I believe Pentecost “season” is my new favorite solemnity in the Catholic Church. This week, anyway. :-) Because it has helped me understand the Christian virtues to a whole new level. A grace-filled level.
The Holy Spirit’s gifts are designed to help us be virtuous. What are the virtues? According to the Catholic Catechism, virtue is a 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. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God (Catechism 1803.)
The moral or “cardinal” virtues are:1. Prudence2. Justice3. Fortitude4. Temperance
The theological virtues are: 1. Faith2. Hope3. Charity
If we want to be truly virtuous, not just in a human or “natural” way, we want to be virtuous in a “super-natural” way. And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. For example, perhaps a decision “looks good” one way or the other. The Holy Spirit takes your prudent decision and “completes” it, through the gift of wisdom, by helping us make the right decision, from God’s perspective, and makes that decision meritorious towards eternal life and salvation. “Natural” virtues cannot merit eternal life. We need the Holy Spirit to ACTIVATE our virtuous acts with His SUPER POWERS!
Since I began studying the virtues, the topic and further insight to the virtues are showing up everywhere I look! Of course, we celebrated the descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) this past Sunday – so the Holy Spirit is the “man of the hour.”
Did you know that Saint Francis, too, sang the praises of the virtues? Literally. Saint Francis was God’s troubadour in medieval times. He knew that growth in the virtues was important in our growth in holiness. And he exemplified them in an outstanding way – which he is why he attracts people of many faiths.
Late in Saint Francis’ life, he offers us a particular reflection on what many consider his primary Franciscan virtues when living the catholic faith.
A Salutation of the VirtuesHail, Queen Wisdom! The Lord save you, with your sister, pure holy Simplicity.
Lady Holy Poverty, God keep you, with your sister, holy Humility!
Lady Holy Love, God keep you, with your sister, holy Obedience.
All Holy Virtues, God keep you, God from whom you proceed and come.
In all the world there is not a man who can possess any one of You without first dying to himself.
The man who practices one and does not offend against the others possesses all.
The man who offends against one, possesses none and violates all.
Each and every one of you puts vice and sin to shame. Holy Wisdom puts satan and all his wiles to shame.
Pure and holy Simplicity puts all the learning of this world, all natural wisdom, to shame.
Holy Poverty puts to shame all greed, avarice, and all the anxieties of this life.
Holy Humility puts pride to shame, and all the inhabitants of this world and all that is in the world.
Holy Love puts to shame all the temptations of the devil and the flesh and all natural fear.
Holy Obedience puts to shame all natural and selfish desires.
It mortifies our lower nature and makes it obey the spirit and our fellow men.
Obedience subjects a man to everyone on earth, and not only to men, but to all the beasts as well and to the wild animals, So that they can do what they like with him, as far as God allows them.
The first four lines “set the scene” for these six specific virtues. In lines 5-8, Francis describes the necessary paths to achieve these virtues. Then, starting in line nine, Francis gives reflections on each of these virtues. Designed as a meditation rather than to be recited, it gives much food for thought.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the virtues in future articles – especially if I’m blessed to have the Holy Spirit activate his super-powers within my heart! Meanwhile, “May the Lord’s peace be with you!”
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