Category Archives: Virtue

Prudence

-The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1822) by William Blake, Tate Gallery, London, UK, please click on the image for greater detail.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
-Matthew 25

CCC 1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”(Prov 14:15). “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.”(1 Pet 4:7). Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. ST II-II,47,2. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Show me, O Lord, the way of true prudence.

MEDITATION

If we wish to attain union with God, our whole life should be directed toward Him; and as our life is made up of many acts, we should see that each one is a step forward on the way that leads to Him. Supernatural prudence is that virtue which suggests to us what we should do and what we should avoid in order to reach the goal we have set for ourselves. If we wish to reach union with God, prudence tells us to conform ourself in everything to His will, to detach ourself from all things, even the least, if it be contrary to His divine will. If we wish to become a saint, we must perform these acts of charity and generosity without recoiling from the sacrifice. If we wish to become a soul of prayer, we must strive to be recollected, to avoid useless conversation, to mortify our curiosity, and to apply ourself diligently to prayer. Thus prudence prescribes what we ought to do and what we ought to avoid, whether in view of our final end—union with God, sanctity—or in view of an immediate goal—such as the acquisition of particular virtues—which, however, always must be ordered to our final end.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins effectively demonstrates the need of this virtue. They all slept while waiting for the bridegroom to come; when he arrived, the first five were admitted into the banquet hall, the other five were refused simply because they had not had the prudence to provide themselves with sufficient oil to fill their lamps. And the parable concludes: “Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Supernatural prudence counsels us first of all to make good use of the time God gives us and the opportunities He offers us to practice virtue, because “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). When, through indolence or carelessness, we miss an opportunity to do a good deed, it is lost forever; others may present themselves later, it is true, but that one will never return again.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, a soul who loves You listens no more to the suggestions of human prudence. Faith and love alone influence her, making her despise all earthly things, holding them to be worthless, as indeed they are. She cares not for any earthly good, being convinced that all is vanity. When she finds that by doing something she can serve You better, she listens to no objections but acts at once, for she understands that her profit consists entirely in this” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God 3).

“O Lord, if I wish to be a saint, I must live entirely on a supernatural plane, always remembering that ‘whatsoever is not God, is nothing,’ as the author of the Imitation says; consequently, I must leave all things or make use of all to come to You.

“If I do not watch over myself, I can materialize even spiritual things by considering everything superficially, under its human aspect. Alas! O Lord, I know that at times I have acted in this way.

“Oh no! a life spent for You is so great, so beautiful! But it is not great because of any extraordinary deeds, but rather because of the love and fidelity with which I must inform even the least important duties, which transforms these least actions, as well as all my daily occupations; it is great because of the apostolic intentions which vivify my prayers and sacrifices. Teach me, O Lord, to give the greatest amount of love to each instant, to make eternal every passing moment, by giving it the added value of charity” (cf. Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).”

Love & prudence,
Matthew

Justice

CCC 1807 “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”-Lev 19:15 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”-Col 4:1

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Give me, O God, a strong efficacious desire for justice, that I may draw near You, O infinite Justice.

MEDITATION

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice” (Matthew 5:6), Jesus said, speaking of justice in general, which inclines man to live in perfect harmony with God’s will, to the extent of desiring that sacred will as the one indispensable food of his spiritual life. However, these words may also be applied to the hunger and thirst after the virtue of justice, without which there will never be any harmony with God’s will, and therefore, no sanctity. If we wish to live in union with God, Who is infinite Justice, we must hunger and thirst for justice in all our actions and in all our relations with others. Hunger and thirst indicate imperious needs which cannot be suppressed; it is a question of life or death. As food and drink are absolutely essential to the life of the body, so justice is absolutely necessary for a life of virtue, and its duties are so compelling that no motive can exempt us from fulfilling them. If an act of charity for the neighbor should impose on us great inconvenience or cause us serious harm, we would not be obliged to do it, but the same inconvenience or harm could not excuse us from fulfilling a duty of justice. Serious motives can sometimes authorize us to postpone the fulfillment of such a duty, but the obligation always remains; although we might be prevented from acquitting it ourselves in a material way, we must supply for it, at least morally. It is thus appropriate to speak of hunger and thirst for justice, not in the sense of vindicating rights, but in the sense of cultivating in ourselves such a lively desire and imperious need for justice in all our relations with others, that we do not feel satisfied until we have completely fulfilled all the duties stemming from this virtue.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, increase my hunger and thirst for justice, so that I may lovingly fulfill all the duties of justice, every obligation to You and to others, neglecting none, but doing them all willingly, even if they are unpleasant to nature. This hunger presses me to always make more progress in the virtues, considering as very little what I have already obtained, and as very much, what I still lack. May this hunger and thirst give me a most ardent desire for Your grace and a fervent love for the holy Sacraments especially the Sacrament of the Altar, so that I may nourish myself with You, O Jesus, who are my Justice.

O Jesus, Your hunger after justice was so great that You no longer felt bodily hunger, and one day when You were very tired and in need of refreshment, You said to Your disciples: ‘My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me.’ -Jn 4:34  You had such an ardent thirst for justice that You burned with desire to taste the bitter chalice of Your Passion, even to the point of saying: ‘I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I constrained until it be accomplished!’ -Lk 12:50

O my beloved Redeemer, inflame me with the fire of Your love, the source of this hunger and thirst; may I continually use this hunger and thirst to serve You, as You did to redeem me” (cf. Ven. L. Du Pont).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #2: Understanding

“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.” -Isaiah 11:2–3

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Come, O Spirit of understanding, and enlighten me!

MEDITATION

As we advance toward God, we encounter many difficulties, not only because of creatures obstructing our path, but also because of the impenetrability of the divine mysteries. To enable us to surmount the former, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with the gift of knowledge; to overcome the latter, He comes to our aid with the gift of understanding.

Our intellect is incapable of seizing the infinite. Although gifted with faith, its manner of understanding is always human, proceeding by means of ideas and limited concepts, which are totally inadequate to express the divine realities. Revelation itself comes to us in human language; therefore, it cannot tell us what God is in Himself, nor manifest to us the intimate essence of revealed truths. Proceeding with the virtue of faith alone, we are constrained to stop, so to speak, at the surface of the divine mysteries. We know with certitude that they have been revealed by God; we adhere to them with all our strength and yet we do not succeed in penetrating them. However, what faith alone cannot do, it is able to do with the help of the gift of understanding. This gift surpasses our human way of comprehension and enlightens us in a divine way; it makes us “intus legere,” that is, “read within” the divine mysteries, with the light, with the understanding of the Holy Spirit Himself.

It is a swift, deep penetration which, while adding nothing new to what we already know from revelation, does make us understand the inner meaning of the revealed truth. The gift of understanding tears off, so to say, the outer coverings of the propositions and human concepts, allowing us to see the substance of the divine mysteries. Faith tells us that God is Trinity; the gift of understanding tells us nothing more, it does not make us see, nor does it explain this mystery to us, but it does make us penetrate it. Under the influence of this gift, the soul not only believes that God is One and Three, but it has the intuition that the mystery of the Trinity is essential to the divine nature and that it reveals better than anything else the perfection, the power, and the infinite love of God.

COLLOQUY

Come, Holy Spirit, come light divine!

“O light that sees no other light, light that obscures all other light, light which is the source of all other light, brightness compared with which all other brightness is darkness, and all other light obscurity; supreme light, not darkened by blindness, not clouded by darkness, not obscured by shadows; light that no obstacle impedes, no shade divides; light illuminating all things together and forever, absorb me in the ocean of your brilliance, that I may see You in Yourself, and myself in You, and all things beneath You” (St. Augustine).

“How can I approach You, O Holy Spirit? You dwell in inaccessible light, and are Yourself all light, knowledge and splendor, while I dwell in a place of darkness and am nothing but ignorance and rudeness.

“Meanwhile, O divine Spirit, I beg You with confidence to illumine me. Reveal to me the divine greatness and the divine mysteries, so that I may adore and acknowledge them. Disclose the wiles of the devil and of the world, that I may avoid them and never fall again; reveal to me my miseries and my weaknesses, my errors, my prejudices, my obstinacies, the artifices of my self-love, so that I may hate and correct them. But, O beneficent light, above all illumine my soul, that it may know what You wish of me: make me understand well the charm of Your attractions and of Your grace, and all that I must do to merit the beneficent influence of Your goodness, so that I may correspond with complete fidelity; O loving Spirit, sustain me in this fidelity unto death” (Fr. Aurillon).”

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude/Perseverance

CCC 1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” Ps 118:14 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that by Your grace I may persevere unto the end.

MEDITATION

To become a saint, it is not enough to be courageous and patient and to practice the other virtues for a few days or a few months, or even for a few years. Our perseverance must persevere in these dispositions to the end of our life, never yielding to fatigue, discouragement, or laxity. This is the crucial point for, as St. Thomas says, “to apply oneself for a long time to a difficult task—and virtue is almost always difficult—constitutes a special difficulty” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.137, a.1, co.); and it is only by overcoming this difficulty that we shall be able to reach perfection. We are not angels, we are human beings. The angel, a pure spirit, is stable by nature; if he makes a resolution, he holds to it; but this is not the case with us. We, being composed of spirit and matter, must suffer the consequences of the instability and fluctuations of the latter. As stability is characteristic of spirit, so instability is characteristic of matter; hence it becomes so difficult for us to be perfectly constant in the good. Although we have formed good resolutions in our mind, we always feel handicapped by the weakness of the sensible part of our nature which rebels against the weariness of sustained effort, and seeks to free itself from it, or at least to reduce it to a minimum. Our bodies are subject to fatigue; our minds are disturbed by emotions which are always fluctuating. That which at one moment fills us with enthusiasm may, at the next, become distasteful and annoying to such a point that we think we can no longer endure it. This is our state while on earth and no one can escape it. However, God calls us all to sanctity, and since sanctity requires a continual practice of virtue, He, who never asks the impossible, has provided a remedy for the instability of our nature by giving us the virtue of perseverance, the special object of which is the sustaining of our efforts. Though fickle by nature, we can by the help of grace become steadfast.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, I shall certainly be saved if I persevere to the end, but my perseverance must be virtuous if it is to merit salvation; from You comes the virtue which will save me; it is You Who make me persevere until I attain salvation.

“At present, I am still engaged in battle: the struggle from without against false virtue, the struggle from within against my concupiscence. When I think of the number of little faults which I commit every day, even if only in thought and word, I realize that their number is very great, and that this great number of little failings makes an immense heap. O unhappy that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? You will deliver me, O God, by Your grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ, Your Son and Our Lord. In the toil of this battle, then, I shall look to Your grace and, in the heat and burning thirst which I feel, I will beg for Your life-giving shade.

“Help me, O Lord Jesus, by saying to me: ‘Do not tire of the narrow way: I walked it before you, I am the way Itself; I am the guide, and I carry those whom I lead and bring them to Myself at the last.’” (St. Augustine).

“O eternal God, grant me the virtue of perseverance; without it, no one can please You nor be acceptable to You. This virtue brings to the soul an abundance of charity and the fruit of every effort. Oh! how happy I should be, Lord, if You would give me this virtue, because even here on earth it will make me enjoy a pledge of eternal life. But Your light reveals to me that I cannot attain it unless I suffer much, because this life cannot be lived without suffering. He who would escape suffering would deprive himself of holy perseverance” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

There is no freedom without virtue


-please click on the image for greater clarity

Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams
Monticello, October 28, 1813

“As a child, he was full of questions” – report of Jefferson as a child

“…there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents…There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency.”

-by Joshua Charles  (Joshua Charles is a bestselling author, historian, researcher, and international speaker. He is a passionate defender of America’s founding principles, Judeo-Christian civilization, and the Catholic faith, to which he converted in 2018. He loves telling, and helping others tell, great stories that communicate great truths.)

“The Founding Fathers believed one thing was absolutely essential to a free society: virtue. Sometimes the term they used was “self-government.”

What did it mean? Informed by thousands of years of philosophy and theology, first with Greeks like Aristotle, and later by Christian theologians such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, the Founders understood “virtue” to be behavior (more specifically, habits) in accordance with the good—which both Aristotle and Aquinas, among others, defined as behaving according to “right reason.” Virtue was thus the willing sacrifice of one’s passions to a higher good, namely “right reason.”

Traditionally, the four “cardinal virtues” of antiquity were prudence, courage, temperance; and justice. The biblical book of Wisdom (8:7) listed the same virtues. Christian theology would go on to include the three “theological virtues,” namely faith, hope; and love (found originally in 1 Corinthians 13, written by Saint Paul). Hence, the famous “seven deadly sins” were the opposite of these virtues: lust, gluttony; greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

Benjamin Franklin, in his “Autobiography,” listed a similar set of virtues:

Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.
Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e. waste nothing.
Industry: Lose no time—be always employed in something useful—cut off all unnecessary actions.
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocent and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Chastity
Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Notice what each virtue requires: self-control; self-limitation. Indeed, the long tradition in both philosophy and theology had been to equate virtue with happiness—thus, for Jefferson, the “pursuit of happiness” meant something far closer to “freedom to pursue the good” rather than “freedom to do whatever I want.” The first makes a free society possible. The second destroys it, because to abandon the virtues always involves a violation of the integrity of the human person—either ourselves, or (more often) others. When such violations are not avoided, or mended, by individuals and families, it is “mended” by a far blunter instrument—government. When one does not control oneself, someone, or something else will—namely, the state.

The Founders were deeply aware of this reality.

For example, in his first Inaugural Address, George Washington made this connection quite forcefully, including a broad allusion to the Bible:

“[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained [see Proverbs 14:34]: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

Likewise, President John Adams made this connection explicit:

“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition Revenge or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In other words, a Constitution for a free people necessarily assumes they will exercise a degree of self-control that doesn’t take place in other societies.

During the Revolution, John’s cousin, the famous Samuel Adams, made the same point in a famous line about this great formula of freedom: “If Virtue and Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great Security.”

For the Founders, being educated was an essential part of a free society, and part of virtue as well. Ignorance and liberty are not compatible in the long-term—a fact that our own social-media-saturated society seems to have forgotten, substituting base ideology, demagoguery, and lies for facts and evidence.

Samuel, writing in turn to his cousin who had just become Vice President (John), asserted in another place:

“Let Divines, and Philosophers, Statesmen and Patriots unite their endeavors to renovate the Age, by impressing the Minds of Men with the importance of educating their little boys, and girls—of inculcating in the Minds of youth the fear, and Love of the Deity, and universal Philanthropy; and in subordination to these great principles, the Love of their Country—of instructing them in the Art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the Government of Societies great, or small—in short of leading them in the Study, and Practice of the exalted Virtues of the Christian system.”

In his final Farewell Address to the new nation, Washington used his last great moment before the nation to make the connection between virtue and liberty crystal clear:

“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

He even went so far as to say that anyone who would undermine morality could not possibly be a patriot:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Reams of examples could be cited, but the point is clear: for the Founders, virtue and freedom were necessary partners. To have one without the other was to violate a fundamental law of nature.

If we desire to maintain a free society in America, we can no longer ignore, let alone denigrate, the necessity of virtue in our private and public lives.”

Love & patriotism,
Matthew

Fidei Donum – saving faith is a gift of grace; stony hearts & souls

Faith is a theological virtue, which along with hope and charity, is a gift from God. But how is this so?

Theological virtues—unlike the human or cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude (courage), temperance) —are not acquired through human effort. Rather, they are “infused”; or “grafted” is another word used informally, to describe this effect in us. God uses faith like a binocular or telescope. You begin to see more with faith, you begin to understand God with faith. In God’s own time. In God’s own way, To God’s own degree for the part of His plan He has intended for you. Work with Him, people. Work with Him.

God gives everyone this potential to take that first step. In certainty the faith which is there must have you work with it. This is the gift which God gives to us. We all have this potential built inside us to know more. The problem though is we ignore this gift. We put it aside or we take other tools which will not help us. The best avenue to build up this faith is of course the Church. The Church enables us with the right tools to begin to grow in faith to take that first step into the second step. The Holy Spirit as well will help us to increase this faith.

Faith is called an infused virtue because it cannot be acquired through our efforts alone, unaided by grace. Whoever seeks the truth will find it, because God is Truth, and whoever seeks God can only do so by an effect of His grace.

God offers graces to everyone; if we cooperate, we will receive Faith. The intellect still plays a part, but it is inferior to faith, which elevates our faculty of reason, enabling us to perceive spiritual truths with greater clarity.

Many have converted to Catholicism for what appear to be intellectual reasons, but conversion is fundamentally a movement of the will towards God, Who enlightens our intellect and our hearts.

Fidei Donum, (Pope Pius XII, 4/21/1957)

“1. The gift of faith, which through the goodness of God, is accompanied by an incomparable abundance of blessings in the soul of the Christian believer, clearly requires the unceasing homage of a grateful heart to the divine Author of this gift.

2. Indeed, it is faith that allows us to draw near to the hidden mysteries of the divine life; it is faith that encourages us to hope for everlasting happiness; it is faith that strengthens and consolidates the unity of the Christian society in this transitory life, according to the Apostle: “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.”[Eph 4:5] It is chiefly by reason of this divine gift that our grateful hearts of their own accord pour forth this testimony: “What shall I render to the Lord for all that He hath rendered unto me?”[Ps 115:12]

3. In return for so divine a gift as this, after the due submission of his mind, what can a man do that will be more acceptable to God than to carry far and wide among his fellowmen the torch of truth that Christ brought to Us? By their zeal in promoting the sacred missionary efforts of the Church, a zeal that generously feeds the fire of Christian charity, men, ever mindful of the gift of faith, may in some way make a return to Almighty God; by so doing and imparting to others according to their ability the gift of the faith that is theirs, they are visibly manifesting their gratitude to the Heavenly Father….”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
PART ONE
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH

SECTION ONE
“I BELIEVE” – “WE BELIEVE”

CHAPTER THREE
MAN’S RESPONSE TO GOD

ARTICLE III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”25

Faith is a human act

154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths He has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to “yield by faith the full submission of. . . intellect and will to God who reveals”,26 and to share in an interior communion with him.

155 In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”27

Faith and understanding

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God Himself Who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God Who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

158 “Faith seeks understanding”:33 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in Whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”34 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by His gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”35 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”36

159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God Who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, Who made them what they are.”38

The freedom of faith

160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”39 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”40 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to Himself.”41

The necessity of faith

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One Who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”43

Perseverance in faith

162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”44 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;45 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.46

Faith – the beginning of eternal life

163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.47 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.48
164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;49 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.50 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.

165 It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who “in hope. . . believed against hope”;51 to the Virgin Mary, who, in “her pilgrimage of faith”, walked into the “night of faith”52 in sharing the darkness of her Son’s suffering and death; and to so many others: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”53

25 DV 5; cf. DS 377; 3010.
26 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
27 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,2,9; cf. Dei Filius 3:DS 3010.
28 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
29 Dei Filius 3:DS 3009.
30 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20; Heb 2:4.
31 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,171,5,obj.3.
32 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (London: Longman, 1878) 239.
33 St. Anselm, Prosl. prooem.:PL 153,225A.
34 Eph 1:18.
35 DV 5.
36 St. Augustine, Sermo 43,7,9:PL 38,257-258.
37 Dei Filius 4:DS 3017.
38 GS 36 § 1.
39 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 § 2.
40 DH 11.
41 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.
42 Cf. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 et al.
43 Dei Filius 3:DS 3012; cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13 and Heb 11:6; Council of Trent:DS 1532.
44 1 Tim 1:18-19.
45 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.
46 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.
47 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.
48 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15,36:PG 32,132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,4,1.
49 2 Cor 5:7.
50 l Cor 13:12.
51 Rom 4:18.
52 LG 58; John Paul II, RMat 18.
53 Heb 12:1-2.


-by Br Damian Day, OP

“Saul stood by with a heart harder than the stones striking Stephen. Unconvinced by Stephen’s eloquent preaching, unmoved by his miracles, blind to his angelic countenance, blinder still to his burning love, the eyes of Saul’s soul, sealed shut by the weight of stone scales, saw only darkness.

How many of our co-workers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, seem similarly unseeing before the love that has flooded our hearts? Yes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Rom 5:5), which burn when we hear those words, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

How much it pains our hearts to see our loved ones wandering without that one thing that can satisfy—and more than satisfy—the tortured depths of the human heart.

How can these signs and wonders, miracles, words of wisdom, acts of charity, the love of martyrs, not move all hearts? Yet, Saul stood stubborn seeing Stephen see the Son standing at God’s right hand in glory.

Is the love that fills our hearts so weak, so unattractive, so insufficient?

Love is a subtle thing, patiently plodding, plowing forward when the ground seems all stones where never a thing could grow. But persistently, consistently, love works, bursting forth unexpectedly with abundant fruit.

As the mob disbanded, retrieving their coats from Saul’s watch, leaving Stephen’s blood soaking the stones, all the deacon’s mighty words and deeds, all his eloquence, his very love, seemed insufficient.

But even as Saul scattered the Church, Stephen’s love worked behind the scenes. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe says that in “his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.”

With love never growing tired, Stephen loved those unmoved by what he loved most. Stephen’s insistent love shattered the dark, adamant stone of Saul’s heart, which the Lord converted after the likeness of his own heart. Has ever a heart changed so much?

Stephen’s blood watered the stony soil of Saul’s soul. Like the Lord he loved, Stephen became as a grain of wheat that, unless it “falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). That fruit we still taste whenever we receive the words of Paul’s preaching or behold them shake the soul of a St. Augustine.

May we love those dearest to us as Stephen loved Saul, yea, as Christ has loved us, loved us to the end (Jn 13:1).

Love, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Mk 9:24
Matthew

Love of God

Deut 6:4-7

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, grant that by charity I may really participate in Your life of love.

MEDITATION

Faith makes us adhere to God by means of knowledge; hence, it is especially related to our intellect. Hope makes us adhere to God by the conviction that we will one day possess Him in heaven, and therefore, it is related to our desire for happiness. But charity seizes our entire being, and by means of love, casts it into God. Faith tells us Who God is, and reveals the mystery of His intimate life which we are called to share; hope tells us that this God wills to be our Good for all eternity, but charity enables us to attain this immediately by the unitive force proper to it. St. Thomas says: “Charity makes man tend to God by uniting his affection to God in such a way that man no longer lives for himself, but for God” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.17, a.6, ad 3).

But what is this charity which has the power to unite us to God, to make us live in such intimate relationship with Him that “he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16)? It is a created participation in the charity, the infinite love with which God loves Himself, that is, the love with which the Father loves the Son, with which the Son loves the Father, and by which each loves the other in the Holy Spirit. Through charity we are called to enter into this divine current, into this circle of eternal love which unites the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity to one another.

Faith has already brought us into the intimacy of the divine life by making us share in the knowledge God has of Himself; but charity makes us penetrate even further by inserting us, as it were, into that movement of love, of incomparable friendship which exists in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. Charity plunges us into the very center of God’s intimate life; it enables us to share in the infinite love of the three divine Persons: in the intimate love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father; it enables us to love the Father and the Son in the love of the Holy Spirit.

COLLOQUY

“Oh my soul, reflect upon the great delight and the great love which the Father has in knowing His Son and the Son in knowing His Father and the ardor with which the Holy Spirit unites Them, and how none of These can cease from this love and knowledge since They are one and the same. These sovereign Persons know each other, love each other and delight in each other. What need, then, have They of my love? Why do You seek it, my God, or what do You gain by it?

O love, in how many places would I fain repeat this word, for it alone makes me bold enough to say with the spouse in the Canticle: ‘I have loved my Beloved.’ It allows me to think that You, my God, my Spouse and my Good, have need of me.

But love must not be wrought in our imagination but must be proved by works…. Oh Jesus, what will a soul inflamed with Your love not do? Those who really love You, love all good, seek all good, help forward all good, praise all good, and invariably join forces with good men and help and defend them. They love only truth and things worthy of love. It is not possible that one who really and truly loves You can love the vanities of earth; his only desire is to please You. He is dying with longing for You to love him, and so would give his life to learn how he may please You better.

O Lord, be pleased to grant me this love before You take me from this life. It will be a great comfort at the hour of death to realize that I shall be judged by You Whom I have loved above all things. Then I shall be able to go to meet You with confidence, even though burdened with my debts, for I shall not be going into a foreign land but into my own country, into the kingdom of Him Whom I have loved so much and Who likewise has so much loved me.” (cf. Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 7 – Conceptions of the Love of God, 4 – Interior Castle III, 1 – Way of Perfection, 40).

Love,
Matthew

Primacy of the Virtue of Love (Charity) – 1 Cor 13:13

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
PART THREE
LIFE IN CHRIST

SECTION ONE
MAN’S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

CHAPTER ONE
THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

ARTICLE 7
THE VIRTUES…

II. THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES…

Charity

1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving His own “to the end,”97 He makes manifest the Father’s love which He receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you; abide in My love.” And again: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”98

1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and His Christ: “Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”99

1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”100 The Lord asks us to love as He does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ Himself.101

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”102

1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.”103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”104

1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.

1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of Him who “first loved us”:106

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for Him Who commands . . . we are in the position of children.107

1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.108

96 Cf. Jn 13:34.
97 Jn 13:1.
98 Jn 15:9,12.
99 Jn 15:9-10; cf. Mt 22:40; Rom 13:8-10.
100 Rom 5:10.
101 Cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45.
102 1 Cor 13:4-7.
103 1 Cor 13:1-4.
104 1 Cor 13:13.
105 Col 3:14.
106 Cf. 1 Jn 4:19.
107 St. Basil, Reg. fus. tract., prol. 3:PG 31,896B.
108 St. Augustine, In ep. Jo. 10,4:PL 35,2057.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Make me understand, O Lord, the pre-eminence of charity, that I may apply myself to it with all my heart.

MEDITATION

The three theological virtues (faith, hope, love) having God for their immediate object, are superior to the moral virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance) which are directed to the government of our conduct; but among the three theological virtues, charity (love) holds the primacy. It holds the primacy because, being inseparable from grace, it is the constitutive and indispensable element of our supernatural life. Where there is no charity there is neither grace nor life, but only death. “He that loveth not, abideth in death,” and contrariwise, “He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:14 – 4:16). Faith and hope can subsist in a soul which has lost grace, but charity cannot. It is so vital that it cannot co-exist with the death that is caused by sin. Furthermore, it is so vital that it is imperishable and will remain unchanged for all eternity. In heaven, faith and hope will cease because they bear with them some imperfection: faith makes us know God without giving us the vision of Him, and hope lets us hope in Him without giving us possession of Him. Hence, “when that which is perfect is come,” that is, the beatific vision, these two virtues will have no further reason for existing. However, it is not the same with charity which implies no imperfection, since by it, we love God either in the obscurity of faith, or in the clarity of vision, and therefore St. Paul says, “Charity never falleth away.” Here on earth, to adhere to God, “these three remain: faith, hope, and charity: but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:8,13).

Faith and hope are incomplete virtues, because without charity they cannot unite us to God and produce the works of eternal life. The faith and hope of a sinner, one who has lost charity, are inactive and inoperative; they remain in him, it is true, but they are there as if dead. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), and only “faith that worketh by charity … availeth anything” (Galatians 5:6), and this to the extent, that “if I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). It is charity that gives the warmth and strength of eternal life to faith and hope; it is charity that infuses vigor into these virtues, for only he who loves is capable of abandoning himself to God with eyes closed.

COLLOQUY

“Clothe me, O Lord, with the purple garment of charity which not only adds grace to faith and hope but causes the soul to rise to so lofty a point that it is brought very near You and becomes very beautiful and pleasing in Your eyes. It is the virtue which most attracts Your love, protects the soul against pride and gives value to the other virtues, bestowing on them vigor and strength, grace and beauty so that they may please You, for without charity no virtue has grace before Your eyes.

O sweetest love of God, how little are You known! He who has found Your fountain has found rest. You remove from the affections of the will whatever is not God and set it upon Him alone, and then you prepare this faculty and unite it to God through love.

O God, teach me to use all my powers to love You, so that all the faculties of my soul and body: memory, understanding, and will, inward and outward senses, desires of the sensual part and of the spiritual part, will work in love and for the sake of love. Grant that all that I do I may do with love, and all that I suffer I may suffer with the pleasure of love, and that in this way, my God, I may keep all my strength for You.” (John of the Cross: Dark Night of the Soul II, 21,10.11 – Spiritual Maxims – Words of Light I, 16 – Spiritual Canticle 28,8).

“I resolve, O my God, to have no other purpose but love in all my actions, interior as well as exterior, always saying and asking myself: What am I doing now? Am I loving my God? And if I see that there is any obstacle to pure love, I shall reproach myself, remembering, O Lord, that I must return You love for love. Well do You make me understand that the more I love You, the more diligent I shall be in the observance of all Your holy laws.” (cf. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus Spirituality of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus).”

Love,
Matthew

Hope grounds us in eternity – Heb 6:19

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,” – Heb 6:19


-Br Vincent Mary Bernhard, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas writes that hope is the virtue that grounds us in eternity, especially as we are tossed about by the storms of this world. “Thus a man,” he writes, “should be held fast to that hope as an anchor,” for God “wills that the anchor of our hope be fixed in that which is now veiled from our eyes” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews). Infused by the Holy Spirit, the gift of hope reminds us of the words and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ and allows us to believe that they will happen. It is easy to think of the moments of trial in the past year, making one rather pessimistic, or at best only slightly optimistic about the year to come. However, by realizing that each one of us is united to Jesus Christ and relives the mysteries of His life, we are prepared to face whatever comes as an opportunity to grow closer to God and be conformed even more into His image. This is where happiness is found: in the union with God and the enjoyment of the eternal life of the Son. The way is arduous and difficult, (Christianity is NOT for WIMPS!!!) but we hope in the promises of the Savior.

The Lord calls us to boldness and courage; He calls us from being lukewarm and sets us on fire with His charity. “I look everywhere for Your divinity,” writes Bl. Henry Suso, “but You show me Your humanity; I desire Your sweetness, but You offer me bitterness; I want to suckle, but You teach me to fight.”

Our Lord responded to Bl. Henry Suso, “away with faintheartedness and enter with Me the lists of knightly steadfastness. Indulgence is not fitting for the servant when the lord is practicing warlike boldness. I shall clothe you with My armor because all My suffering has to be endured by you as far as you are able.”

The Lord is with us as a warrior and His very life flows through our veins. Therefore, no matter the trials and challenges we face in the new year, we are prepared to endure and overcome them by renewing our hope in Him, allowing Him to stir our hearts to boldness and zeal for the kingdom of God.”

Love & Hope,
Matthew

Know Thyself – γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Know Thyself


-by Jason Craig

Often, the difference between a man that believes in virtue and a man who doesn’t comes down to one distinction: is truth true or is truth relative? Most reading this know that “moral relativism” is a plague easily diagnosed and dismissed by sane men, but not truly believing in truth has more manifestations than we might think. Many of us are relativists by a different name by our attempt to create false images of ourselves and ask the world to believe in what we have created. Our screen time fuels this error.

Descartes is famous for saying, “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito ergo sum.Cartesian thought stems from stripping all other forms of knowledge away, being instinctively skeptical of all received so-called “truths” and being sure only of one’s own thinking. All knowledge in this mode comes from what can be proven by empirical evidence, but really what we end up with is just thinking that whatever we think is right. “I think, therefore whatever I think is what is.” Moral relativism flows easily from here, since morality needs philosophy and theology, not just empiricism.

Mix relativism with a little narcissism, and it’s not hard to picture the thousands of uploaded images, comments, etc. that we post on the internet and hear ourselves say clearly – by our actions – “I post, therefore I am.” We think what we slap on the wall is what we are, because we don’t actually care to know what we are. That can be ugly and hard.

Few of us want to do the work of really knowing ourselves, yet this is the true path to virtue and wisdom. Socrates expanded the Greek maxim “know thyself” saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Gazing at ourselves online – adoring what we have marketed – is not self-examination. It’s looking at the self as we have created it, not as God has. Holiness, which is the graced reality of virtue, must be found in asking God to show us to ourselves. Few of us have the courage and humility to see our self as it is, let alone the courage to persevere in correcting its faults. Seeing and correcting the faults of others is much easier, especially done through our created persona. To understand the self, we have to look away from it, especially by looking away from our screens, and look to God:

“We shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle)”

Love & truth,
Matthew