Fortitude – Endurance in clinging to the good

Today I listened to a talk given by a friend on the virtue of fortitude. The subject of this talk reminded me of Sandro Botticelli’s depiction of Fortitude (1470), which is in the Uffizi in Florence. While it’s displayed in a set with six other paintings of virtues, this panel is the only one in the cycle that was painted by Botticelli.

It has been suggested that Fortitude appears first in the series because her “gaze is intended to literally and figuratively watch over the other virtues as well as the viewers. Without strength, one can never fathom taking on the other six virtues.”

My friend’s talk centred on Josef Pieper’s analysis of fortitude in his book The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance. In it, he discusses how “the virtue of fortitude protects a person from loving his life in such a way that he loses it.” This means that fortitude protects a person from attachment both to disordered affections but also to certain goods that are meant to be subordinated to higher ones. Continue reading “Fortitude – Endurance in clinging to the good”

The proper rites

“‘It would have been better to come back at the same hour,’ said the fox. ‘If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .'” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince 

With everyone’s lives dramatically changed because of the pandemic, many are discussing – from joking (see tweets) to seriously weighing – how to give order and structure to our days in these unusual circumstances. Continue reading “The proper rites”

An Antidote to Indifference

Many things come back to me in this season and today I recalled this excerpt from Josef Pieper’s memoir No One Could Have Known. In it, Pieper recalls, amidst his adventurous student days, making a thirty-day silent retreat.

He says:

What awaited me, as one of a group of fifteen to twenty companions was precisely that kind of “initiation” into adulthood that, at the age of twenty-one, I needed: reflection, in complete silence, on the fundamentals of my own existence. Often enough, when I tell people about this, they shake their heads in disbelief, or even in horror, and ask me how it was possible to endure that kind of thing, and for thirty days! Nowadays let no one dare suggest that youngsters should put up with even three days of silence! This timidity seems to me just as absurd as if one were to say to someone: Listen very carefully; but of course, if you want to, while you are doing it, you can look through a magazine or whistle a tune. ‘Reason’ comes from ‘perceiving’ and no one can perceive anything unless he is quiet; only the silent person can hear things.

Continue reading “An Antidote to Indifference”