Catholic Virtues: Fully Human, Fully Awake, Fully Alive
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Jesus’ words in John’s gospel express the aim of human life as ‘human flourishing’. Our whole business in this life is to flourish by seeking to form our character through the pursuit of personal strengths called virtues: excellences of character which are theological, moral, civic, intellectual and performative.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have excellence, but we rather have this because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (Aristotle)
Excellence in all aspects of life is pursued by repeatedly performing particular virtues that build our character so that we become what we repeatedly do. Catholic Christianity has a particular set of virtues – excellences of character – that it prizes, these are the eight virtues : faith, hope, love, justice, solidarity, temperance, courage and practical wisdom.
Each of these fundamental virtues also have particular aspects that the Church also prizes because they enable the human person to respond appropriately to situations in any area of experience.
FAITH – is to trust. Faith helps us grow in friendship with Jesus and his friendship helps us become the best we can be by becoming more like him. Growing in friendship with Jesus means learning to trust him and knowing that he is always with us. Faith is always open to new things because if you have faith you are a trusting person. A person of faith believes in God and all that God has done. But faith is not simply a belief that something is true, it is a way of living. We are called not only to keep the faith but to live a faithful life filled with hope and love.
HOPE –You know that when life gets hard you don’t give up but carry on hoping that things will get better. You dream of a better world or something better that will come in the future. You live for something greater than yourself. Your hope drives out selfishness and boredom and encourages you to engage with your community and do good works. You trust that God is at work moving the world towards what is good.
LOVE – You accept someone as they are, you care for them, and care what happens to them and you want to share your life with them. You always think about another person rather than thinking about yourself. When you love you put into practice the “golden rule”, to treat others with the respect and kindness that you want for yourself. You love people you do not know by simple acts of kindness and by wanting the best for them.
JUSTICE – You give people what is due to them: you give them their fair share. When you are just you seek to be fair in everything you do. Treating people justly means treating people with dignity and not treating them as less than they are or using them for selfish ends. It is just to speak out against anyone who treats you unfairly and it is just to act to support those who are treated unfairly.
SOLIDARITY – You see all human beings as members of one family, all are brothers and sisters who depend on each other for everything. If you see that someone or a group of people are in need, in solidarity with them you help them. You treat everyone with respect and you treat whoever you meet or help as another ‘you’ or self. You see other people’s needs and act to meet their needs before meeting your own. Solidarity is a cure for selfishness.
TEMPERANCE – You are not carried away by powerful feelings or emotions and things you want. You balance your strong emotions and things you want with what is best for you and other people. You know that seeking only what you want or always getting what you want isn’t good for you or other people. Little by little, you are able to balance your emotions and what you want with your own needs, and the needs of others and the environment.
COURAGE – You do something that needs to be done even when it is hard to do or you are scared to do it. Even though you are afraid, you overcome your fear and do the right thing. You know you can count on God’s help and so you are never alone.
PRACTICAL WISDOM / GOOD SENSE – You decide, based on what you know, what is the best thing to do. You take time to think about what you must do and ask other people about it. You reflect on what you know and have been told and then decide to do something which you think is best.
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