Growing Toward Goodness and God.
"1. Should we be contented with avoiding grievous sins and crimes?
No; we should also diligently endeavor to become more and more virtuous, and to attain the perfection suitable to our condition.
Example of St. Paul: 'Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after. . . . One thing I do; forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before' (Philip. iii. 12, 13, compare NAB).
["The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God." St. Gregory of Nyssa. CCC1803.]
2. Why should we endeavor to become more and more virtuous?
Because man is only good, and pleasing to God, inasmuch as he is virtuous.
[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. CCC 1803.]
3 In what does Christian virtue consist?
Christian virtue, in general, consists in the perseverance of the will, and in its constant exertions to do what is acceptable to God.
4. How is Christian virtue divided with regard to its origin ?
Into infused and acquired virtue.
5. What is infused virtue ?
Virtue is called infused, inasmuch as it is a gift of God, which together with sanctifying grace is imparted to the soul, in order to qualify and dispose us for the practice of supernatural virtues - i.e., for the performance of such pious actions as are worthy of life everlasting (Rom. 5:5).
["They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being." CCC 1813]
6. Which virtues are chiefly infused into the soul?
The three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. [See CCC 1813ff. Cf. 1Cor 13:13.]
7. Why are they called 'Theological virtues'?
Because they come directly from, and directly relate to, God.
8. When should we make Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity?
We should make them frequently, but especially, 1. In great temptations against these virtues; 2. When we receive the Holy Sacraments ; and 3. When we are in danger of losing our life, or on our deathbed.
["Act" here means a prayer action.]
9. How may we make Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity?
We may make them in this manner:
O my God, I firmly believe all the sacred truths which 'thy holy Catholic Church believes and teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who neither canst deceive nor be deceived.
O my God, relying on Thy almighty power and Thy infinite mercy and goodness, and because Thou art faithful to Thy promises, I hope to obtain the pardon of my sins, the assistance of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
O my God, I love Thee above all things with my whole heart and soul, purely because Thou art infinitely perfect and deserving of all love. I also love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.
[For a more modern version of these Acts which carry current indulgences see the Acts of the Theological Virtues and of Contrition.]
10. What is an acquired virtue?
A virtue is acquired inasmuchas it is a faculty which, with the assistance of God, we acquire by constant practice.
11. What do we generally call those virtues which can be acquired by practice?
We call them 'Moral Virtues,' because they regulate our moral conduct according to the will of God.
["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." CCC 1804.]
12. Which among them are the four 'Cardinal'* or 'Principal Virtues,' in which all the others are included?
1. Prudence; 2. Justice; 3. Fortitude; and 4.. Temperance (Wis. 8:7).
* They are called Cardinal virtues, because they are, as it were, the hinges (cardines) by which the whole moral life of a Christian is supported and on which it must constantly move [The Transl.]
12. What is Prudence?
Prudence is a virtue which makes us discern what is truly good and agreeable to God from what only appears to be so, and thus prevents our being seduced to evil.
'Be not conformed to this world, but he reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God' (Rom 12: 2 NAB). 'Beware of false prophets' (Matt. 7:15 NAB) Examples: The imprudent Josaphat (2 Chronicles 19:2); the wise Virgins (Matt. 25.)
14. What is Justice?
Justice is a virtue by which we are always determined to do what is right, and, therefore, always disposed to give every one his due.
'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's' (Matt. 22:21 NAB). Example: Tobias (Tobit 2:21DR, or 2:13 NAB).
15. What is Fortitude?
Fortitude is a virtue which enables us to endure any hardship or persecution, rather than abandon our duty.
Examples: The seven Machabees and their mother, who esteemed the torments as nothing' (2 Mac. 7:12). [See CCC 1808.] ["1837 Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good." It is the virtue of martyrdom.]
["Fortitude is the virtue which renders us courageous to the point of not fearing danger, not even death, for the service of God. " Catechism of St. Pius X.] [ Giotto's Fortitude.]
See Aquinas, Summa Theologica on Fortitude.
Such a thought is foolish, for it does not consider the virtue of patience or the One Who will reward it, but rather weighs the person and the offense committed. The man who will suffer only as much as seems good to him, who will accept suffering only from those from whom he is pleased to accept it, is not truly patient. For the truly patient man does not consider from whom the suffering comes, whether from a superior, an equal, or an inferior, whether from a good and holy person or from a perverse and unworthy one; but no matter how great an adversity befalls him, no matter how often it comes or from whom it comes, he accepts it gratefully from the hand of God, and counts it a great gain. For with God nothing that is suffered for His sake, no matter how small, can pass without reward." Imitation of Christ, III chpt. 19. See also Meekness below.
"Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer." Rom. 12:12. "Love is patient, love is kind." 1 Cor 13:4.
"O loving Jesus, increase my patience according as my sufferings increase." Prayer of St. Rita.]
16. What is Temperance?
Temperance is a virtue which restrains our sensual inclinations and desires, that they may not allure us from virtue.
'Refrain yourselves from carnal desires, which war against the soul' (l Pet. 2:11b NAB ). [CCC 1809 & 2290.] [CCC "2407 In economic matters, respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world's goods..." 2530 The struggle against carnal lust involves purifying the heart and practicing temperance.] [Giotto's Temperance.]
[" Temperance disposes us to control the inordinate desires that please the senses and makes us use temporal goods with moderation. Catechism of St. Pius X.]
17. What virtues are especially opposite to the seven Capital Sins?
1. Humility; 2. Liberality; 3. Chastity; 4. Meekness; 5. Temperance in eating and drinking; 6. Brotherly love; and 7. Diligence.
18. What is Humility'?
Humility is a virtue which teaches us to acknowledge our own unworthiness, weakness, and sinfulness, and to look upon all good as coming from God.
Examples: Abraham (Gen. 18:27); the Publican (Luke 18:13); St. Paul (1 Cor. 15: 8, 9). 'Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven' (Matt. x18:3).
19. What is Liberality?
Liberality is a virtue which inclines us to use our property for the relief of the needy, or for other laudable purposes.
Examples : Tobit, (Tobit 1:16-17 NAB), The first Christians (Acts 2:45). 'Give, and it shall be given to you' (Luke 6:38 DR; NAB).
["The pastor, therefore, should encourage the faithful to be willing and anxious to assist those who have to depend on charity, and should make them realize the great necessity of giving alms and of being really and practically liberal to the poor, by reminding them that on the last day God will condemn and consign to eternal fires those who have omitted and neglected the duty of almsgiving, while on the contrary He will praise and introduce into His heavenly country those who have exercised mercy towards the poor. These two sentences have been already pronounced by the lips of Christ the Lord: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart front me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." (Matthew 25:31-46) Council of Trent on the 7th commandment.]
[ Zacchaeus admits to giving half of his possessions to the poor. He "uses the present tense, which in the Greek language describes repeated, customary practice. Zacchaeus does this on a regular, ongoing basis. Most translations use the future tense ("I will give"), which is grammatically possible but less plausible. In Luke, giving alms is a sign of righteousness (Luke 6:30-31, 38; 11:41; 12:33; 16:9; 18:22, 29-30)." The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C, John J. Pilch. The Liturgical Press. 1997.]
[The word "liberal" is used here to refer to giving, and not politics. Thus "liberal" is "characterized by bounteous giving: free, freehanded, generous, handsome, lavish, munificent, openhanded, unsparing, unstinting..." Roget's II, Thesaurus.]
20. What is Chastity?
Chastity is a virtue which subdues all impure inclinations and desires by which modesty is violated.
Examples: Joseph, (cf. CCC 500) and, above all, the Blessed Virgin Mary. 'They that are Christ's have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences' (Gal. 5:24 DR; NAB, NIV). Joseph's story in Mathew. (See "concupisence" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.)
21. What is Meekness?
Meekness is a virtue which suppresses all desire of revenge, and any motion of unjust anger and displeasure.
Examples: David (1 Kings 24. and 26 DR.); St. Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). 'Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart' (Matt. 11: 29DR, NIV).
22. What is Temperance in eating and drinking?
Temperance in eating and drinking is a virtue by which we control ourselves, especially our appetite for eating and drinking.
Examples: Daniel, Ananias, Misael, and Azarias (Dan. 1) John the Baptist (Matt. 3:4). 'Let us walk honestly, not in rioting and drunkenness' (Rom. 13:18DR, NAB).
23. What is Brotherly Love?
Brotherly Love is a virtue by which we wish every one well, and sincerely rejoice and condole with our neighbor
Examples: The story of Ruth and of Tobias (1913 Encyclopedia). 'Love one another with the charity of brotherhood. Rejoice with them that rejoice ; weep with them that weep' (Rom. 12:10, 15).
24. What is Diligence?
Diligence is a virtue which enables us to serve God readily and cheerfully, to promote His honor as much as lies in our power, and faithfully to perform all our duties.
Examples: Mathathias (1 Mac. 2) ; St. Paul (Philip. 3:14ff). 'In carefulness [be] not slothful ; in spirit fervent ; serving the Lord' (Rom. 12:11DR, NAB).
25. Why should we all endeavor to attain the perfection suitable to our condition?
3. Because the more holy our life is upon earth, the greater will be our happiness in Heaven; and
4. Because we easily fall into grievous sin, and finally run into eternal perdition, if we do not continually endeavor to increase in virtue (cf. Matt. 25:29).
[See Christian Holiness in the Catholic Catechism.]
26. In what does Christian Perfection consist ?
Christian Perfection consists in this: that, free from all inordinate love of the world and of ourselves, we love God above all, and all in God.
'If thou wilt be perfect, . . . and come, follow me' (Matt. 19:21; see NAB and footnote 16).
28. What particular means of attaining Perfection have been recommended by Jesus Christ?
29. Which are the Evangelical Counsels?
3. Entire Obedience to a Spiritual Superior.
30. What is Voluntary Poverty?
It is a free renunciation of all temporal things, in order to be less distracted in striving for those that are eternal.
[See CCC 2103 "Mother Church rejoices that she has within herself many men and women who pursue the Savior's self-emptying more closely and show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty with the freedom of the children of God..."; see also Poverty of the Heart.]
It is a free and perpetual renunciation, not only of all impure pleasure, but even of marriage, in order that we may render undivided service to God.
See Matt. 19:10-12. 'Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel: . He that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better' (1 Cor. 7:25, 38). 'If any one shall say that the marriage state is to be preferred to the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, Sess. 24, Can. 10).
32. What is Entire Obedience?
It is a renunciation of one's own will, in order to do the Divine will more surely under a Superior who represents God (see Matt. 16:24). [See, Mother Seton, Our Work is to do the will of God.]
Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.
Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace.
Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept another's opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than to give it. It may happen, too, that while one's own opinion may be good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it, is a sign of pride and obstinacy." Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I § ix.
33. Why are the Evangelical Counsels special means of Perfection ?
1. Because by them the chief obstacles to Christian Perfection are removed - namely, the inordinate love and desire of earthly goods, sensual pleasures, and the pride of independence; and 2. Because by them man sacrifices to the Lord his God all that he has and is:
Of these Evangelical Counsels onr Divine Redeemer meant to speak when He said: 'He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted." (Matt. 19:11NAB).
34. Who are obliged to observe the Evangelical Counsels ?
All Religious, and all those who have bound themselves by vow to keep them.
The Secular Clergy also, when they receive the Greater Orders, bind themselves to perpetual chastity, in order to be able to devote themselves entirely, and with an undivided heart, to the service of God and of their neighbor. "I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (1 Cor. 7:32-34 NAB).
35. Can people in the world also lead a perfect life ?
"Yes, if they do not live according to the spirit of the world, but according to the spirit of Jesus Christ. Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16 NAB). "Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4 NAB). 'If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His' (Rom. 8:9 DR, NAB).
36. Is, then, the spirit of the world at variance with the spirit of Christ?
Most certainly it is, as we distinctly see from those sentences of our Savior which are called the 'Eight Beatitudes.'
37. Which are the Eight Beatitudes?
1. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
2. Blessed are the meek; for they shall possess the land.
3. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice ; for they shall have their fill.
5. Blessed are the merciful; for'they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the clean of heart; for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God.
8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven' (Matt. 5:3-10)
38. How do we know from the Eight Beatitudes that the spirit of the world is at variance with the spirit of Christ ?
We know it from this: that the world esteems those very persons miserable and foolish whom Christ our Lord calls blessed.
The world is accustomed to set forth riches, reputation, honors, and sensual pleasures as the sources of happiness; Jesus Christ, on the contrary, teaches us in the Eight Beatitudes to seek our happiness in God and in His holy service, and, therefore, willingly and cheerfully to endure poverty, persecution, and any hardships that may fall to our lot. [See the Desire for Happiness.]
39. What means must a Christian use, let his condition be what it may, in order to attain to Perfection?
He must, 1. Delight in prayer, diligently hear the word of God, and often receive the Holy Sacraments; 2. he must steadily subdue and deny himself; and 3. He must perform his daily actions in the state of grace, and in a manner acceptable to God.
1. 'They were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2:42 DR, NAB). 2. 'If any man 'will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me' (Matt. 16:24 DR, NAB). 3. 'Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God' (1 Cor. 10:31 DR, NAB).
40. How should we deny ourselves?
We should refuse ourselves many things that are dear and agreeable to us, and should also deprive ourselves of lawful things, that we may the more easily abstain from unlawful ones.
["John the Short said, 'If a king wants to take a city filled with his enemies, he first captures thier food and water, and when they are starving he subdues them. So it is with gluttony. If a man is sincere about fasting and is hungry, the enemies that trouble his soul will grow weak.''" The Desert Fathers.]
41. How may we most easily perform our daily actions in a manner acceptable to God?
By representing to ourselves how Jesus Christ performed them, and by striving to imitate Him for His sake.
42. How should we do our daily work after the example of Christ?
We should do it diligently, patiently, and with a view to please God. Therefore we should form a good intention at the beginning, and renew it sometimes when the work is of long continuance.
43, What should we do when we take our meals?
We should before and after meals say grace, reverently and devoutly, and be temperate and modest at table.
[See also Baltimore Catechism other Basic Prayers.] [Meals should be family as well as social events. Why not bring God into the event? First thank Him for the gift of the food you have, then perhaps, for the gift of each other.]
44. May we also be allowed to take recreation?
Yes; for nothing forbids our taking proper recreation in due time. We should, however, sanctify it by a good intention and by the remembrance of God, and keep withifi the bounds of modesty.
[CCC 2185 "The charity of truth seeks holy leisure - the necessity of charity accepts just work..." See generally CCC 2184-2187.]
45. What should our intercourse with our neighbor be?
It should be, 1. Kind, that we may not offend any one; and 2. Prudent, that we may not in any manner be seduced to evil.
[See love of neighbor in the section on the chief commandments. Review the uses of the word "neighbor" in the catechism. See Respect for the human person.]
46. How should we act in our afflictions?
We should remember and feel that they come from God, and we should offer them up to Him, and beg of him the grace necessary to make a good use of them.
Application. Think that these words, which God spoke to Abraham, are also addressed to you: 'Walk before me, and be perfect' (Gen. xvii. 1; NAB). Strive earnestly to become daily more pious and virtuous. Let this be every moraing your resolution, and every night examine your conscience upon it. 'And thou my son Solomon, know the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the thoughts of minds. If thou seek him, thou shalt find him: but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.' (1 Par. xxviii. 9 DR, NAB).
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