May 20, 2013

Dignity of the Human Person (Part III)

Pillar Focus Other


377. What is a virtue?
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa). There are human virtues and theological virtues.

378. What are the human virtues?
The human virtues are habitual and stable perfections of the intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They are acquired and strengthened by the repetition of morally good acts and they are purified and elevated by divine grace.

379. What are the principal human virtues?
The principal human virtues are called the cardinal virtues, under which all the other virtues are grouped and which are the hinges of a virtuous life. The cardinal virtues are:

Prudence     Justice     Fortitude     Temperance

380. What is prudence?
Prudence disposes reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it. Prudence guides the other virtues by pointing out their rule and measure.

381. What is justice?
Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. Justice toward God is called “the virtue of religion.”

382. What is fortitude?
Fortitude assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It reaches even to the ability of possibly sacrificing one’s own life for a just cause.

383. What is temperance?
Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts and provides balance in the use of created goods.

384. What are the theological virtues? 
The theological virtues have God himself as their origin, motive and direct object. Infused with sanctifying grace, they bestow on one the capacity to live in a relationship with the Trinity. They are the foundation and the energizing force of the Christian’s moral activity and they give life to the human virtues. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.

385. What are the theological virtues?
The theological virtues are:
Faith    Hope    Charity

386. What is the virtue of faith?
Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that he has revealed to us and that the Church proposes for our belief because God is Truth itself. By faith the human person freely commits himself to God. Therefore, the believer seeks to know and do the will of God because “faith works through charity” (Galatians 5:6).

387. What is hope?
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire and await from God eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit to merit it and to persevere to the end of our earthly life.

388. What is charity?
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment, the fullness of the law. “It is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14) and the foundation of the other virtues to which it gives life, inspiration, and order. Without charity “I am nothing” and “I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

389. What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent dispositions which make us docile in following divine inspirations. They are seven:
Wisdom     Understanding     Counsel     Fortitude     
Knowledge     Piety     Fear of the Lord

[Click here for St. Thomas Aquinas' interpretation of these gifts]

390. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections formed in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them:

Charity     Joy     Peace     Patience     Kindness     Goodness     Generosity     Gentleness     Faithfulness     Modesty     Self-Control     Chastity


391. What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require from us?
It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness.

392. What is sin?
Sin is “a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity. Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy.

393. Is there a variety of sins?
There are a great many kinds of sins. They can be distinguished according to their object or according to the virtues or commandments which they violate. They can directly concern God, neighbor, or ourselves. They can also be divided into sins of thought, of word, of deed, or of omission.

394. How are sins distinguished according to their gravity?
A distinction is made between mortal and venial sin.

395. When does one commit a mortal sin?
One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

396. When does one commit a venial sin?
One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

397. How does sin proliferate?
Sin creates a proclivity to sin ; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts.

398. What are vices?
Vices are the opposite of virtues. They are perverse habits which darken the conscience and incline one to evil. The vices can be linked to the seven, so-called, capital [a.k.a. deadly] sins which are:

Pride     Greed     Envy     Anger     Lust     Gluttony     Sloth

399. Do we have any responsibility for sins committed by others?
We do have such a responsibility when we culpably cooperate with them.

400. What are structures of sin?
Structures of sin are social situations or institutions that are contrary to the divine law. They are the expression and effect of personal sins.

Study the Catechism
see: part 3, section 1, chapter 1, articles 7/8