Stamina - What are its Characteristics?
This quality pervades human life whether we be important or of no renown. Without it the nature of our lives would be gravely impoverished past, present and future.
One thinks of the long distance runner and the racehorse in the Cambridgeshire – a flat race for stayers like the Gold Cup at Ascot. Military stamina may run out – look at the Western Allies in 1945-46 in Central and Eastern Europe. They could not summon up the enthusiasm and energy to take on Stalin’s red Army – they felt, or their Generals, particularly Eisenhower, believed the Fall of Hitler’s Germany was the end of their task. They had not planned to go East after April-May 1945. The Cold War required great stamina from the Allied side (NATO) and it bore fruit in 1989.
Marechal Petain’s moment came in 1914 when he was recalled from retirement at the outbreak of war – he only a General then. He had spent years pre-1914 teaching military theory and studying it. It all gelled at the time he devised the defensive tactics of trench warfare for the French Army during the German onslaught at Verdun (1916-170. He grasped the moment which would never come again in his military life, and what is more he saved the day. That was stamina in his tactical thinking.
3. The Essence of Stamina
This is to overcome all weaknesses in you, external obstacles, provocation and insolence in others. Don’t be daunted all your long life. Go on to the bitter end – win or lose and you will have shown real resilience: The German Armies would not surrender in 1944-45 despite the overwhelming forces deployed against them. If you are cowed or uncontrolled you have lost your stamina. It may be in your character at birth. You will have the patience to know when to face the hammer blow and how. You will know when to strike yourself.
We are in effect expected to use our stamina not for ourselves, but for the men and women we live alongside in good times and bad. If you like we are “paid” to serve God by our persistence and longsuffering come what may. Some men live to a great age and their stamina is rewarded by this contribution of theirs at the end of their lives. e.g. Pope John XXIII who came in 1959 to the Chair of St Peter very late in life and only for three to four years. He then called the Second Vatican Council to the amazement of the Christian World: All his priestly years in his long life to this end.
Abbot Richard Whiting of Glastonbury Abbey was no less than 83 years old when martyred on Glastonbury Tor on 15 November 1539 under Thomas Cromwell’s instruction to the trial court in Wells, Somerset, which sentenced him to death with his companions John Thorne and Roger James. He had a long time to prepare for that day did St Richard Whiting of that Benedictine Abbey now in ruins! For the rest of us we learn through School, University and professional training and above all the rough and tumble of life’s story to each one of us. The “scars of battle” are vital. We may not “blow our own trumpet” if we have any sense. I have heard it said a defeat is better than a victory because it rocks our self confidence. Lack of confidence is more conducive to a success than over confidence is the message. True words truly spoken!
4. Stamina Further Examined
There can be no personal stamina without thorough examination of the individual’s state of morality. For the officers of the Prussian military cadre in the early 19th Century, such as Clausewitz, their objective was pure military strategic thinking. This required self-denial and single mindedness with selflessness as they realised. For our part we must examine our own thinking to achieve clarity of thought and proper concentration by good self-discipline. It all comes back to an austere life and no materialism. The stamina of the priest monk and the practising Roman Catholic has been put under threat in modern times. Where lies the counter attack?
The heart of this Catholic stamina lies in contrition i.e. sorrow for our faults. Without such sorrowfulness or sadness we will never finish the race on Earth. Our stamina will run out before we have gone one mile. This true sorrow creates real energy in mind and soul and then we will be powered to achieve our objectives. Joy, strange though it may seem, goes hand in hand with sorrow. Each virtue breeds the other. They feed off each other and stamina is the consequence. Thus the example of the Man of Sorrows is the only way and the best way as He teaches: -
“No one comes to the Father save through me.”
The shunning of sorrow is a terrible defect in modern Western society. I say wake up to reality, admit your faults, and enjoy the forgiveness of Our Father in Heaven and the true Christian virtue of joy. Then you will have the stamina to finish the race as St Paul teaches. What is more the word you spread will bring joy and peace to the human race.
I was brought up under the Old School. I am no believer in birthright nor familial heirlooms. I do accept the value of inherited wealth. My foremost belief is in Christ Himself who bestows His grace on all mankind. That is why I have staying power as those who know me will confirm. Every single living soul receives the grace of Christ directly from Our Holy Redeemer crucified to this very day. He passed the ultimate test of stamina from Pilate’s sentence of death through his carrying of the Cross and falling three times, even with Simon of Cyrene’s aid, to his nailing to the Cross and the Crucifixion itself. You will never get better than that however long you wait and hard you pray. I have received His body and blood since 1960 in my childhood on a weekly basis. Sometimes daily at School and without interruption save for two years in University in the very early 1970’s.
That is stamina as given by the Priest and received by me. If only we might all receive that Holy Communion – oh! If only! Christ’s stamina would take it I am sure. He mediates and intercedes for mankind unceasingly at His Father’s right hand with Mary His mother always there for each one of us. Judgement is for later – concentrate on the calibre of Christ in His never failing offering of Himself for all at Mass by the Priest every time Holy Mass is said the World over. There is no stamina without those we serve day in day out. Above all we serve the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. This message of Holy Communion is taught to every 8 Year old in the Roman Catholic Church, and has been for over 100 years at this age.
That takes stamina by the teacher, the pupil and the Catholic Church herself. However long we live – whether we die like St Richard Whiting aged 83 years or at 16 years like Jack Cornwell VC, the boy sailor who died of his wounds inflicted at the Naval Battle of Jutland (1916) – we must demonstrate stamina or risk personal failure and abject defeat at that. Stamina is the opposite of defeatism.