French Revolutionaries at the Carmelite gate. “Nuns under Threat”, painting by Eugene de Blaas.
Fortitude is the virtue by which the appetites and passions are guided by the rational soul with courage and constancy.* It helps us brave the greatest dangers and resist intense persecution and obstacles so that we might achieve our goals.
Painting by W. F. Yeames, shows a Royalist family who have been captured by the enemy. The boy is being questioned about the whereabouts of his father by a panel of Parliamentarians.
The virtue of fortitude is perfected by the gift of fortitude. This gift of the Holy Ghost is a supernatural habit that strengthens the soul and gives us a relentless vigor and superhuman energy in the practice of virtue. It awakens in us the unshakeable hope of final victory, enables us to suffer extreme pain with patience and joy and makes us heroes in things great and small. By this gift, we can completely overcome all lukewarmness in the service of God.
Nurses tending the wounded in Poitiers. Painting by Henri Gervex.
From fortitude comes magnanimity, which is the virtue that inclines one to perform great and splendid acts worthy of honor. Also part of fortitude is the virtue of magnificence which leads one to undertake splendid and great projects without being discouraged by their magnitude, difficulty, or expense. These are companion virtues that are incompatible with mediocrity and presuppose noble and lofty souls.
* Saint Thomas Aquinas cites Cicero (Rhet. ii), who affirms that “fortitude is the deliberate facing of dangers and bearing of toils” (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 123, a. 9). “He will be called brave who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree of this kind” (Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, trans. W. D. Ross, in The Works of Aristotle: II, vol. 9 of Great Books of the Western World, 361).
John Horvat, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 301.