Sunday, April 1, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part II
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On the Theological Virtues

While the theological virtues are not the primary focus of this study, they are so inseparable from the cardinal virtues that they require attention.  Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II both saw in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love along with the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, seven lamps of sanctification; they are the fundamental principles of the Christian life.[1]  The root of the acquired cardinal virtues, and the foundation of Christian moral activity as a whole, are the theological virtues, which are infused by God.[2]  It is important to understand that the theological virtues are not attained, they are gifts, and they contain answers to the questions on how to acquire the cardinal virtues.  Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee explains that the word confidence “summarizes the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity – sovereign virtues which bring all the others in their train.”[3]  The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love help man form an ecclesial consciousness, or in other words, makes him a member of the body of Christ.  In these three virtues, the Christian becomes aware of his participation in the life of the Trinitarian God, and that this is the ultimate destiny of man.[4]

Faith brings man to believe in God and all He has said and revealed.[5]  Hope gives the ability to desire heaven and eternal life as one’s happiness, placing one’s trust in God and not on one’s own strength, but that of grace through the Holy Spirit.[6]  The beatitudes raise one’s hope toward heaven, and hope is nourished in prayer, especially the Our Father, which is the sum of everything that hope leads humans to desire.[7]  Hope is the assurance of salvation, and it gives mankind the ability to carry his cross.  Charity is the greatest of all the virtues.  The Catechism states: “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.”[8]  The Holy Spirit helps mankind to love like God loves.  The Catechism also states: “The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”[Col 3:14]; 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.”[9]  St. Augustine affirms that the cardinal virtues become four different ways of loving God: “Temperance is love giving itself entirely to that which is loved; fortitude is love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object; justice is love serving only the loved object, and therefore ruling rightly; prudence is love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders it and what helps it.”[10]

[1] Pope John Paul II, General Audience, November 22, 1978, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978), [accessed October 2, 2010].    
[2] Catechism, 1812-1813.
[3] Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee, I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux, (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1969), 25.
[4] Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press 2007), 11.
[5] Catechism, 1814.
[6] Ibid, 1817.
[7] Ibid, 1820.
[8] Ibid, 1822.
[9] Ibid, 1827.
[10] Augustine of Hippo, On the Morals of the Catholic Church, written in 388 A.D., [accessed September 27, 2010], XV.

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