My family . . . the blessings of my life!

My family . . . the blessings of my life!
Sean, Mackenzie, Pat (hubby), me, Jeneah

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections from the Saints - Temptations & Virtues

Today's reflection:
Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and a promise by God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast.
– St. Philip Neri


As I read the above reflection, I thought of virtues as our Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches them. Possibly I thought of them in a much different & deeper way because of the recent Men's Spiritual Adventure "A Retreat In Motion" that my wonderful husband led -- a retreat that focused on one virtue per day, along with one hour of silence to reflect on that particular virtue, then followed up in the evening with sharing. When the men's retreat focused on one virtue per day, I thought to myself, "Do we as Catholics, whose Catechism teaches beautifully the virtues, take time in our own lives to deeply focus & contemplate these virtues in our lives?" Then when I read today's Reflections from the Saints that feeds into my home page, I again found myself pondering daily focus on one virtue (and its counter-temptation/vice).

These two similar & closely timed thoughts led me to an idea...
I'll post one virtue per day for seven days.
Follow along if you please. And, try to take some quiet time to reflect on the daily virtue.

Doing this will give me (and force me) to read the materials myself (which is often how the Lord works with me..."Liz needs to learn/focus on such & such, so I'll assign her to present the material" LOL). I'll be grabbing the materials on virtues from reliable Catholic teaching (we have much better teachers than I can ever dream of being, so why would I attempt to reinvent the wheel??) For my much-loved and respected non-Catholic Christian friends, I think you'll enjoy these days of reflecting on virtue in our lives.

Why do this? As CHRISTIANS we are called to grow in virtue to be more like Christ in all we do. How do we grow in virtue if we have not spent some time learning and deepening our understanding?

Tomorrow will be DAY ONE of VIRTUES.

Before we begin on the daily virtues, let me offer a little deeper understanding of virtue.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:


1803 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."62

A virtue is 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.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.63


1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, 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.

The cardinal virtues

1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. "If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.

The virtues and grace

1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.

1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.


1833 Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good.

1834 The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Fr. John Hardon on Virtues link (excerpts of text below, EMPHASIS ADDED)
Human excellence thus defined shows itself in two forms:
the habitual subordination of the senses and lower
tendencies to rational rule and principle, and in the
exercise of reason in the search for the contemplation
of truth. The former kind of excellence is described as
moral, the latter is intellectual virtue.


St. Thomas defines virtue as "a good habit bearing on
activity," or a good faculty-habit
[ habitus operativus bonus ]. Generic to the concept
of virtue, then, is the element of habit,
which stands in a special relation to the soul,
whether in the natural order or elevated to the
divine life by grace.

. . . . . .

The soul is the remote principle or source of
all our activities; faculties are the proximate
sources built into the soul by nature;
habits are still more immediate principles added
to the faculties either by personal endeavor or
by supernatural infusion from God.
Consequently the soul helps the man,
faculties help the soul, and habits help the faculties.

Habits reside in the faculties as stable
dispositions or "hard to eradicate" qualities that
dispose the faculties to act in a certain way,
depending on the type of habit. If the habit is acquired
it gives the faculty power to act with ease and facility;
if it is infused, it procures not readiness in
supernatural activity, but the very activity itself.
Natural or acquired habits result from repeated
acts of some one kind; they give not the power to act,
but the power to act readily and with dexterity.
Thus in the natural order, the faculty without the habit
is simple power to act,
the faculty with the habit is power to act with perfection.
Since custom is parent to habit, it is called second nature.
Faculty is like first nature, and habit the second.

Not every habit is a virtue, but only one that
so improves and perfects a rational faculty as
to incline it towards good -- good for the faculty,
for the will and for the whole man in terms of his
ultimate destiny.

There is a broad sense in which we can speak of
the natural dispositions of any of our powers as
innate virtues, but this is a loose rendering and
leads to confusion. More properly the infused
virtues should be contrasted with the acquired habits,
in which the autonomous will of the individual plays
the dominant role. My consistent effort to
concentrate on a given course of action,
repeating the process over a long period of time
and in spite of obstacles, gradually develops
a tendency to perform the action spontaneously
and almost without reflection, yet to a degree of
perfection that someone else without
the virtue cannot duplicate.

Dedication to Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ, take away my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your love and your grace are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Amen.
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)

St. Teresa of Avila
“For mental prayer…is nothing more than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much…Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux
"...So I sought in holy Scripture some idea of what this life I wanted would be, and I read these words: 'Whosoever is a little one, come to me.' It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up; I must stay little and become less and less."

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.