Introductory Note:

In his original piece on the virtue of fortitude—published in Perspective in 2001— and shared on Monday, Richard Foster ended by exhorting his readers to look into some lives of Christians who exemplified this virtue, and then listed six from the 20th century: Nee To-sheng (Watchman Nee) of China, Eberhard Arnold of Germany, Rosa Parks of the United States, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Russia, Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) of Poland, and Dorothy Day of the United States.

Due to space constraints, we have chosen three of those listed above and gathered some biographical information about them to share with you today. On Friday, we’ll finish up our week on fortitude by sharing some of Richard’s ideas to practice this virtue in our own lives.

Renovaré Team

To Serve the Poor: Dorothy Day (18971980)

Dorothy Day — jour­nal­ist, activist, rad­i­cal, Catholic con­vert — was a woman of con­science who devot­ed her life’s work to help­ing the urban poor. The Dorothy Day Guild explains below:

Dorothy had grown to admire the Catholic Church as the Church of the poor” and her faith began to take form with the birth of her daugh­ter Tamar in 1926. Her deci­sion to have her daugh­ter bap­tized and embrace the Catholic faith led to the end of her com­mon law mar­riage and the loss of many of her rad­i­cal friends. Dorothy strug­gled to find her role as a Catholic. While cov­er­ing the 1932 Hunger March in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. for some Catholic mag­a­zines, she prayed at the nation­al Shrine of the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion that some way would open up for her to serve the poor and the unem­ployed. The fol­low­ing day, back in New York, she met Peter Mau­rin, a French immi­grant and for­mer Chris­t­ian Broth­er, who had a vision for a soci­ety con­struct­ed of Gospel values. 

Togeth­er they found­ed the Catholic Work­er news­pa­per which spawned a move­ment of hous­es of hos­pi­tal­i­ty and farm­ing com­munes that has been repli­cat­ed through­out the Unit­ed States and oth­er coun­tries. At the Catholic Work­er, Dorothy Day lived a life faith­ful to the injunc­tions of the Gospel. Often the news­pa­per quot­ed G.K. Chesterton’s famous obser­va­tion that Chris­tian­i­ty hadn’t real­ly failed — it had nev­er real­ly been tried. Day’s life was spent try­ing. She was shot at while work­ing for inte­gra­tion, prayed and fast­ed for peace at the Sec­ond Vat­i­can Coun­cil, received com­mu­nion from Pope Paul VI at the 1967 Inter­na­tion­al Con­gress of the Laity, and addressed the 1976 Eucharis­tic Con­gress in Philadel­phia. Her pil­grim­age end­ed at Mary­house in New York City on Novem­ber 29, 1980, where she died among the poor.

Tired of Giv­ing In: Rosa Parks (19132005)

Rosa Louise Parks is nation­al­ly rec­og­nized as the moth­er of the mod­ern day civ­il rights move­ment” in Amer­i­ca. Her refusal to sur­ren­der her seat to a white male pas­sen­ger on a Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma bus, Decem­ber 1, 1955, trig­gered a wave of protest Decem­ber 5, 1955 that rever­ber­at­ed through­out the Unit­ed States. Her qui­et coura­geous act changed Amer­i­ca, its view of black peo­ple and redi­rect­ed the course of his­to­ry. Here she recounts what led up to that fate­ful deci­sion (from her book, My Sto­ry):

I saw a vacant seat in the mid­dle sec­tion of the bus and took it. I did­n’t even ques­tion why there was a vacant seat even though there were quite a few peo­ple stand­ing in the back. If I had thought about it at all, I would prob­a­bly have fig­ured maybe some­one saw me get on and did not take the seat but left it vacant for me. There was a man sit­ting next to the win­dow and two women across the aisle.

The next stop was the Empire The­ater, and some whites got on. They filled up the white seats, and one man was left stand­ing. The dri­ver looked back and noticed the man stand­ing. Then he looked back at us. He said, Let me have those front seats,” because they were the front seats of the black sec­tion. Did­n’t any­body move. We just sat right where we were, the four of us. Then he spoke a sec­ond time: Y’all bet­ter make it light on your­selves and let me have those seats.”

The man in the win­dow seat next to me stood up, and I moved to let him pass by me, and then I looked across the aisle and saw that the two women were also stand­ing. I moved over to the win­dow seat. I could not see how stand­ing up was going to make it light” for me. The more we gave in and com­plied, the worse they treat­ed us. I thought back to the time when I used to sit up all night and did­n’t sleep, and my grand­fa­ther would have his gun right by the fire­place, or if he had his one-horse wag­on going any­where, he always had his gun in the back of the wag­on. Peo­ple always say that I did­n’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired phys­i­cal­ly, or no more tired than I usu­al­ly was at the end of a work­ing day. I was not old, although some peo­ple have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giv­ing in.

No Way Left but Upward: Alek­san­dr Solzhen­it­syn (19182008)

Alek­san­dr Isayevich Solzhen­it­syn was a Russ­ian nov­el­ist, his­to­ri­an, and short sto­ry writer. He was an out­spo­ken crit­ic of the Sovi­et Union and com­mu­nism and helped to raise glob­al aware­ness of its Gulag forced labor camp sys­tem. Lev Gross­man wrote the fol­low­ing memo­r­i­al of Solzhen­it­syn for TIME Mag­a­zine in 2008:

In 1973 [Solzhen­it­syn] com­plet­ed the first vol­ume of The Gulag Arch­i­pel­ago, a thun­der­ing, ency­clo­pe­dic indict­ment of the Sovi­et labor camp sys­tem and the gov­ern­ment that built it which com­bines lit­er­ary fic­tion with the tes­ti­mo­ny of hun­dreds of actu­al sur­vivors. It is a tow­er­ing mon­u­ment to the pow­er of witness. 

In The First Cir­cle Solzhen­it­syn wrote: For a coun­try to have a great writer is like hav­ing anoth­er gov­ern­ment. That’s why no régime has ever loved great writ­ers, only minor ones.” With The Gulag Arch­i­pel­ago Solzhen­it­syn had become too great for the Sovi­et gov­ern­ment. After years of harass­ment he was put on a plane and expelled from Russia. 

[He and his fam­i­ly set­tled in Vermont.]

Solzhen­it­syn was an icon of free­dom to the West­ern world, but he did not return the esteem it heaped on him. As a man of enor­mous Chris­t­ian faith, he regard­ed the West as spir­i­tu­al­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed, and he some­times baf­fled sup­port­ers and crit­ics alike with his reac­tionary crit­i­cisms of West­ern democ­ra­cy. In a sear­ing speech to Har­vard’s grad­u­at­ing class of 1978, he observed that a decline in courage may be the most strik­ing fea­ture that an out­side observ­er notices in the West today.”

Solzhen­it­syn remained hope­ful that the com­ing cen­turies would bring with them a world where mankind’s mate­r­i­al and spir­i­tu­al lives, our bod­ies and our souls, would be able to flour­ish togeth­er. After per­son­al­ly endur­ing and bear­ing wit­ness to some of the great­est tragedies of a trag­ic cen­tu­ry, he still believed that life could and would evolve and improve. The ascen­sion is sim­i­lar to climb­ing onto the next anthro­po­log­i­cal stage,” he said. No one on earth has any oth­er way left but upward.”


Dorothy Day Guild (n.d.). "Brief Biography." Retrieved from

Grossman, Lev (2008, August 4). Remembering Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. TIME Magazine. Retrieved from,8599,1829150,00.html

Parks, Rosa & Haskins, Jim (1999). Rosa Parks: My Story. New York: Puffin Books. Retrieved from

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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