What is Fortitude?
If you have ever watched a football game you know that the goal of the game is for your team to get the ball across your goal line, a touchdown. You also know that the person who is running with the football has many players from the other team trying to stop him and take him down. The other team does not want your team to reach the goal line and will make it difficult for your team to reach its goal. This is also true in our lives. We have a goal and things will make that difficult to accomplish. This is why we need fortitude.
Your biggest and most important goal is to be in perfect union with God. This perfect unity can only happen in heaven, but you can work in many ways here on earth to be united more fully God. You are called to know God, love him, and serve him always. This can be difficult at times, but practicing virtues help! Fortitude is the virtue that helps you stay committed to Jesus and his teachings especially when you encounter obstacles. Fortitude is being brave for God and doing what he wants you to do in the best way you can even when it’s hard.
Below are some of the virtues of fortitude. Take some time to read over these and think about ways to practice them in your life.
Magnanimity means being great of mind and heart. Magnanimous people are fixed on thinking about and desiring to do great things for God. It’s not really about wanting to do big things that get a lot of attention. Magnanimity is about wanting to do all things well, whether big or small. Practice being ready and willing to do what is good and right to the best of your ability. You are good and made in God’s image and likeness. God created you for a mission and he wants you to desire to do his work. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The ways of the Lord are not comfortable. But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness.” Be great by loving like God loves and strive to become a saint.
Magnanimity is about seeking to do great things and magnificence is actually doing great things. Magnificence helps you accomplish what you have already set out to do. This virtue helps you diligently complete any task that you have been given by doing it well whether it is your homework or a household chore. Being magnificent is about doing more than you have to, making an extra sacrifice, and choosing to do the harder task if given the choice. Practice magnificence by doing a good task in the best way you can. If there is room for improvement, then work on improving it. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Do small things with great love.” (Color and hang up the quote page as a reminder.) When you can put great love, the love of God, into your actions you are being magnificent! Check out the “Magnanimity and Magnificence” worksheet in the resource section.
Patience helps you stick to doing the right thing when it is painful and difficult. Practicing patience helps you from getting easily frustrated, mad, or sad when doing what God wants you to do is hard. A patient person endures his difficulty without complaining and continues to trust in God. Some ways to practice patience are to calmly wait your turn, do not complain if something unpleasant lasts for a long time, offer to be the last person in line, and learn to pray when you are waiting for something.
Perseverance is staying committed to your good goal or action. Don’t give up! If you are trying to accomplish a goal, do not let distractions, temptations, or laziness keep you from completing it.
At times we may all experience timidity, which are moments where we avoid doing what is right because we are afraid. We may fail to stand up for a friend who is being bullied or pray before eating our meal because we are afraid others may make fun of us. There may also be times where we do not feel scared and act foolishly by doing things that are unnecessary, dangerous, and not very smart. The virtue of fortitude helps us overcome being timid and foolish. Acts of fortitude will require overcoming some obstacle or difficulty. Many times making sacrifices are necessary do what God wants you to do. You may have to sacrifice your time, effort, comfort, or popularity to do God’s will. There are some people who have even sacrificed their lives for Christ. These people are called martyrs. Martyrs provide a great example of the practice of fortitude because they bravely faced death for the sake of Jesus. Use the “Research a Martyr” worksheet to help you learn more about martyred saints.
The Bible and Fortitude
A great story in the Bible about fortitude is the story of David and Goliath. You can find the whole story in 1 Samuel 15-17, but here is a summary:
Saul was the king of Israel at the time, but God became displeased with Saul because he was not listening to God. So God told a priest and prophet named Samuel to anoint another king to take Saul’s place. God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint a young shepherd boy named David to be the next king. Samuel did as he was told, and after David was anointed he started working for King Saul. David’s brothers also went to work for King Saul as members of his army to help battle their enemy, the Philistines. One day when David was bringing food to his brothers who were on the battlefield, he saw Goliath for the first time. Now Goliath was a very big Philistine who would yell at and insult the Israelites. He would challenge the Israelites by saying, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together” (1 Samuel 17:8-10). Everyone else was scared to fight Goliath since he was so mean and big, but when David heard this he went to King Saul asking if he could fight the Philistine. At first King Saul said David was too young. David explained to Saul that when he was a shepherd he had to protect his flock by fighting off bears and lions. David was confident that he since he was kept safe from the bears and lions that God would also keep him safe from Goliath. David came to battle with a slingshot and five stones while Goliath came to the battle with a sword, a spear, and another sword with a curved blade. With one stone that came flying from his sling, David hit Goliath in the head and he fell down in defeat. David showed much fortitude and trusted in the Lord.
You may never have to fight an actual giant, but you will encounter obstacles and trials that may seem scary and difficult. You can think of the example of David and how he trusted in God and persevered. Check out the “David and Goliath” coloring page to remind you of this story of fortitude.
Prayer for Fortitude
Lord, I want to be brave for you. I want to stay committed to you and your teachings. Help me to grow in the virtue of fortitude so I may do your will and not give up when things get hard. Teach me to practice patience and perseverance in times of difficulty. I want to honor you, Lord, in all I do whether it’s big or small. Give me a heart like yours so I can do all things with great love. Amen
Suggestions for Practicing Fortitude
- Stand up for someone who is being mistreated.
- Make a list of some things that frighten you. Now write some steps you can take to be stronger when those fears arise.
- Read stories about saints who were martyred or persecuted.
- Practice praying in public (For example, cross yourself and pray when you’re out to eat or before a sporting event.)
- Find a Bible verse about fortitude or courage and memorize it.