this because the Spirit of fortitude helps them. 

How many, many men and women - whose names we do not know - honor our people, honor our Church because they are strong in carrying forward their lives, their work, their family, their faith - these our brothers and sisters are saints! 

Every day saints! Hidden saints among us! They have the gift of fortitude in carrying on in their duty as people, mother, father, brother, sister citizen. We have so many - so many. 

Let us thank the Lord for these Christians who are the hidden saints among us. It is the Spirit within who carries them forward and it would do us good to think of these people. If they do this, if they can do this then why not me and we ask the Lord to give us the gift of fortitude.

3 . With this, we must not think that the gift of fortitude is only necessary on some occasions or in certain situations. 

This gift must be the base note of our being Christians, in our ordinary everyday lives. As I said we must have fortitude in our everyday life as Christians we need this fortitude to carry on in our lives, our families our faith. Paul, the Apostle Paul, said something that it would do us all good to hear: "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Phil. 4:13).

In our everyday life, in difficult times it would do us good to say this "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me". The Lord always gives us strength, Lord never gives us more than we can handle, "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me".

Dear friends, sometimes we may be tempted to allow ourselves be overtaken by laziness or despondency, especially when faced with the hardships and trials of life. In these cases, do not lose heart, but invoke the Holy Spirit, so that with the gift of fortitude He can lift our hearts and communicate new vigor and enthusiasm to our lives and our following Jesus.

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Prayer

O Spirit of Wisdom, preside over all my thoughts, words and actions, from this hour until the moment of my death. Spirit of Understanding, enlighten and teach me. Spirit of Counsel, direct my inexperience. Spirit of Fortitude, strengthen my weakness. Spirit of Knowledge, instruct my ignorance. Spirit of Piety, make me fervent in good works. Heavenly Spirit, make me persevere in the service of God, and enable me to act on all occasions with goodness and kindness, charity and joy, with long-suffering, mildness and fidelity. Let the heavenly virtues of modesty, continency and chastity, adorn the temple you have chosen for your abode. Spirit of Holiness, by your all powerful grace, preserve me from the misfortune of sin. Amen.
Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
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