The Divine Life in Man
BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THE SUMMA OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
FOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD
BY FRS. WALTER FARRELL AND MARTIN HEALY
CHAPTER 7, HAPPINESS IN THE SERVICE OF MAN
THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE is the necessary foundation of peace and order in human society. Justice, in the strictest sense of the term, regulates the relations between persons who are equal to one another. But there are many relations between men and other men and between men and God which are not relations of equality. Man is related to God as the creature to his Creator, not as one equal to another. Religion, as we have seen, is the virtue which enables man to give to God what is His due. But one man may be related to other men by way of the subordination of one man to another, or the dependence of one man on another. There must also be parts of the virtue of justice to establish order in relationships of this kind.
MEN OWE THEIR EXISTENCE, their lives and their actions to the influence of God. But, after God, they owe their lives and their opportunities to pursue happiness to their parents and their country. Without their parents they would not exist at all. Without their parents they would lack the necessities of human life, food, clothing, shelter, intellectual and moral training. Without their country they would not have the real opportunity to develop their talents and work for their own welfare and for the good of all. Consequently, men owe to their parents and to their country a debt of honor, reverence and service. It is the virtue of piety which directs a man to the fulfillment of his obligation to honor and serve his parents and country. Even when a man is an adult and his own master, he is still under an obligation to serve his parents or country if they have real need of his services. If his parents are in need of money, medical care, or human consolation, the pious man will provide them according to his ability. If his country has need of his money, or of his services in some government agency or in the armed forces, he will provide them according to his ability and his country's need.
AGAIN, IN ANY COMMUNITY OF MEN, there must always be some who, by virtue or position, are placed over others to rule or inspire the rest. The authority they possess or the good they bring to the community merits for them the tribute of honor, respect and gratitude. Men pay them this tribute by exercising the virtue of observance.
THE VIRTUE OF OBSERVANCE includes the virtues of dulia---or veneration---and obedience. By dulia men bear witness to the dignity or power of other men. To praise the President of the United States, to bow to him as he passes in a parade, to erect a statue in his honor---all these are acts of the virtue of dulia. To venerate the Saints by asking them to intercede with God for us is an act of dulia. It pays tribute to the spiritual dignity of the Saints as the friends of God in Heaven. Because the Virgin Mary is the greatest of all the Saints and the Mother of God Himself, Christians pay to Mary the tribute of hyperdulia or superveneration.
OBEDIENCE IS THE VIRTUE by which a man submits his own will to the commands of a superior. It is natural that children should obey their parents, that citizens should obey their government, that soldiers should obey their commanders, and that all men should obey God. Without obedience to their superiors, men can never establish in society that order which is needed if they are all to obtain that share of the common good which is necessary for their own happiness. And without obedience to God, men can never attain happiness at all.
THERE ARE ONLY TWO EXCEPTIONS to the rule of obedience. If a higher authority should countermand the order of a lower authority, then a man must obey the higher authority. If a general tells a soldier to advance on the field of battle, whereas a lieutenant orders him to retreat, the soldier must obey the general. Again, if a superior gives an order, but in a matter where he has no authority, then a man need not obey the order. A salesman in a store must sell the merchandise at the price commanded by the owner of the store. But if the owner should presume to dictate to the clerk which woman he should marry, then the clerk need not obey the merchant. The merchant has no authority to interfere in the private life of his employees.
IN A LESSER WAY, benefactors are related to those who receive gifts from them, as God is related to men or parents to their children. Of their own free will they have given something to others. The whole world recognizes that a debt of gratitude is due to them. The grateful man will give to his benefactor heartfelt thanks and, in proper time, a gift in return. The virtue of thankfulness---or gratitude---makes a man recognize that someone has done him a favor; it makes him acknowledge the favor with thanks, and it makes him repay the favor at a suitable time. St. Thomas, with a fine feeling for graciousness in human affairs, remarks that the grateful man does not return the favor immediately. To do so is to make the whole affair seem like a contract of buying and selling, and it deprives the benefactor of the pleasure he found in making the original gift. St. Thomas also remarks that gratitude makes a man return a favor in abundance. If one man gives another a hundred dollars, he does so out of the goodness of his heart. To give him a hundred dollars in return is to give him the exact sum he gave you, but it does not imitate the same fullness of heart. The grateful man will try to imitate the fullness of generosity of his benefactor. This means that he will try to surpass his benefactor in the return gift. If he cannot match the original gift in value, at least he will try to surpass his benefactor in the generosity of heart with which he repays the favor.
To BE UNGRATEFUL IS SINFUL. It is a failure to repay a moral debt. There are degrees of ungratefulness. The first degree is to neglect to return the favor. The second degree is to take no notice of the favor, to overlook thanking the one who so generously did the favor. The lowest degree of ingratitude is to fail even to admit to one's self that a favor has been given. We are all familiar with ungrateful people---people who accept favors as if they were theirs by right, people who never thank anyone for favors, and people who never return a favor. Such people are like sands in the workings of a fine watch. They grate on other people's feelings and remove the pleasure from human relationships and love.
TRUTHFULNESS IS ANOTHER VIRTUE that is necessary in the social life of man. Men cannot live and work together without communicating their thoughts to one another. This implies that men must be able to trust one another, but trust is impossible unless they tell one another the truth. We all remember the story of the boy shepherd who cried "Wolf!" once too often. Because he had fooled his fellow
shepherds so frequently, they did not believe him when he was telling the truth. As a result, the flock of sheep was lost. If society is to function smoothly, men must be able to believe one another. Truthfulness is a virtue necessary for social life.
LYING, THEN, IS SINFUL. The sinfulness of a lie may vary according to the conditions in which the lie is told, and according to the seriousness of the matter about which the lie is told. But all lies are dangerous because they tend to make men distrust one another. Hence they serve to destroy that spirit of cooperation which men need if they are to work together efficiently and live together harmoniously.
SOME TYPES OF LIARS are more harmful than others. The hypocrite---the man who pretends to be what he is not---is a great evil in society. He feigns to be a good man although he is evil. This leads him to lie about his neighbors, or to spread scandalous stories about them, in order to glorify his own virtue. The boaster is a nuisance to society. He tries to make people believe that he is better than he is. Of course this blind illusion about his own excellence makes him overlook the virtues of others or even deny the real virtues of others. In a lesser way, the man who belittles himself and makes it appear that he is less than he really is, also deceives other men. This can be harmful, too, because it prevents the community from ever using his real talents for the benefit of all.
THUS FAR WE HAVE BEEN SPEAKING of virtues that are necessary if order is to be preserved in human society. Now we must mention the virtues which make the social life of man pleasant and delightful. Strict justice can give order to human relations, but something more is demanded if human relations are to be pleasurable and inspiring to all men. There must be, as it were, a surplus of good will among men if life is to seem worth living.
THE FIRST OF THE VIRTUES to add zest and enjoyment to social life is the virtue of friendliness or affability. The cheerful "Hello" of neighbors as they pass on the street, the friendliness of one housewife to another when she lends a cup of sugar or volunteers to mind the children for a while---gestures of friendliness such as these add the glow of love or charity to human life.
OF COURSE FRIENDLINESS must be sincere, or it turns to ashes in the hearts of men. It is for this reason that the sin of flattery is so despicable. The flatterer pretends to be friendly. He praises people, but he does so only to gain some advantage for himself. When his flattery becomes apparent, people recoil from him as a traitor to the unselfish love on which real friendliness is founded.
QUARRELING is another defect that destroys friendliness. The quarrelsome man is always contradicting others, in little matters or great. If anyone says anything, he must contradict it; if anyone does anything, he must criticize it. In this way he shows his contempt for others and his colossal pride in himself. Such a man makes cooperation among men difficult, if not impossible.
LIBERALITY is another virtue which gives life a pleasant flavor. The liberal man knows how to use his money and possessions well for the benefit of others. He takes pleasure in giving things to others, in doing favors. His generosity helps both himself and others. He himself, by his liberality, protects himself against the danger of becoming too attached to the goods of this world. His neighbors benefit by receiving both the gifts he gives them and the example of generosity which he affords them.
AS LIBERALITY is a virtue which enables a man to use his external possessions well, covetousness and prodigality are vices that move a man to use external possessions poorly. The covetous man is ruled by an overwhelming desire to acquire riches. In his mad desire to acquire wealth, he will have no pity or mercy for others. His mind will be perpetually restless with schemes to enrich himself. He will be inclined to use violence to gain his ends; he will perjure himself; deceive others by fraud, or even destroy them by treachery. Covetousness is a capital sin which leads men into other sins.
PRODIGALITY is the opposite extreme. The prodigal man wastes his possessions; he gives away his money and his goods, but without prudence. He deceives himself by thinking that he is generous, even virtuous; but he wastes his possessions until he becomes a burden to the community.
THE LAST OF THE VIRTUES which St. Thomas lists under justice is the virtue of equity. For him equity is a virtue by which man seeks to preserve the equality of justice and the common good, outside the letter of the law. The mind of man is not perfect enough to make laws that will cover all the actions of men in society. If a man asks another to mind his gun, for example, the law might say that the gun must be returned to its owner on demand. But suppose that the owner demands it when he is drunk and threatening to kill someone with the gun. Surely in such a circumstance the common good demands that the gun should not be returned to him. Equity is the virtue which enables a man to act outside the letter of the law, when real justice or the common good demands it.
IN THE CASE OF JUSTICE, as in the case of the other virtues, God has also given man, through grace, a gift of the Holy Spirit to perfect human justice. This gift is called the gift of piety. It is a gift by which the Holy Spirit moves man to worship God as his Father. It subjects man to God as to his father. Justice and its related virtues put order in the social life of man. The gift of piety gives man the most perfect element of order---perfect submission of man to God.
IN THESE DAYS when tyrannous dictatorships and wars direct the course of human life, when even peaceful countries are suffering from the strife between labor unions and corporations, from the tensions due to race prejudice and religious intolerance, we can all see the need of justice and its related virtues. Justice itself will give to each man security in his own possessions. Religion will put man into his proper relationship to God. Piety will enable him to honor and serve his parents and country. Observance---dulia and obedience---will ensure the proper functioning of society. Gratitude and truthfulness, friendliness and liberality will make life gracious and enjoyable. Equity will prevent harshness and frustration.
BRIEFLY, JUSTICE AND ITS RELATED VIRTUES will ensure men's observance of the ten Commandments of God, and when these precepts of both the Natural and the Divine Positive Law are observed by men, human life will be ruled by both human and Divine wisdom. Wisdom directs all things well. Where justice reigns under wisdom, there men will establish peace and order. In peace and order it is possible for men to find happiness.
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