Theological Virtues

Excerpt from The Holy Family Rosary:

In discussion of the major benefits of these meditations we must also address the goal and fruit of this work designed for our soul as human virtue, which is noted as “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.  It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.  The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.”[1] We further learn that “Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, and habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.  They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life.  The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.  The moral virtues are acquired by human effort.  They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.”[2]

We should take this opportunity to note again that two of the names of the three mysteries Mary invoked for our use are the Joyful and the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Was this not an invaluable indication of the extreme importance of the four principle human passions in the life and death of Jesus Christ leading to His glorious resurrection, after disclosing us two?  Hope in Christ Jesus is taught our mainstay while wisdom is rooted in fear of the Lord.  To ask why these isolated views of virtue remained obscure thus far is really not surprising to find when asking what saint ever mentions how humble they are?  Our Lady surely wouldn’t, would you?  However, are we to ignore sound reason and not teach what is known to be true?

Simply said, God’s Love is our main goal’s end to witness, profess and gain.  This being so, the recognition of virtue is our witness of Christ (within) by the good works we and others do, as something we are called to seek, as St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) expressed: “… you must not build upon foundations of prayer and contemplation alone, for, unless you strive after the virtues and practice them, you will never grow to be more than dwarfs. God grant that nothing worse than this may happen – for, as you know, anyone who fails to go forward begins to go back.”[3] Thus virtue as ‘fruit’ is only gained and/or maintained directly through our unitive work with the invisible Third Person of the Triune God, the All Powerful Holy Ghost, in Whom we share His goal and Holy Work of Charity, redounding the mirrored image of God’s Son, in perfection of Divine Love – by the descent of the Holy Ghost, within.

By recollection of these “Mysteries of Light” with the entire holy family of God preceding and following the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we advance our comprehension and potential fullness of the theological virtues that are presented to us in Christ, especially when learning that these three virtues are “infused” solely from God as taught by the Catholic Church in Her Catechism: “The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character.  They inform and give life to all the moral virtues.  They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as His children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.  There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.”[4] By virtue of our Church’s definition we are justifiably required to ask “is anyone being misled by what is presented in this work?”

Faith as described in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) reads: “Though the word Faith has a variety of meanings in the Sacred Scriptures, we here speak only of that faith by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.”[5] And in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) we learn: “To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”) in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.  Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture.  The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.”[6] And Holy Mother Church is Patroness of our faith, so, in all humility, Mary would not draw this attention to herself.  She, as Mother of the Church, stands watch for her children yet, to honor her virtue – we rejoice together praising her Son!

St. Paul taught the Hebrews: “By faith Noe, having received an answer concerning those things which as yet were not seen, moved with fear, framed the ark for the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world; and was instituted heir of the justice which is by faith.”[7] And again, “By faith he that is called Abraham, obeyed to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”[8] And again, “By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, even past the time of age; because she believed that he was faithful who had promised, for which cause there sprung even from one (and him as good as dead) as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”[9]

We learn Hope is found in Christ Jesus through Mary as Wisdom’s Seat.  “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”[10] “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”[11] As the “Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”[12] Hope’s origin is identified and revealed in Truth by the Son of God’s desire to satisfy His Father’s command for the salvation of humanity.

St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “For we are saved by hope.  But hope that is seen, is not hope.  For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?  But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity.  For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.  And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God.  And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.  For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren.  And whom he predestinated, them he also called.  And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.”[13] Herein lays our need and purpose for prayers unseen.

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.[14] And charity is the perfect image of God in Jesus Christ whom “makes charity the new commandment.”  By loving his own `to the end,’[15] 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.[16] 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.’”[17] For this reason, contemplating the covenants that preceded Mary’s faith and prepared her in hope is for our reflective benefit of mankind’s love in Christ’s image to yield the same charity as in Mary’s loving resolve.  Truly, this transparency of Mary’s Way is divine help from above!

St. John speaks of this loving understanding in his beautiful Gospel account: “Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity.  By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him.  In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”[18]

In summary of these three virtues Church Council holds of God that: “The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity.  When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil.  It follows that we must necessarily accept His words and have complete faith in Him and acknowledge His authority.  He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent.  Who could not place all hope in Him?  Who could not love Him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love He has poured out on us?  Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD.’[19] It is of great consequence that in the Book of Leviticus the text “Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself” immediately precedes God reminding us that “I am the Lord”[20] and is precisely what Jesus came to teach.

[1] CCC #1803
[2] Ibid: #1804
[3] Interior Castle, VII, 4, 9.
[4] CCC #1813
[5] Catechism of the Council of Trent: Part 1, The Creed; The Necessity of Faith.
[6] CCC: Article 1: I Believe; The Obedience of Faith; 144.
[7] Heb. 11:7.
[8] Ibid: 11:8.
[9] Ibid: 11:11-12.
[10] CCC #1817
[11] Heb. 10:23.
[12] Titus 3:6-7.
[13] Rom. 8:24-30
[14] CCC #1822.
[15] Cf. Jn. 13:34.
[16] CCC #1823.
[17] Jn. 15:9,12.
[18] Jn. 4:7-10.
[19] CCC #2086
[20] Lev. 19:18.