“According to St. Thomas Aquinas, natural virtue (justice, prudence, temperance and courage, and all the subset virtues) are acquired virtues. Acquired virtues are those good-habits which are developed by way of our own effort, behavior, and mind. Theological virtues, however, are “infused” virtues, where the capacity to Faith Love and Hope are understood to be supernatural. Sometimes a more generic notion of faith love and hope are ascribed to these virtues, but this type of hope, love and faith is merely natural. Rather, the supernatural type of faith, hope and love spoken of here is something that man does not have the capacity unto himself to develop.
Once baptized the Christian then has the capacity to develop these virtues, and thus analogically, the Church has said that such virtues are given at baptism. To be clear, however, this does not mean the habit is present at baptism, but the capacity. Thus, since our nature is now configured to that of Christ, our capacity to act accordingly involves as a consequence of such Divinity united to ourselves that we likewise are capable of such supernatural habits.
This capacity, once received then becomes like acquired virtues insofar as we must act and habituate these virtues, according to our own capacity. God sustains that capacity, and can in fact increase it. Think of his parables about giving more responsibilities to those who proved themselves to do well with what they were originally given. If you do well with the baptismal supernatural capacities, then you will be given more.
Finally, its important to avoid two extremes with regard to the virtues. Aquinas makes it clear that without the supernatural virtues it is impossible to be made perfect in regard to the cardinal virtues. Although there can be some health and strength in one sphere of a person’s life, in others there will be deficits of growth. The reason for this is due in part to our fallenness. Second, the Theological virtues themselves are not meant to be abstractly applied to normal living – they have implications whereby they elevate the cardinal virtues into a greater context. No longer is justice merely a natural category, but now is taken up into Divine-Justice. Courage is not longer ordered towards accomplishing a natural-good, but rather a supernatural-love (think of martyrdom). Temperance is visibly noted in the mortification that Catholics practice, because the call to fast and pray is not merely ordered towards an natural good (such as health, mental-health), but now it is oriented towards the salvation of souls including our own, and the glory of God. Finally, prudence is elevated to discern not merely what is a natural-wisdom, but the Will of God, and thus we see Christ in the Garden suspending his natural disposition to avoid death, and seeks the eternal and spiritual-life chosen by the Father.
Thus we cannot compartmentalize the virtues as though they are separate entities – rather they are to have an interconnected integration and subordination. Finally, the principle with which all virtue rests upon is that man is rational. This indicates that man, as a moral agent is called embody himself by aligning himself to whatever the truth is. For if man ascribes to some illusion or falsity, he falls short of being true to his own nature.
Some contemporary philosophers have suggested that seeking the virtue of justice, for instance, implies a righteous act without any benefit. However, this is shortsighted. It is true that whistleblowers for instance can suffer at the hands of the powerful, or Christ himself be murdered for simply telling the truth in love. But it would be wrong to draw the conclusion thus that this had no benefit to those individuals who acted according to the truth of justice and goodness. What it rather indicates is that they became fully alive, truly who they were, and thus the inheritance is their own integrity – which is a good.”
Love & virtue,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom