I find it interesting that for some reason, most people are familiar with the 7 cardinal sins (as even the non-Christians) but not the 7 virtues. Yeah, some Christians may be aware of the existence of the 7 virtues, but perhaps with a few “ummms” and “hmmmms” when asked to name them.
Perhaps it is because we are so perversely attracted to what is wrong and use it in our conversations and thoughts as a topic of scandal or gossip. Or perhaps simply because it is easier to say we are okay when we simply avoid the 7 sins. However, that is not enough! We should recognize it is even more important to grow in our virtues!
When Pope Gregory defined the 7 deadly sins, he also gave a counter-balancing set of virtues that we should adopt.
The Theological Virtues (CCC 1812-1813)
The theological virtues are considered the highest virtues as they direct us to God.
Faith (CCC 1814-1816)
To believe in God and all that God has done. Faith can be lost through sin which dulls the intellect and hence the more we sin, the further we feel from God and the more we lose our faith.
Example of a faithful person – Abraham
Hope (CCC 1817-1821)
To hope is to desire for Heaven. Hope brings us to trust in Christ’s promises and desire eternal happiness through eternal life. We recognize that we cannot rely on ourselves but that God is in-charge and God desires us to be in heaven with him. Not to be confused with naive optimism!
Example of a hopeful person – Saint Monica
Charity (CCC 1822-1829)
Love God above all things and love your neighbors as yourself. I guess it is no coincidence that charity is the first of all virtues and also the new commandment that Jesus gave us. It demands beneficence and fraternal correction – often misconstrued as the Mr Nice Guy!
Example of a charitable person – Saint Mother Teresa
The Human Virtues (CCC 1804)
The human virtues are habits that can guide our conduct according to reason and faith.
Temperance (CCC 1809)
Temperance is a balance in the use of created goods – and not to be mistakened as fasting from pleasure! That cannot be more wrong! God desires for all of us to be happy – and that includes obtaining pleasure. However, if it is disordered, whether in too much or too little, that is a violation of temperance.
Example of a person with temperance – Saint Augustine
Prudence (CCC 1806)
Prudence (also known as wisdom) is a practical reasoning to discern the good end. Prudence includes not just choosing an action for a good end, but a good means to achieve it. It guides all other virtues and applies moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts with regards to the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.
Example of a prudent person – Saint Dominic
Fortitude (CCC 1808)
Fortitude (also known as courage) is the constancy to conquer fear for the pursuit of good. Fortitude demands total courage and constancy to overcome obstacles for a moral life even in the face of death! It is not only meant for soldiers or ‘great people’ but we are all called to be courageous to make the moral choice for every decision consistently.
Example of a fortuitous person – Biblical Esther
Justice (CCC 1807)
Justice is to give due to God and neighbor – always about to somebody else and never to oneself. When directed to God, it is the virtue of religion. It respects the basic human rights and promotes the common good.
Question to ponder: Is a starving person entitled to food from his neighbor?
Example of a just person – Saint John Bosco
Which virtue do you identify with best today? I also learn recently that in the growth of any virtue, all other virtues will grow! For example if I were to work on prudence, I will naturally make more just decisions and also behave more temperately.
On the other hand, are there any seemingly small areas in our lives where we feel we can improve on being more virtuous? Take a moment to consider some baby concrete steps to start your virtuous journey today!