Tag Archives: will

28 September: Fortitude V, Fortitude and the True Self

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Today is the feast of Saint Wenceslas, King of Bohemia. Gathering around his statue helped people to develop and exercise fortitude in times of oppression and eventually to win freedom for their country.

 

What does fortitude do for us in these painful situations? Does it make us invulnerable? Does it make us completely fearless? Does it make us feel strong? The answer to all these questions is no. We will need fortitude as long as we are alive, and we will be vulnerable as long as we are alive. We will never be without the need of this virtue. Fortitude is about helping us to be strong, but it will not make us feel strong.

Then, what kind of strength are we talking about here? We do not have a “fortitude button” in our hearts, that we can turn on whenever we need it. But, fortitude does get help from the other virtues, so that it can become part of our character as a human being, part of our personality. This is where we can return to our reflections on the virtue of prudence. Prudence gives us the ability both to see reality and to see the good for which we are striving. This identification of and commitment to the good in a given situation is the vital thing that sustains us in situations requiring fortitude. Sometimes a situation is confusing, and there are several good things that seem to be in conflict. We can find it hard to identify which good thing we should be focused on. We often need the counsel of a wise person to help us sort through the confusion, and to gain clarity. Once we do, however, then we need fortitude so that we do not begin sliding back because of the pull of our emotions. Fortitude strengthens us on the level of our will, so that we become able to hold fast to that which we perceive to be good and true and worth suffering for. In this way, we become able to handle the emotional reactions that can otherwise be overwhelming in the face of danger or difficulty.

St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of these emotional reactions by using the concepts of fear and of daring. In his thinking, the fear and the daring are on opposite sides. Because of fear, he says, we simply want to run away from the threatening thing. If we do that, though, then as St. Thomas puts it, the will withdraws from following what the reason knows to be right, good and true. This is where fortitude helps us to become the person we really want to be, for we lose something vital here on the level of personal integrity if we run away from everything that is difficult and emotionally threatening. By holding firm to our convictions and principles, even at great personal cost, we grow. We become recognisable as someone whose actions match up to our system of values. It is not easy to be such a person. Fortitude is about this kind of growth.

At the other extreme from fear, there is the tendency to be “daring” in the face of danger – by which St. Thomas means that, rather than try to escape, we race headlong into a dangerous situation ‘without taking counsel’, and in a manner that is not helpful to anyone, but only makes the situation worse. While there can be a time when a situation truly calls for a kind of bravery that advances into battle against the enemy, for St. Thomas, this is precisely what “daring” does not do. Daring, in his thinking, seems to be another word for a knee-jerk reaction, which dashes precipitately into the face of danger, taking foolhardy risks, endangering oneself or others unnecessarily.

In other cases, as St. Thomas points out with shrewd awareness of human nature, the person reacts by both running away from and running toward danger. He quotes Aristotle here and says, ‘Some hurry to meet danger, yet fly when the danger is present. This is not the behaviour of a brave man’ (see S. T., II, II, 123, 6). This brief sketch perfectly captures the personality of someone who talks big, but cannot cope with real danger.

For further study:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church ,Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1994

The Four Cardinal Virtues, Joseph Pieper, University of Notre Dame Press

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/

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8 May: In the place of God’s presence

ruined abbey

Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it

…this is the house of God, the gate of heaven.

Genesis 28: 16-17

Every place is the house of God, the gate of heaven. Often, when pushed and pulled by noise and movement, it seems God is nowhere – but break the word open and you have the truth: God is now – here.

How do we become awake and receptive to this presence? We might try two things:

The first: To find or create a physical space in our home or environment where we purposefully [and regularly] go to be open to God.

This is likely to be somewhere where we feel at home or comfortable. It could be a corner of a room in the house, where a chair waits, a candle just sitting there invites you to light it and a bible rests ready to restore your soul. Such a space works in a similar way that a church building does. A church is made of bricks and mortar like so many other buildings but you know when you enter why you are going there. Walking in, sitting down, you become open to God who is in that place. The dedicated space in your home becomes your ‘church’; through daily practice you have only to go there to begin the act of prayer.

Your ‘holy’ place could also be a garden shed, a bench in the park where you sit in your lunchbreak, or a place where you regularly walk. What helps is to make your going to whatever space you choose intentional, in just the same way that you choose to visit a friend or family member.

The second: Each day to purposefully seek God in a place that up to now we have found uncomfortable and that seems to work against any sense of God’s presence.

I can think of a few: For example, I rarely enjoy walking along Borough High Street, near London Bridge, where I sometimes work. There is no green of tree or plant to soften the concrete. The pavements are thronged with people walking against the flow of wherever it is I want to get to. The traffic is noisy. Why even try to seek God here? Because God is here and now. So as I walk along I breathe out my hurry and worry, and breathe in God with me. I pause long enough to see the faces that pass me, the cars moving by, the sky framed by the buildings and ask the Lord to help me see well, with an open mind and heart. Perhaps I will hold the line of a psalm as I walk along, dodging those who cannot see because their eyes are trained on the screen of their mobiles.

Where is such a place for you – somewhere that is a regular part of your life? Or perhaps it will be a time of day more than a physical place: perhaps the time when you first get in from work and all the emails are awaiting you, or the commute home on a busy train.

Seek God there, and you will find. It may not be anything dramatic or immediate. God inhabits the ordinary, and moves within the waiting heart.

CC.

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Easter Tuesday 18th April, 2017: Let God lead the way.

Easter Tuesday

Image from http://www.metrovoice.net/2009/0409_stlweb/0409_articles/crushing_weight_of_the_gethsemane.html

Jesus, in order to redeem the world, had to go through a trial – a period in which he had to give up his life. Christ almost wanted to avoid it, but he surrendered to the will of his Father, I would say there was a time in my life I didn’t want to continue living. I told God “that is it, I have had enough.” Often, I pray “let the will of God be done” but sometimes the will of God is not always as sweet or simple as I would wish it.

I was having difficulty singing – not that I didn’t have a good voice to sing, but I found that in the middle of the singing my voice would change completely. The most painful thing was, I was always reminded of how my voice affected everyone. My last option was to stop singing.

One day, I thought: “what if I ask God to sing in me?” At that moment, I decided to hand over the situation to God, to lead the way.

My singing pattern changed. I became happy with myself. Only through God and in God can I/we achieve that which seems impossible in the eyes of men and women.

We are celebrating today the resurrection of Christ because Christ relied on and believed in his Father’s ability to see him through his agony. So it shall be for all of us who believe and trust in God. We shall be victorious no matter what challenge we face in our life’s journey.

FMSL

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5 April: We who are made brave and afraid.

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God … Counts every tree, Makes every leaf.

Lent is a chance to sort ourselves out – a little at least. But as the first verse of Radclyffe Hall’s poem asks, ‘What can we do?’ I can remember understanding, from an early age, that there was a competitive edge to Lent: who could perform the most penances, collect the most pennies for the missions …WRONG!  the second verse reminds us to seek God in it all. Let’s not lose sight of that quest this Lent.

W

WE

 

We who are made
Brave yet afraid,
Happy yet sad,
Good and yet bad,
Sane and yet mad,
What can we do?
Turmoil and strife,
Passion and life,
Love and desire,
Can these inspire
Spiritual fire?
How can we live?
Stumbling feet,
Tasks incomplete,
Longings that kill
Even the will,
Left to fulfil,
How can we die?


Little have we
Bond and yet free,
Strong and yet weak,
Proud and yet meek,
Save but to seek
God in it all.
God with His hands
Holds all the lands;
Rules every sea,
Sets the winds free,
Counts every tree,
Makes every leaf.
Then shall we fear?
He placed us here.
If God commands
God understands,
Ponders, and plans;
Knowing it all.

 

 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/49277/49277-h/49277-h.htm

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16 March, Human Will XI: Conscience and Freedom.

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Fr Daniel Weatherley of St Thomas’ Church in Canterbury continues our reflections on the Will with his thoughts on Thomas’s choice to follow his conscience and God’s will.

It would be easy to look at the martyrdom of St. Thomas in a rather narrow and triumphalist way as the authority of the Church ultimately winning over the State.

Thomas refused to allow divine law to succumb to the earthly, giving his life in its cause…yet, after his murder, the King repented – so all is settled nicely: Thomas is a martyr and the King has admitted his fault and made his peace. End of the story…?

Far from it. Thomas’ self-sacrifice teaches us something more than just the authority of one institution over another. It is certainly true that the divine law can never be dictated to by an earthly one. Indeed, the Gospel must be permitted to critique society: so that earthly matters might be enlightened by the divine.

But Thomas’ supreme testimony is to the primacy of conscience.

In accepting and following the voice of his conscience, fed by divine law and strengthened through a life of piety and devotion, Thomas exercised the true freedom of one whose house is built upon rock, not sand. Like another Thomas, four centuries later, the human pain of becoming an enemy of one who was a close friend did not weaken his resolve to serve God above all others. And in choosing the ‘narrow way’ of integrity and obedience he won for God countless souls who were to flock on pilgrimage to the site where he laid down his life.

We today will do the greatest honour to Thomas (and give glory to God) by doing all we can to feed, nurture and sharpen our consciences by immersion in the Word of God, the teachings of Holy Mother Church and the Holy Sacraments, with a humble confidence that Jesus Christ will transform us and, through us, the world around us.

Seven centuries after Thomas’ martyrdom Cardinal Newman raised his glass to the Pope – but to conscience first. There is a tendency for us to see conscience as ‘choosing what I prefer to do’ rather than the God-given faculty which enables me to exercise my freedom in choosing what would most please Him, and bring about the highest good, even though it may well cause me more suffering in the short term.

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