July 19, 2024

Growing in human virtue is not easy to do. It requires humility, sacrifice and discipline over our thoughts, feelings and disordered desires. The classic definition of virtue is a habit or a firm disposition that inclines a person to choose good and avoid evil. As difficult as it can be to always choose good and avoid evil, it is also important to remember that growth in human virtue brings great delight when we attain new levels of discipline, right order and prudent choices through the use of effort, education, perseverance and reason.

For example, one can grow in virtue through rigorous training programs like the military. But human education, discipline and development of right reason can also help us attain solid human virtues.

But, God has so much more in mind for us! As his beloved daughters and sons, he freely gives us supernatural help, which we commonly call grace. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches, “Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life” (CCC 2021). It is by this divine grace that God helps us to grow in the cardinal virtues, which we will be focusing on in this edition of The Bishop’s Bulletin.

The four cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin word cardo, which means “hinge.” Like hinges on a door that make a door easy to open, so, too, do the cardinal virtues function in relationship to all the other virtues.

Prudence, for example, enables a person to recognize his moral duty and provides the spiritual means to attain it. A prudent person learns and follows God’s will as revealed in Scripture and Tradition and, consequently, makes godly moral choices. They also develop a well-formed conscience attuned to and faithful to the truth.

St. Thomas Aquinas describes the virtue of justice as “a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due with constant and perpetual will” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q. 58, Art. 1). We owe God proper worship, obedience and love above all other things. We also owe proper justice toward others by being morally good to them, respectful and seeking their good and the common good.

Fortitude enables a person to stand firmly against evil and hardship while remaining steadfast to what is good. An example would be those who are able to face great suffering and sometimes death because they are witnessing the truth of our faith. We are blessed to have many martyrs who witness the supernatural strength that comes from God to do good, regardless of the cost.

The virtue of temperance provides assistance to properly regulate our emotions and passions. As we know from experience, there are times in our lives when we feel strongly about something and our disordered desires can get the best of us. As we grow in virtue, all our desires are ordered by reason, enlightened by faith, and motivated by love.

As we journey through Lent this year, may we humbly turn to God in prayer and sacrifices, asking for an increase of all the divine graces that will help us grow in virtue. And may we be steadfast in making prudent, just, temperate and strong choices for the glory of God, and for the good of others and ourselves.