Every year in my Discalced Carmelite Secular Community, we draw names to pray for each other and to pray for the priests, deacons, and religious in our diocese. We also draw the name of a virtue to practice during the year. For the last three years, I have drawn the virtue of fortitude. The first year, I thought, that’s interesting. The second year, I thought, what a coincidence! This year, when I drew it again, I realized that I needed to give the virtue of fortitude some serious thought.

Pondering this virtue, I used to think of it in relation to the unpleasant tasks I needed to complete. Don’t give up, I would tell myself. Practice fortitude! Now, as my husband and I, along with so many others, must ‘shelter in place’ to avoid the Coronavirus, I realize that fortitude also pertains to all the things we would like to do but can’t, at least for the foreseeable future. In a way, ‘sheltering in place’ is a desert experience. We are separated from all the unnecessary activities with which we often distract ourselves.

The cacti in my garden practice fortitude better than I have ever done. In recent years, I have not paid much attention to them in favor of whatever was blooming in the garden. Yet, they have continued to survive, and even to thrive.