Recently I was listening to an Avila Institute class lecture. Professor Hollcraft’s comments on fortitude in the everyday situations and decisions of our lives solidified something which struck me deeply a few years ago.
My friend was giving a talk about the loss of her two-year-old son in a drowning accident. An amateur ballet dancer, she has a great love for St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “The Little Flower,” she said, “is a prima ballerina. A prima ballerina spends endless hours, years and years, doing minuscule movements over and over until she can do them with precision and perfection which appear almost effortless. The movements seem repetitive, boring and pointless but build a strong foundation of the ballerina. If incorrectly practiced, a dancer cannot grow. If done correctly with purpose, she abounds in grace. We see her dance across the stage and it looks easy and graceful. But we could never do it because we have not put in the ages of work behind the scenes. St. Thérèse’s life appears to us a masterpiece of simplicity and easy trust that has appeal because it looks so fluid and natural – but those millions of acts of love were anything but easy. She became a saint because she practiced painfully for years.”
This, I think, begs a profound reflection. We too will have our hour on stage – often that stage resembles the severity of the cross. And the world will watch – and most importantly, God will watch. And how will we perform? It will greatly depend on how we practiced in the millions of unseen instants of our lives. The exercise of virtue gives strength to the soul before the curtains are raised. The small sacrifices and tiny movements of love will crescendo into our final act – we pray it will glorify God and leave the world searching for what we have found.
My ballerina friend Angee has the gift of fortitude in spades. After God led her deeper into relationship with Himself through many and experiences and people, she practiced the faith and participated in the sacraments joyfully and faithfully. And when, in the sudden loss of her son, she was asked to make the supreme sacrifice, she did so with a grace and strength that left the Church of Phoenix amazed. She clung to the cross with white knuckles but never slipped – because her spiritual muscles were strong. I pray to have such fortitude, too. To embrace this gift, exercise it, and ask to be ever mindful of it. We have a thousand opportunities each day.
To pick up a pin for love of God can convert souls. – St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Image credit: Sergei Gavrilov on Unsplash