The Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude helps a man take on and achieve great accomplishments and is opposed by a number of vices which weaken and deter a man. Human Fortitude can be supernaturally infused by the Holy Spirit through the Gift of Fortitude. To grow in Fortitude, a man needs to build several habits which allow him to aspire to achieve a heroic mission and persevere through difficulties and opposition.
The Virtue of Fortitude
“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” (CCC 1808). Fortitude includes a man’s willingness to properly face danger, to battle against injustice, to take on and achieve great things, and to patiently endure and persevere when things become difficult.
Vices against Fortitude
In opposition to the virtue of Fortitude are a number of vices which defy a single word description and will be described in more detail below. Opposing taking on and achieving great things are the vices of aspiring to small things and being satisfied with trivial results. Opposing the taking of right action in the face of danger is the vice by which a man either cringes from action or overreacts foolishly. Opposing the willingness to patiently endure and persevere in difficulty, are the vices of losing the will to endure and persevere. The man who lacks Fortitude experiences the pain fear, failure, shame, self-doubt, public rejection of failure.
The Gift of Fortitude
To help a man grow in Fortitude, the Holy Spirit gives a receptive man the Gift of Fortitude which fills a man with the supernatural wisdom, strength and steadfastness to properly face danger and persevere under the most difficult circumstances and persecutions, even to the point of death by martyrdom.
The Parts of Fortitude
Fortitude has several parts, or sub-virtues, each of which are opposed by various vices:
Magnanimity is the good habit of a man who imagines, is inspired, and motivated to pursue great things which are extraordinary in their ability to serve God and others and are difficult to achieve, greatness which appears to be large on human scale (building a great charity or cathedral) or can appear to be relatively minor but have great impact (heroically passing on the faith to children). The truly Magnanimous man does great things for the glory of God and His Holy Catholic Church and with unselfish service to others.
Opposing Magnanimity are several vices: the vice of Presumption by which a man foolishly aspires to wild dreams beyond his capacity. The vice of Sinful Ambition which seeks to do great things for selfish riches and honors, and, vice of Vainglory, the desire for praise for unworthy things and/or unworthy people.
Magnificence is the good habit of a man who, after aspiring to Magnanimity, puts forth the extraordinary effort to bring his noble aspirations into concrete reality, investing his time, talent, and money with selfless generosity for a noble cause. The Magnificent man is not a dreamer but a doer of great things for the glory of God and His Church.
Opposing Magnificence are several vices including Littleness, Miserliness and Prodigality. The vice of Littleness is a habit of a weak man who is satisfied by achieving little or nothing when great accomplishments lie within his power. The vice of Miserliness is a habit of a man who refuses to invest in great causes and instead clings to his time, money, and possessions. The vice of Prodigality (wastefulness) is a habit of a man who foolishly spends extravagantly on things that don’t matter and exceeds what is necessary to achieve noble results.
Courage is the good habit of a man who when faced with danger which is appropriately to be feared, bravely faces down that fear with proper good sense in a deliberate way to serve God and others. The Courageous man is often fueled by righteous anger against a deliberate evil, persecution or a dangerous situation with firm resolve, even to the point of martyrdom for the sake of being a faithful witness for Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.
Opposing Courage are the vices of Cowardliness and Rashness. Cowardliness by which a timid man, driven by excessive sinful fear, shrinks and avoids taking proper action to defend the faith, protect others and oppose evil or dangerous situations. The vice of Rashness, by which a man, driven by the desire for personal glory, stupidity or disgust of life, foolishly puts himself or others at unnecessary risk by taking unreasonably daring, impulsive, and ineffective actions.
Perseverance is the good habit of a man who, with unshakeable will, sustains strong effort and action to achieve his noble purpose when confronted by obstacles, delays, fatigue, and temptations. The man who Perseveres also endures great suffering with grace and refuses to complain or quit, which is especially virtuous when he is under the duress of persecution for the Catholic faith.
Opposing Perseverance are the vices of Effeminacy and Stubbornness. The vice of Effeminacy (or Softness) is the vice of a man who fails to give God and others their due by weakly giving up in the face of weariness and difficultly, often quitting far before he reaches his true limits. The vice of Stubbornness is a vice of a man who, with foolish pride or ignorance, continues to doggedly pursue that which should be rightly abandoned for it is unobtainable or is not consistent with God’s will.
Patience is the good habit of a man of the world who accepts the Sorrows that result from pain in his life and continues with unbroken spirit to seek to achieve his goals. The Patient man recognizes and bears Sorrows in his life by resolutely accepting the suffering of voluntary sacrifices, ignoring many rude and annoying acts of others while being inwardly forgiving and empathetic, and selectively bearing the often difficult and painful responsibility to admonish others when necessary to do so.
Opposing Patience is the vice of Impatience by which a man lacks the maturity and love to patiently bear the Sorrows in his life. The Impatient man avoids necessary suffering to achieve goals and quickly acts to reduce his Sorrows by lashing out at others who offend or bore him, either directly or with a quiet simmering anger and resentment, or by coldly avoiding people or situations which upset him.