Catholic Grit

A recently published book by psychologist Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance and the Science of Success, seeks to quantify the characteristics that make some innately mediocre people succeed and some innately talented people perform just so-so.  Similarly author Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Whatever It Takes, describes why character matters and how to instill it in our children.  Both works indicate the importance of “grit” in rising above one’s natural place, whether it be physical challenges, intellectual pursuits, business, etc.  Grit itself might be distilled into a set of synonyms:  perseverance, toughness, attitude, courage, work ethic.  Grit can be developed and honed, if intentionally attended to.

Those synonyms above are certainly akin to our Christian virtues, of course, as we struggle to live the Christian life.  As a Catholic convert I’ve wondered many times how great numbers of those who’ve grown up in very faithful households could lapse from the Church.  As well, I’ve seen friends go through the RCIA program and enter the Church at Easter Vigil newly and completely committed to a new life in the Body of Christ, only to flag and fizzle in one or two years.  I’m no paragon of the moral life and have a lot of room to improve in my daily practice, but in my first decade as a Catholic I haven’t for one instant considered leaving Mother Church for some other, lesser flavor of the day or worse yet no church life at all.

Catholics leave the Church for all manner of reasons and it’s not my place to pass judgement on them.  I haven’t experienced the pain of a child lapsing, and pray frequently for the intention that I never have to do so.  I know that my personal success in staying faithful to the Catholic Church is a result of the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for which likewise I pray frequently in thanksgiving.  But, I also believe in free will and that ultimately it’s an act of the will to choose the Christian life, and to stay with it amid the trials and suffering in our fallen world.  This can be very difficult.

What are some practical ways we can develop and exhibit Catholic grit?

  1. Attend Mass every week (at least) – the Source and Summit.  ‘Nuff said.
  2. Pray daily in a regular routine – one of my disciplinary weaknesses
  3. Surround one’s self with strong, faithful role models.  Forming a Catholic junto is a good start
  4. Read the Catechism/find a good study program
  5. Take at least one hour a week in Adoration
  6. Stay humble about your faith.  The moment you think you’ve got it figured out is the moment the devil has scored a victory

I invite our junto friends to suggest more ways to hone our grit so that one day we may attain the Glorified State.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

P.S.  Incidentally, the star of the 1969 western True Grit, John Wayne, resisted the Church his entire life but finally relented in a true death bed conversion.  May this “eleventh hour” worker rest in peace, and pray for us.

One comment

  1. Felix says:

    I too wonder why people react so differently to the encounter with Jesus. I marvel most at stories of people who come from families where there is hostility to Jesus or to Catholicism, yet they become passionate disciples. I’m perplexed at stories of people who enter into faith and then walk away. I try all sorts of explanations, but it’s still a deep mystery to me.

    No doubt you are right that being a disciple takes true grit. You mentioned that grit must be “intentionally attended to.” I think that’s huge: intentionality. All of your suggestions for developing grit are on the mark. Another one is to witness to your faith in the world. I’m not real brave. So this is something I have done very poorly. I relate to St Peter when he denied Jesus and ran away. Being surrounded by heroic Catholics, as you mention in #3, helps me a lot.

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