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Spiritual matters

Perseverance despite being knocked down

August 25, 2010 - I heard that on one particular Monday Night Football game, Walter Payton reached the equivalent of nine miles of running yards for his career.

When he passed the mark, the announcer made mention of the milestone and the other announcer responded: "Yeah, and that's after getting knocked down every 4.6 yards." There is a lot of wisdom in that somewhat comical reply.

Imagine how drastically shortened the career of any football player would be if he became discouraged every time he was knocked down. In order to succeed, we first have to realize that there will always be obstacles to our progress.

How we deal with failure or setbacks is often the key to our personal success. The same principle can be applied to spiritual matters. To be strong in spirit we need fortitude, or what is also referred to as perseverance.

The virtue of fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and allows us to continue performing good actions despite adversity. What are some things we can do to cultivate this virtue? There are many, but I would like to suggest at least three. First of all, start out with clearly defined goals. Whenever we start on the path to achieve anything, we first have to be very clear about what the concrete goal is.

This might sound obvious, but how many of us start a project without defining precisely when we will have reached the end?

For example, if we desire to climb the highest mountain, then our concrete goal will be to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

Setting a concrete goal allows us a way to measure progress and motivates us to forge ahead until we've reached the top.

Secondly, a positive attitude is necessary if we want to persevere. Some might see the words "positive attitude" and immediately dismiss this as childish or unrealistic.

Two people can view the same event and draw two different conclusions about what happened or about how to continue. We color circumstances in life with the attitude we use to face them.

We're all familiar with the story of David and Goliath. Some like to say that, while all the Israelites were scared to confront Goliath because he was so massive, David turned Goliath's size to the Israelites' advantage by thinking: "He's so big, I can't miss him."

One of the keys to persevering in good works is to always bring the proper attitude to the obstacles that face us.

Teamwork is the third element. Too often we think that asking others for help is a sign of weakness. Yet, how many things can we take sole credit for in life?

The most basic gift we have, that of life itself, is something that has been given to us. When we realize that our lives are not complete without the presence and support of others-especially of God himself- there are no obstacles impossible to overcome.

So, the next time someone knocks you down, remember that with the virtue of fortitude you will not only get up off the ground, you'll keep running.

Fr. Daniel Pajerski, LC, is Formation Director for Everest Collegiate High School and Academy

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