The courage necessary in the practice of virtue

January 31, 2022 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 479
By Venerable Louis of Granada



Section I.

The Necessity of Courage.

The preceding chapter furnishes us with eyes to discern our duty, and this will furnish us with arms or courage to perform it.

There are two obstacles to virtue which vigilance and courage will overcome. The first is the difficulty of discerning what is good from what is evil; and the second is the labor of embracing the former and overcoming the latter. Vigilance meets the first difficulty; fortitude the second. These two virtues are indispensable, for without vigilance we are blind, without courage we are helpless.

The courage of which we are here treating is not the cardinal virtue of fortitude which calms our fears and strengthens us in affliction, but is rather a disposition of the soul which enables us to triumph over all obstacles to good. For this reason it ever accompanies virtue, sword in hand to vanquish all her foes.

As the blacksmith requires a hammer to beat the hard iron and shape it according to his will, so do we need courage, the spiritual hammer, with which we overcome the difficulties in the road to virtue and fashion our souls after our divine Model. Without this quality we can no more pursue virtue than a blacksmith can work without his hammer.

For what virtue is there that can be acquired without effort? Consider them one after another, prayer, fasting, temperance, obedience, poverty of spirit, chastity, humility, and you will find that all present some difficulty springing from self-love, the world, or the devil.

Therefore, if you sincerely desire to advance in virtue, consider the words spoken to Moses, by the God of all virtue and strength, as directly addressed to you: “Take this rod in thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs” [Exod. iv. 17.] that will deliver My people. Be assured that as the rod of Moses enabled him to effect the glorious deliverance of the children of Israel, so the rod of courage will enable you to work no less striking wonders, and to free yourself from your enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keep this rod, therefore, ever in your hand, for without it you will be utterly helpless.

Avoid, too, an illusion into which beginners in the spiritual life frequently fall. Having read in certain books of the ineffable consolations of the Holy Spirit, and the joys of God’s service, they persuade themselves that the path of virtue is filled with delights, and therefore, instead of entering it armed, to meet their enemies, they set out as if for a festival.

Truly the love of God is full of sweetness, but the way which leads to it contains much that is bitter, for self-love must first be conquered, and there is nothing harder to nature than to fight against it and all that it claims. This is the lesson we should learn from the prophet who says: “Shake thyself from the dust, arise, sit up, O Jerusalem.” [Isaias iii. 2.] Shake thyself from the dust of earthly affections; arise and combat before thou canst sit and rest.

It is also true that God favors with ineffable consolations souls who faithfully labor for Him, and renounce the pleasures of the world for those of Heaven. But this absolute renunciation is necessary, for while we refuse to sacrifice the joys of this life we shall seek in vain for the joys of the Holy Spirit. The manna was given to the children of Israel only when they had consumed the food which they brought with them from Egypt.

If, then, we do not arm ourselves with courage, our pursuit of virtue will be fruitless. Rest is attained only through labor; victory only through combat; joy only through tears; and the sweetness of God’s love only through hatred of self. For this reason the Holy Spirit, throughout the Proverbs of Solomon, so frequently condemns sloth and negligence, and so strongly commends vigilance and courage as the safeguards of virtue.

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