In answer to Nicholas’ request yesterday that I say something about the virtues that are taught us, I would like to begin with a short preface if I may, especially to answer the expected criticisms of a commenter such as our friend Bosco. I also apologize for writing such a long piece, for the subjects of morality are dense and volumes have been written on each and every virtue and each and every gift of the Holy Spirit. So in the longview it is actually rather short. Also a special request for all readers and visitors who have Twitter accounts. Please start Tweeting these posts as it is perhaps the best way to draw more people to this site who may join in our conversations and discussions. Thank you in advance.
The Church and the Bible, when understood in the context of the Church, already contains all of the virtues and stands to teach all of its Spiritual Children, the Children of God, what it takes to bring their lives and their souls to the perfection of a true imitation of Christ. For this is our work on earth; to become Children of God who aspire for nothing less than our final end, God Himself . . . to be part of the family of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . and to live in perpetual happiness with God and all the angels and saints in Heaven.
How is the Bride of Christ the same as the Mystical Body of Christ? It is so, because like in a family where the head is the father and the wife is submissive to the head, the two become one body. Therefore the Bride of Christ is in effect a Mystical representation of Christ Himself visibly manifested on earth for the salvation of all men.
We also symbolize the Church as a flock of lambs and sheep who are guided and shepherded by Christ through surrogate shepherds. But Christ warns us (which is what seems to escape our old friend Bosco) that among these shepherds are hirelings (the effete who run or remain silent at the first signs of trouble), wolves, and yes, even wolves in sheep’s clothing or shepherd’s clothing for that matter. Does this invalidate the Church because those things Christ already warned us about actually take place and has since the beginning of Church’s history. It is not going to change. It is the nature of sinful men to evade their duties, to even scatter the sheep or devour them if they are without Moral Virtue.
But we also have Christ’s word that the Church will prevail and that means that there will always be some number of good shepherds whose voice the sheep will recognize. True sheep will not recognize the voice of a hireling, a sheep in wolves clothing or a wolf in their midst. They listen for the voice of their Only Shepherd Jesus Christ. And if His surrogate Shepherds speak for Christ His sheep will hear Him in their voice. But many sheep are lost and have gone astray it seems and we always stand in need of educating the sheep by good and holy shepherds and we fight an endless war to run off the hirelings the wolves and the wolves in sheep’s clothing that hide in our midst.
It does not invalidate the Church but instead validates the words of our own Lord and Savior. For without the help of the Holy Spirit and Christ our Savior, His flock would certainly have vanished from the face of the earth by now.
What holds the Church of Christ together? It is the teachings of the Church which must be taught and which every generation has the duty to pass on to the next. They do not change. So education is primary and it should surprise nobody that satan’s latest ploy is to dumb down the teaching of the sheep. To confuse them and make them deaf to the voice of Christ and to those good shepherds who are True Shepherds of Christ.
+ + + INTRODUCTION
So what does this have to do with the virtues? Everything. For it is the will of God that we become His sons and daughters. He has thereby left this duty primarily to the Church and the families that are raised in His Church to pass on, without addition, subtraction or error these teachings to their offspring. To guarantee its genuineness He has given to the Church the Holy Spirit to guide Her and Christ remains the Head to inspire and to give Himself to His children. He remains active in the life of the Church and its Sacraments. He is still the Eternal High Priest who gives Himself as food for His children and teaches them the significance of self-sacrifice for love of God, family and friend.
So I have reproduced (above) once again the symbolic representation of the primary virtues that are taught by the Church so that we might also imitate Christ and become His adopted children. They not only are the only safe way to erect a strong and lasting Spiritual Edifice to live our earthly lives by but they are what will be necessary to possess in full perfection when we enter into Heaven with the angels and the saints. The job begins here and we can either fail (hell) or work at them half-heartedly where we will need further purgation to perfect them, or we will perhaps develop these virtues to a remarkable degree where Grace will abound and we might step through the almost transparent veil between this life and the supernatural life of heaven.
It is by the virtues that we learn to hear Christ’s voice and to distinguish that which is good and that which is evil. It allows us the grace to offer good counsel and to make good decisions without regard to material gain but to increase spiritual gain.
+ + + SPEAKING OF VIRTUES
Lets speak of these virtues then. But before we do, perhaps it would be of great value if the reader take the time to read and evaluate this insightful piece written by Alice von Hildebrand, HERE. I hope you do as it is relevant to this whole topic.
Christ, is the Rock upon which any individual’s Spiritual Life depends and likewise as the Church of Christ Itself depends. So Christ in a very real way is both the underlying principle upon which stands both the Church and our Spiritual Life but also the final aim (Perfect Charity) of our growth in Spirituality and love of God and neighbor. The rest of the virtues are the steps and the building blocks by which we are able to complete our process of becoming a ‘new man’ and it also looks to me a bit like the makings of a ‘new world’ as well.
So the two most important virtues are seen in the diagram above as Humility (that which conforms us to Christ and rests in Christ) and Charity (the Capstone of Real Agape Love) to which all the other virtues aim.
So our feet must first be firmly fixed in Humility with our eyes constantly looking to the Heavens at the Love which is God . . . the final end of our Spiritual Edifice. Let me say here that the Church symbolically as well as supernaturally is founded on this principle and is most readily seen in the Crucifixion of our Lord. And if we do not or cannot see it, it is the failure of the people and/or our prelates for not constantly setting our feet or our eyes upon the proper ends for each. The feet must be placed firmly in Humility before we are stable enough to lift our eyes to the Heavens to see what needs to be accomplished, with the grace offered us by God, in building a ‘new man’ in the image and likeness of God and to escape the loss of human dignity given us when He created us in His image and likeness. For the wages of sin is death and that is the end result of humilities opposing force, pride, and the sins which pride offers for enjoyment.
So Humility is the first prerequisite to all the virtues; it is the bending of one’s neck to the light yoke of Christ and the rejection of the harsh yoke of self-satisfaction of sin and our immoral souls. It is a personal encounter between the creature and the Creator and we must make that fundamental choice between serving God or serving ourselves for our own pleasure.
As one readily sees in the above drawing; the capstone of love or Charity, rests upon the Theological Virtues of Faith and Hope, to complete them and to tie them together. We need these virtues so much, that we have been taught that we must have some amount of these three to even think of getting into Heaven. They are that important. But how do we grow in them and strengthen them? Are there other virtues and gifts that God offers us through His grace to accomplish this?
Yes. They are called Moral Virtues and all the moral virtues and spiritual gifts work together to strengthen and purify all the others; a single virtue is never perfected without the perfection of all. Moral Virtues help us to acquire and to further develop the Theological Virtues and are therefore very important.
I will not go through all of the Moral Virtues as shown in the above drawing but will now speak of the chief Moral Virtues or Cardinal Virtues (the hinges to many other virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit). They are: Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice. The word Cardinal comes from the Latin ‘cardo’ which means hinge, because ALL other moral virtues depend on them. To save time writing about these, I will now copy what is said from the book, My Catholic Faith, which uses the Council of Trent Catechism to explain them.
- Prudence disposes us in all circumstances to form right judgments about what we must do or not do. It teaches us when and how to act in matters relating to our eternal salvation. Prudence perfects the intelligence, which is the power of forming judgments; for this virtue, knowledge and experience are important.
Prudence shows us how to leave earthly things in order to earn riches for eternity. It is the eye of the soul, for it tells us what is good and what is evil. It is like a compass that directs our course in life. It is opposed to worldly wisdom. “Be prudent therefore and watchful in prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7). Prudence is a virtue of the understanding.
- Justice disposes us to give everyone what belongs to him. It teaches us to give what is due to God and to man. It makes us willing to live according to the commandments. Justice perfects the will and safeguards the rights of man: his right to life, freedom, honor, good name, sanctity of the home, and external possessions.
The just man is an upright man. He gives to every one his due: he gives God worship; the authorities, obedience; his subordinates, rewards and punishments; and his equals, brotherly love. “Render to all men whatever is their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; taxes to whom taxes are due; fear to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7).
- Fortitude disposes us to do what is good in spite of any difficulty. It gives us strength to do good and avoid evil in spite of all obstacles and afflictions.
We possess fortitude when we are not hindered by ridicule, threats, or persecution from doing what is right; when we are ready, if necessary, to suffer death. The greatest fortitude is shown by bearing great suffering rather than undertaking great works. No saint was ever a coward. The martyrs had fortitude.
- Temperance disposes us to control our desires and to use rightly the things which please our senses. It regulates our judgment and passions, so that we may make use of temporal things only in so far as they are necessary for our eternal salvation. We have temperance when we eat and drink only what is necessary to sustain life, preserve health, and fulfill our duties.
We should strive to be like St. Francis of Sales, who said: “I desire very little, and that little I desire but little.” However, temperance does not consist in refusing or denying ourselves what is necessary, thus unfitting ourselves for good works.
By reading these, one can see how, if we seriously lack any of these, a man is much less than he is intended by God to be. Of course, these are meant for both men and women but it seems to me that the most effective ways that men learn these Cardinal Virtues is from a Virtuous man or father figure. It is how to become a Good Man, a Reliable Man and a Trustworthy Man.
When we in earnest start developing these Moral Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit start to become enlivened and illumine our lives with their help.
The Highest Gifts that are given us are the gifts of Understanding, Knowledge and Wisdom with Wisdom being the highest in the order of Lamps as it is fixed firmly in, and draws directly from the Capstone of Charity or Love. Understanding and Knowledge are fixed to Faith and to Hope, in that same order, and provide us with their lights which come from these Theological Virtues.
So men, who were made to be head of the household need to develop the Moral and Theological Virtues in order to be a proper husband and father. He needs them to escape the boyhood of selfish-desire and self-gratification.
And women, as well, should desire (and I think they instinctually do) to find a good and moral husband whom they can trust their lives, their children and their souls to as well. They should work together as a unit and the women usually provide and help bolster the man when his faith, hope or charity begins to fail him. This is why the complementarity of the sexes is so important. When the two become one body, they are strong and they support one another and thereby raise happy, caring and strong children who will carry on this same tradition in their own future families.
So yes, it is theologically as well as socially important for us to educate our youth. To encourage a deep desire within them and also to give them the means to walk with courage through life to its final end with great Faith, Hope and Love. For it is certain that we are all going to face our own personal judgement by Christ our God and King at a time known only by Him.
So from the first movings of faith in our minds and hearts which cause us mere creatures to encounter our personal God in faith and instills in us the desire to humbly submit to His yoke, we are preparing for the Real and certain Encounter between Ourselves and Christ in the next life. I pray we see the importance of living a good life and for abandoning ourselves in perfect humility to the Will of Christ while we still have time to do so.