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Common Ground: CCC 1803-1845

by PastorWilliams on October 11th, 2017





The Roman Catholic Church lists seven virtues of the Christian life. There are four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. When it defines virtue, the Catechism gives the idea that spiritual perfection is possible. Of course, in other places, this perfection is only available to those who are saints able to do works of supererogation.

The Catechism defines these virtues as (paragraph 1803):

A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows a 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 four cardinal virtues play a pivotal role in the Christian life because they are able to be brought into existence within the human person through Christ’s infused grace (paragraph 1811).

  1. Prudence “disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it” (paragraph 1806).
  2. Justice “consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor” (paragraph 1807).
  3. Fortitude “ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life” (paragraph 1808).
  4. Temperance “moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods” (paragraph 1809).

The three theological virtues serve as the basis of the four cardinal virtues. The theological virtues dispose Christians to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity (paragraph 1812). The three theological virtues are:

  1. “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is Truth itself” (paragraph 1814).
  2. Hope leads us to “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” (paragraph 1817).
  3. Love, or charity, leads us to “love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of GOd” (paragraph 1822).

The three theological virtues build off of and rely on each other (1 Corinthians 13:13). “When it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of His Body” (paragraph 1815). “Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes” (paragraph 1820). “The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’; 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” (paragraph 1827).

While the numbers of seven virtues sounds very holy, I believe that the number was chosen to offset the seven “deadly” sins. While this provides a nice rational balance, it can lead to the idea of dualism: the equality of good and evil in Creation. This can pose a problem in a Christian’s life to think that we have full choice between good and evil, right and wrong. Our fallen, sinful nature does not allow this full choice. In fact, the sinful nature acts in the exact opposite way that the Catechism seeks to explain the work of the virtues.

The virtues listed are gifts from God in your Baptism. They are to be worked on throughout the Christian life as we struggle against sin and its manifold temptations.

From → Common Ground

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