Category Archives: Perseverance

Gift of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude/Perseverance

CCC 1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” Ps 118:14 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that by Your grace I may persevere unto the end.

MEDITATION

To become a saint, it is not enough to be courageous and patient and to practice the other virtues for a few days or a few months, or even for a few years. Our perseverance must persevere in these dispositions to the end of our life, never yielding to fatigue, discouragement, or laxity. This is the crucial point for, as St. Thomas says, “to apply oneself for a long time to a difficult task—and virtue is almost always difficult—constitutes a special difficulty” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.137, a.1, co.); and it is only by overcoming this difficulty that we shall be able to reach perfection. We are not angels, we are human beings. The angel, a pure spirit, is stable by nature; if he makes a resolution, he holds to it; but this is not the case with us. We, being composed of spirit and matter, must suffer the consequences of the instability and fluctuations of the latter. As stability is characteristic of spirit, so instability is characteristic of matter; hence it becomes so difficult for us to be perfectly constant in the good. Although we have formed good resolutions in our mind, we always feel handicapped by the weakness of the sensible part of our nature which rebels against the weariness of sustained effort, and seeks to free itself from it, or at least to reduce it to a minimum. Our bodies are subject to fatigue; our minds are disturbed by emotions which are always fluctuating. That which at one moment fills us with enthusiasm may, at the next, become distasteful and annoying to such a point that we think we can no longer endure it. This is our state while on earth and no one can escape it. However, God calls us all to sanctity, and since sanctity requires a continual practice of virtue, He, who never asks the impossible, has provided a remedy for the instability of our nature by giving us the virtue of perseverance, the special object of which is the sustaining of our efforts. Though fickle by nature, we can by the help of grace become steadfast.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, I shall certainly be saved if I persevere to the end, but my perseverance must be virtuous if it is to merit salvation; from You comes the virtue which will save me; it is You Who make me persevere until I attain salvation.

“At present, I am still engaged in battle: the struggle from without against false virtue, the struggle from within against my concupiscence. When I think of the number of little faults which I commit every day, even if only in thought and word, I realize that their number is very great, and that this great number of little failings makes an immense heap. O unhappy that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? You will deliver me, O God, by Your grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ, Your Son and Our Lord. In the toil of this battle, then, I shall look to Your grace and, in the heat and burning thirst which I feel, I will beg for Your life-giving shade.

“Help me, O Lord Jesus, by saying to me: ‘Do not tire of the narrow way: I walked it before you, I am the way Itself; I am the guide, and I carry those whom I lead and bring them to Myself at the last.’” (St. Augustine).

“O eternal God, grant me the virtue of perseverance; without it, no one can please You nor be acceptable to You. This virtue brings to the soul an abundance of charity and the fruit of every effort. Oh! how happy I should be, Lord, if You would give me this virtue, because even here on earth it will make me enjoy a pledge of eternal life. But Your light reveals to me that I cannot attain it unless I suffer much, because this life cannot be lived without suffering. He who would escape suffering would deprive himself of holy perseverance” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

Final Perseverance


-Stations of the Cross, Pasierbiec, Poland, using Saints and other heroic Catholics from Poland. The Station in question thus substitutes Saint John Paul II in the place of Simon of Cyrene (fifth station).

“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first conviction to the end….” (Hebrews 3:13-14)

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1. Cor. 9:24)

One of the fundamental propositions of the Ignatian Exercises is to pray for the grace you need. Thus, if you are impatient, you should pray continually for the virtue of patience. Ask, and it shall be given to you (Luke 11:9). Now, paying heed to the immense wisdom of our Catholic spiritual heritage, it is incredibly prudent to pray for the most important grace of final perseverance. In his 750 page treatise, The Spiritual Life, Father Adolphe Tanquerey makes the following observation (p. 68):

“…final perseverance is a singular and priceless gift. We cannot merit it strictly speaking. To die in the state of grace in spite of all the temptations that assail us at the last hour, to escape these by a sudden and tranquil death – falling asleep in the Lord – this is truly in the language of the Councils the grace of graces. We cannot ask for it persistently enough. Prayer and faithful co-operation with grace can obtain it for us.”

Still further, in the Theological Dictionary of Father Karl Rahner, SJ, et al, it is stated:

“It is the defined teaching of the Church that actual perseverance to the end (perseverantia finalis) is impossible without a special grace (D 832); it remains uncertain whether this later will be granted (D 826); it cannot be merited, but the Christian is to pray for it and cherish the firm hope of it.”

The great Dominican and Thomist, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, OP*, says this: “Therefore, to obtain this grace of final perseverance, we should frequently unite ourselves with the Eucharistic consecration, the essence of the sacrifice of the mass, pondering on the four ends of sacrifice: adoration, supplication, reparation and thanksgiving” (Providence, p.331). This is quite a beautiful and powerful recommendation. He also mentions the advice of Pope Benedict XV to have a mass said while you are living for the grace of a happy death. Make the effort – it will be well worth it! – to have a mass said for you and your spouse (or sibling, etc.) to die in sanctifying grace.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is mindful of our need for final perseverance (I recall the prayer Jesus said for Peter’s perseverance at the Last Supper, Luke 22: 31-32, and also Judas’ tragic fall from grace despite such a good beginning). One of the great promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary involves a special grace of final perseverance:

“I promise you in the excessive Mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful Love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the Grace of Final Penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”

Of this promise (quoted above) Father Garrigou-LaGrange states:

“We may here remind the reader of the great promise of the Sacred Heart, to those who receive Communion well on nine successive First Fridays. This promise, we have said, is absolute, that it supposes that Communion has been well made for these nine times. This would be, therefore, a grace given only to the elect.” (Life Everlasting, p. 262).

-Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

* Father Garrigou-LaGrange once had a student named Karol Wojtyla (Pope St John Paul II, of recent memory)

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-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, make me persevere in seeking You and in serving You, in spite of all the difficulties which I may encounter.

MEDITATION

St. Teresa says that anyone who wishes to give himself to prayer with profit must make “an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt” on the way he has chosen. This means that we must give ourselves to prayer, not for a stated time only, but at all times, every day, all our life; let us not be dissuaded from prayer for any reason whatsoever. “Come what may, happen what will, let those complain who will, tire yourself as you must, but even if you die half-way along the road … tend always toward the goal” (Way of Perfection, 21). Let us ever remember that this goal is the living water promised by Jesus to those who sincerely thirst for Him and His love.

Without a strong, determined resolve, the soul will too often find more or less plausible reasons for neglecting prayer. Sometimes aridity will make the soul think that it is a waste of time to devote itself to an exercise from which it seems to draw no fruit, and that it would be better to use this time in good works. Sometimes, too, our numerous employments will seem to justify this idea. At other times, the feeling of our wretchedness—especially when we consider our want of fidelity to grace—will make us think ourselves unworthy of divine intimacy and that, therefore, it is useless to persevere in prayer. It should be evident that all these pretexts are suggestions of the enemy who, sometimes under the pretext of zeal for exterior works, sometimes under that of false humility or of waste of time, does all he can to draw souls away from prayer. “No temptation,” declares St. Teresa, “is more serious” than this one, “and the devil does us the very greatest harm by it” (cf. The Book of Her Life, 7 – 8). Therefore, she insists: “One who has begun to make mental prayer must never give it up, in spite of the sins into which he may fall. Prayer is the means which will help him to rise. Without prayer, this would be more difficult. He should not allow himself to be deceived by the devil to abandon prayer under the pretext of humility” (The Book of Her Life, 8).

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, I know that in order that love be true and friendship lasting, equal conditions must exist between the two friends. I also know that there can be nothing wrong in You; while my nature, on the contrary, is vicious, sensual, and ungrateful … Hence I cannot love You as You deserve.

O infinite goodness of my God! I see who You are and who I am, and seeing how different You are from me, O joy of the angels, I long to be wholly consumed in love for You! How true it is that You bear with those who permit You to be with them! How good a friend You are to them! How You lavish Your favors upon them and bear with them, and wait until their ways become more like Yours. You remember the time spent in loving You, and at the first sign of repentance, You forget all their offenses. This I know from experience, and I do not understand, O my Creator, why the whole world does not strive to draw near You in this intimate friendship. The wicked, who are not like You, ought to come so that You may make them good, allowing You to be with them, at least two hours each day, even though they are not with You but with a thousand cares and thoughts of the world, as I used to be. In exchange for the effort which it costs them to want to be in such good company (for You know that in the beginning they cannot do more, nor afterwards sometimes) You force the devils not to attack them, and make the devils every day less strong against them, and give these souls strength to conquer them. Yea, Life of all lives, You slay none of those who put their trust in You and desire You for their Friend” (Teresa of Jesus, The Book of Her Life, 8).

O Lord, give me also that holy audacity which will make me always persevere in prayer, in spite of exterior and interior difficulties, aridities, weakness, and lack of correspondence with Your grace…. You will remedy all my ills.”

Love,
Matthew

The Grace of Final Perseverance

joseph7

A little preamble is in order here.  Protestant understanding of grace and Catholic understanding of grace are very different.  This distinction is often overlooked and generally misunderstood, yet it is perhaps the singularly most significant separating difference between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Generalizing across Protestant denominations, mea culpa, “sola fides”, or the doctrine of “by faith alone” implies once one is “saved” by turning from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in faith, that is all that is required.  “Once saved, always saved”, as the saying goes.

Martin Luther was a preacher and author of strong hyperbole.  He is often misquoted, or quoted out of context saying “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong”, or “sin all the more” once saved.  Protestant theology is NOT recommending sin here, but rather implying no sin is stronger than the saving power of Christ.  True.

However, Catholics believe the grace of salvation, too, is freely given and unmerited.  However, Catholicism does put a bit more emphasis on free will, and while grace is a free, unmerited gift, through free will we have the power to reject His love subsequent to our initial acceptance and baptism through our actions and choices.

Think of how a human relationship works, which I have ALWAYS found to be an excellent metaphor for relating to God, and you can see more clearly the Catholic perspective.  God loves us too much to rescind the divine authority He has given us in free will.  There is no authentic love, human or divine, without free will, according to Catholicism.  Hence, the need, as Catholicism states, for the “Grace of Final Perseverance”.

“Mortal sin” is called mortal because the sin is so grave and intentional, again through free will, that it “kills”/destroys the life of grace within us.  It is the life of grace within us which is the relationship with God.  God didn’t change His mind.  We did, and proved it through our choices and actions in free will.

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

“Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death…”

-by Nicholas Hardesty, author PHAT Catholic Apologetics

Final perseverance is that last grace which confirms us in the Lord at the moment of death. It is a free gift of God that preserves or maintains the state of grace in our souls so that we can die in that state. You are in a state of grace when your soul is in righteous standing before God. This gift preserves that state by enabling our will to cooperate with the various means of receiving grace, namely prayer and the sacraments.

The grace of final perseverance also implies that death comes when we are in that state of grace, and not in a state of mortal sin. By that I mean, when a person prays for the grace of final perseverance, he is also praying that death will come in a timely manner, when his soul is in righteous standing before God.

According to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, final perseverance is basically God practicing his stewardship or loving care over our souls. It is, “an ever watchful superintendence of us on the part of our All-Merciful Lord, removing temptations which He sees will be fatal to us, comforting us at those times when we are in particular peril, whether from our negligence or other cause, and ordering the course of our life so that we may die at a time when He sees that we are in the state of grace.”

Final perseverance can be seen as a single gift of grace, or as the body or collection of graces we have received throughout our whole lives, all coming together to affect our final end. As a single gift, we are reminded of the Good Thief crucified alongside Jesus, who, after living a life of sin, was compelled to convert in his final hour after witnessing the example of Jesus. The grace of final perseverance made that possible.

As a body of graces, we think of the life-long Catholic who sticks ever closer to the sacraments and is evermore devoted to prayer as his age advances and his health deteriorates. And then, when death is surely near, he calls upon the priest to make his last Confession, to receive Viaticum, and to be Anointed. In this case, the grace of final perseverance was actually working throughout his whole life, compelling him to perform the various pious practices that brought him now, in his final hour, to death in the state of grace.

What an extraordinary gift this would be to receive! Extraordinary … and necessary, since we cannot go to heaven without dying in a state of grace. What’s more, this gift only comes by way of God’s merciful response to our entreating Him for it in prayer. This is basically what we’re doing when we say in the Our Father, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (cf. CCC nos. 2849, 2854), and in the Hail Mary, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” We are praying for the gift of final perseverance.

Scripture mentions final perseverance in several places:

Ezek 18:24-28 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Wis 4:10-15 There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. 11 He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. 12 For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. 13 Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; 14 for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. 15 Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

Mt 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Jn 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Rom 11:22-23 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Rom 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.

1 Cor 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain.

Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Phil 1:6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Col 1:21-23 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

1 Thes 5:23-24 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

2 Tim 2:12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

1 Pet 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.

2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall;

In my mind, any passage that refers to the importance of enduring to the end, continuing in His kindness, standing fast, etc. is also a passage about this grace.”

Love,
Matthew