Notes on Virtues

Extra Inputs on Virtues

As defined in the article, virtues are attitudes, dispositions, or traits that help us act and become the kind of people we were mean to be. In the context of the lessons, we are meant to be truly, authentically happy—the kind of happiness that persists even amidst suffering and death. In connection still, to be authentically happy is to do God’s will. There is no better way to do God’s will than to follow the example of Jesus Christ who applied a set of attitudes, disposition, and traits to help him do God the Father’s will as well. After all, because of the reality that Jesus is both human and divine and was God himself, his methods are what will bring us closest to God.

As mentioned in the article as well, virtues are habits. They are not something that you perform just like how a dancer executes a set of rehearsed movements on stage; rather, they are actions that express who you are. For instance, a generous man does not deliberately and purposefully think about acting generously to others because generosity is already his second nature; it is something he would normally do even if he wasn’t instructed to. In his case, generosity is as natural to him as breathing, blinking, seeing, hearing are to us. The good thing about virtues is that because they are habits, they can be practiced, they can be mastered.

The Church has developed a tradition where they have identified cardinal (or most important) virtues that are indispensable in leading a morally good life. These are:

Prudence: the sets of attitudes, dispositions and habits of seeking for what is truly good in every circumstance and choosing the right means of achieving it. Take for instance when and how will you admit to your parents that you did something wrong (failed an exam, made another family member angry, bullied a younger sibling)? Notice that prudence is knowing when to do the MORALLY RIGHT thing even if that means receiving its negative consequences. Prudence is not a way of escaping the inevitable.

Justice: the constant and firm will to give what is due to God and neighbor. Justice towards God is best expressed in another topic that talks about religion as a whole. However, justice towards men disposes you to respect the rights of the other in order to establish harmony that promotes equity regardless of how diverse the other is. In a sense, you would be as concerned and as angry towards companies who provide unjust wages and working conditions to their employees as you would to your yaya’s or househelp’s wage and working conditions because you understand that all have equal rights and dignity.

Fortitude: the virtue of remaining firm in difficulties and constantly pursuing the good. It is about habitually overpowering temptations and other obstacles in the moral life. It allows us to confront our fears (even fear of death) and face trials and persecution. Fortitude is being brave because you know you are doing God’s will. It is about reporting a cheating incident wherein your batchmates had gotten a copy of a subject’s test questionnaire and leaked the questions and answers to the rest of batch, even if the one reported will also need to write an incident report and receive an F as a consequence of cheating.

Temperance: the virtue of moderating (keeping in balance) the attraction of pleasures that ensures self-mastery over instincts in order to keep desires within the limits of what is honorable. Self-control for the sake of goodness, in simplistic terms. It is being sober in thoughts. For instance, it is knowing when to extend courtesy (gentlemanly behavior) towards those who are not being courteous to you at the moment. Should you really just walk out of the room when your mother continuously nags at you for not doing what she expected you to, or should you sit down and understand where is she coming from, why was she particularly upset at what I did not do? Shouldn’t your love for your mother outweigh her human limitations?

These are not the only virtues available because there are many more that take fall under each of them. This list was made only because the Church, through centuries of reflections and discussion, have arrived at a common understanding that this is what best helps us love God more.

Just like any athlete, one needs the proper venue and conditions to properly and effectively practice his skills. Fortunately, the virtues are best practiced and nourished through the Sacraments of the Church, most especially in the Eucharist, where we are reminded to be humble (when we are reminded of our sins), and when we are invited to be more gentle and kind whenever we offer our signs of peace to one another. Celebrating these sacraments, then, offers us a chance to practice the sets of attitudes, dispositions, and acts that will mold us into the persons we were meant to be: God’s beloved.

Lastly, as we will see in the upcoming lessons, these virtues help us learn to love ourselves more; tame our desires so that more important things can be accomplished; make wise decisions and choices that will lead us to true happiness; and remind us that humans live with communities that harmonize with each other like chords in musical pieces. All these we do to make ourselves more fully alive—God’s own desire. So, let’s do God a favor and glorify His name by making ourselves truly happy through constant practice of the virtues.

To access the Church’s official teachings on the Virtues, please refer to this link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm.

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