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, 1952
CHAPTER 7, UNITY IN HUMAN ACTION
IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH. The world abounds with proofs of the truth of this old axiom. A nation is strong and successful because its government and citizens work together to achieve the common goals of all. An industry or a labor union is strong because all its members work together to realize their common objective. Machines, such as the automobile, are effective when all their parts are properly adjusted and united to one another so that they function together to produce the object for which the machine is made. This is true of man and the pursuit of happiness. Man pursues happiness by the proper use of his powers of reason, will and the sense appetite. But these various human powers must be properly adjusted to one another if man is to function as an efficient unit in the pursuit of his goal. Each of these powers has its own good to achieve. But they cannot work for man's true happiness when they are divided against one another. If they are to function smoothly and successfully in the achievement of man's real good, they must be properly subordinated to one another and to God.
THE PROPER ADJUSTMENT of man's human powers to one another is the work of the virtues. To reach true happiness man must know what true happiness is and how it is to be achieved. This is the work of the human intellect or reason. Reason is adjusted to this task by the intellectual virtues. If man were called by God to a purely natural destiny and if each man were alone in the world, man's will would need no special virtue to enable it to function properly in the pursuit of good, for it is in itself an inclination to seek the good of reason. But man is called by God to a good which surpasses his natural powers---the vision of God---and so his will needs the virtue of charity, for example, to seek and embrace God with a supernatural love. And man lives in this world with other men. His will needs the virtue of justice to incline it to give to other men what is their due. The passions of the sense appetite are in themselves only strong tendencies to seek good or avoid evil. They must be under the control of reason and will if they are to aid man in the pursuit of his true happiness. Further, as experience shows us, left to themselves they tend to revolt against reason and will. They need virtues to adjust them properly to reason and will. Temperance is the virtue which moderates and, if there be need, restrains the simple or concupiscible passions in their pursuit of good. Fortitude is the virtue which moderates and directs the emergency or irascible passions in their pursuit of good.
TO FUNCTION PERFECTLY in the pursuit of good a man needs the equipment of all the virtues. Philosophers and theologians distinguish many virtues in the perfect man. They will be considered later in this book. For the present it is sufficient to speak of the cardinal virtues which make man a perfect agent in the pursuit of natural happiness and the theological virtues which make man a perfect agent in the pursuit of the supernatural happiness of the vision of God.
THE CARDINAL VIRTUES are prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. These four virtues are called cardinal virtues because they are the principal natural virtues which coordinate human activity and direct it to the good of man as man. They are the roots from which all the other human virtues grow. This is so because these four virtues perfect all man's natural powers in their functions in the pursuit of good. From the point of view of reason man needs to command here and now in any particular situation what is to be done or avoided in the pursuit of the good sought by the will. This is the function of the virtue of prudence. From the point of view of man's appetite for good, some of man's actions are concerned only with the individual himself and others have a social character---they are concerned with what is due to others. Justice is the virtue which perfects the will in man's social actions. Justice inclines a man to give to everyone what is due to him, whether that other be God or another man. As for those actions which perfect only the individual himself, these flow from the sense appetite of man. But the sense appetite consists of both the concupiscible and the irascible faculty. The virtue of temperance is needed to curb man's concupiscible appetite for sensible good. The virtue of fortitude is needed to strengthen his irascible appetite in the pursuit of the difficult good. Any other individual virtues which man may have or need for natural human actions will be related to one of these fundamental natural virtues.
WITH THESE CARDINAL VIRTUES a man is equipped perfectly for the pursuit of natural good. These virtues make man a unit, an efficient unit in the pursuit of good. With them in his possession man is not at odds with himself. His powers are not struggling with one another for mastery. Reason perceives man's true good and the will and the sensitive appetite follow reason to the perfection of man. Without anyone of these virtues man is no longer a unit. He is no longer efficient. The conflict between his natural powers will destroy him. The revolt of will or sense appetite against right reason destroys man in the sense that it prevents man from achieving his true happiness and makes him seek false happiness in riches or pleasure or some other unsatisfactory goal. With the cardinal virtues man is at peace with himself, with the world, and with God. Without the cardinal virtues man is like a machine whose cog-wheels or gears are not meshed properly. As they work, their lack of proper adjustment makes them tend to fly apart or injure one another. So it is with man. When the reason, will and sense appetite are not properly adjusted to one another their action tends to injure one another and to disrupt the unity of man. When they are properly adjusted through the cardinal virtues, then man works as a smoothly adjusted machine, applying all his power at the right time to the task in hand.
IF MAN WERE CALLED by God to a purely natural happiness the cardinal virtues would be sufficient for man. But God calls man to the vision of Himself. This goal is beyond the reach of any purely natural powers. If man is to reach it through the action of reason and will, these powers must be made capable of a supernatural activity which will lead man to this goal. It is the role of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity to fit man's reason and will for the task of seeking successfully the vision of God. These virtues are called theological virtues because their object is God---they direct us to God---because they are infused in us by God alone, and because they are made known to us by God alone through Divine revelation.
IN THE NATURAL ORDER man needs the knowledge of first principles to direct his activity. In the supernatural order man needs the knowledge of supernatural principles to perfect his intellect for the pursuit of God. Through the virtue of faith God gives man this knowledge. In the natural order man's will tends naturally to its object, the good. In the supernatural order man's will tends to the vision of God through the virtue of hope. In the natural order man's will grasps in love the good which it has obtained. In the supernatural order man's will grasps the God of the supernatural in the virtue of charity. The world of God as He is in Himself is not a world naturally open or accessible to man. But the infused virtues of faith, hope, and charity open up this world of God to man. It is as if a poor man were admitted to the palace of his king. He can roam the corridors almost at will, inspect almost all the rooms. And if he stays long enough and learns to behave as one should in the palace of the king, one day he will be admitted into the very presence of the king himself. Faith, hope, and charity set man free in God's palace. By living a life of faith, in hope and charity he is preparing himself to be admitted into God's presence. If he dies with these virtues he will be admitted into God's presence. He will have achieved the purpose of his existence---the attainment of the vision of God.
ALL THE VIRTUES, both natural and supernatural, are intended to make man what he ought to be. The natural virtues will make man perfect simply as man. The supernatural virtues will make man perfect as the child of God and the heir of heaven. The cardinal virtues subject all man's powers to the command of right reason. The theological virtues subject man's reason and will to God. Together they put all man's powers in proper order for the attainment of the vision of God. Properly conceived then, the virtues are not restraining forces destroying man's freedom. The man who shows you the right way to do something has not destroyed your freedom. He has really set you free to use your powers most effectively. Similarly the virtues set man's truly human powers of reason and will free to work most effectively for happiness. Nor do the virtues destroy or unduly limit the passions of the sense appetite. By bringing the passions under the control of reason they enable man to employ all his force in the pursuit of real happiness.
THE VIRTUOUS MAN is not frustrated by his virtues. He is not prevented from entering wholeheartedly into the vast arena of human life to impress his personality upon the world. Rather the virtues enable him to act intelligently and strongly in the world. He knows what he wants, where he is going, how to get there. And he has the strength of will and passion to pursue his course even in the face of obstacles. In a word the virtuous man is the perfect man.
HOME-------------------------CHRIST THE KING