From the HouseTops, Catholic Magazine

Saint Benedict Magazine

Fortitude

Persistant Constancy Through The Abiding
Presence of the Holy Ghost In The Soul

By Bede Jarrett, O.P.

After the intelligence comes the will  which also, because of the very  large part it plays in all human action,  needs to be perfected by the Holy  Spirit. It is necessary to repeat that  the Holy Spirit does not by His gifts  bestow on the soul new powers and  new faculties, but develops, refines,  perfects faculties  already there. It is not  the creation of new  eyes to see new visions,  but the strengthening of  the eye of the soul so  as to see more clearly  and with a longer sight.  

The will, then, has also  to be strengthened, for it is the will that  lies at the very heart of all heroism.  Merely to have a glimpse of greatness  is but part of a hero’s need. No doubt  it is a larger part, for very many of  us never by instinct at all touch on  the borders of greatness, we do not  see or understand how in our little  lives we can be great, we have not the  imagination lit up by God, no vision;  yet, when the vision fails, the people  shall perish. But even when that sudden  showing does by God’s mercy come to  us, we still fall far short of it. It is too  high, too ideal, too far removed from  weak human nature to seem possible  to us. That is to say, our will has failed  us. We are faced by some  huge obstacle, or even  by a persistent refusal  to budge on behalf of  someone (ourselves or  another) to go forward  and to do; we struggle,  fail, lose heart, surrender,  cease our efforts. What  do we want? Fortitude, that “persistive  constancy” that to Shakespeare was the  greatest quality of human wills.  How is this achieved? By  appreciating the nearness of God to us.  The gifts make us responsive to God  with an ease and instantaneousness  that operates smoothly and without  friction. That is God’s doing, not ours. 

By nature so many of us are prone to seek our own comforts
at the expense of what we know to be the higher side of us.

He gives us this wonderful power of  being able to register at once every  passing inspiration. The gifts that refine  the intelligence allow it to perceive  sights which else were hidden. The  gift that refines the will must do this  by some kind of kindred action. Now  the difficulties that beset the will  must necessarily be difficulties for  whose overcoming strength is needed.  Therefore the will must be refined by  being made strong. How can it be made  strong by the Holy Spirit? What exactly  happens to its mechanism to secure  for it the power of endurance? 

The  easiest way of understanding how this  effect is brought about is to suppose  that the soul by its refinement, by that  delicacy whereby it responds instantly  to a divine impression, is quickly aware  of God’s nearness to it. It perceives  how close it is to the Spirit of God,  and the sense of this nearness makes  it better able to hold on to its duty. 

In  the old method of warfare we often  read of wives and mothers coming to  the field of battle that their presence  might awake their men to the topmost  pitch of courage. Even in the modern  methods of fighting, the moral effect  of the emperor or king is considered  to have an effect upon the troops. Of  course, here it is more homely, since  the familiar presence of the Holy Spirit  strengthens and inspires by love, trust,  and sympathy.  For this reason, the name Comforter  was given to the Holy Spirit  in its original sense of strengthening,  becoming the fort of the soul; and  the result is that the recipient is able  to hold on or, carry on. 

By nature so  many of us are prone to seek our own  comforts at the expense of what we  know to be the higher side of us. Human  respect makes us again cowardly,  or the sheer monotony of perseverance  dulls and wearies the soul. We get so  depressed with the strain of making  efforts that we are very much inclined  to let the spiritual side of life go under,  or at least be rendered as little heroic  as possible, for it is real heroism even  just to “go on.” The “silent pressure”  of temptations, when their passion  and fury have died down, is a constant  worry, an unconscious weight on the  mind, like the thought of war that lies  heavily at the back of the consciousness  of those whose external lives  seem empty of war reminders. We  want to be courageous and fearless,  to undergo. Then we must hold fast to  God’s nearness to us, though He does  but touch the hem of our garments by  His indwelling. 

Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your arms; your faith your helmet;
your love, your spear; your endurance, your armor.
Let your good works be your deposits from your soldier’s wages,
so that you may receive back all that you have been careful to save.