The Moral Virtue of Fortitude – Part 2 of 2

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of fortitude by discussing three virtues associated with fortitude: magnanimity, magnificence, and patience.

The proper object of magnanimity is “to strengthen one’s soul in its effort to accomplish great acts in so far as great honours or great glory result therefrom.”

The sins opposed to magnanimity by excess are presumption, ambition, and vainglory. “Presumption inclines one to the performance of acts that are too much for one’s capabilities; ambition seeks honours greater than one deserves; and vainglory seeks some glory that has either no object, or that has an object of little worth, or which is not directed to the one true end which is the honour of God and the welfare of men.” Vainglory is a capital sin, for “it implies the showing off of one’s own excellence which one seeks in everything, and which may lead one to commit all manner of sins.” The offspring of vainglory are boasting, hypocrisy, stubbornness, discord, strife, and disobedience.

The sin opposed to magnanimity by defect is pusillanimity. This sin is “contrary to the natural law which inclines every being to act according to its capabilities.” It is “blameworthy not to make use of the powers and the means God has given us.” Pusillanimity should not be confused with true humility.

The virtue of magnificence “strengthens the soul in its effort to fulfil what is arduous as regards the expenses demanded by the undertaking of great works. This virtue presupposes great riches and the opportunity to dispense them, especially as regards the worship of God or the public welfare of a city or state.”

The sin opposed to magnificence by excess is extravagance, which “inclines one to expend unreasonably over and above what is necessary.” The sin opposed to magnificence by defect is stinginess, which “makes man begrudge and be unwilling to give even what is necessary for the undertaking of some work.”

The virtue of patience consists in “supporting, for the sake of the future life, all the troubles that come to us unceasingly in the present life, whether they be caused by life’s own whims or by the actions of others in their dealings with us.” Patience, longanimity, and constancy all help us “to bear the miseries of this life.” They are distinguished in this way: “patience helps us to bear especially the troubles which come about daily in our dealings with others; whereas longanimity bears us up against those troubles which arise from the delay of the realization of something for which we have to wait; and constancy buoys us up against the troubles which we encounter in the struggle to do good.”

The sin opposed to patience by excess is obstinacy, “which makes one persist in not giving way when it is reasonable to do so.” The sin opposed to patience by defect is lack of resistance, sometimes called effeminacy, “which makes one give way to the least difficulty or to the least fatigue.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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