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 8, STRIVING FOR HAPPINESS: PART 2
THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES of faith and hope can exist without charity. But then they are not perfect virtues. Perfect virtue enables a man to act perfectly in the pursuit of happiness. But an act of faith which does not proceed under the impulse of charity is not a perfect act of faith. Believing in God without loving Him does not effectively lead a man to God. Similarly hope cannot be perfect without charity or the love of God. The sinner who hopes for Heaven through some future repentance is doing a good thing, but he is not doing it well. To hope perfectly in God's goodness a man must love God and be in union with God's will.
OF COURSE CHARITY ITSELF is impossible without faith and hope. Could anyone love a man if he did not believe it was possible to be or become his friend? Or if he despaired of ever gaining his friend- ship? So it is with man in relation to God as He is in Himself. Man must believe it is possible to attain a perfect friendship with God in Heaven and he must hope to attain this friendship through God's power before he can love God as his supernatural destiny.
TO SAY THAT VIRTUES are related to one another and that some cannot exist without others is not to say that all the virtues are equal in perfection. Virtues will vary in perfection according to the perfection or goodness of their objects and according to the degree of virtue in a man.
THE GREATER THE OBJECT of a virtue the greater the virtue. The theological virtues whose immediate object is God surpass all the other virtues in excellence. Charity surpasses faith and hope because it is more closely related to God. For in faith we cling to God without seeing Him and in hope we trust we will obtain the vision of God which we do not yet have. But in charity we are already united in love with God.
AS FOR THE INTELLECTUAL and the moral virtues, from one point of view the intellectual virtues are superior and from another point of view the moral virtues are superior. Since the object of the intellect is universal truth, whereas the object of man's appetite in this life is always some particular good, the object of the intellectual virtues is in this way superior to the object of the moral virtues. But if we consider virtue in relation to human action, then moral virtue is more excellent because it perfects man's appetite which moves all man's powers to action. Good intellectual habits make a man good intellectually. But good moral habits make man good as man.
AMONG THE MORAL VIRTUES justice is the best. This is so because justice is a perfection of the will, man's rational appetite, rather than of man's sense appetite. It is so also because justice sets a man in proper order to other persons besides himself. Fortitude is more excellent than temperance because it subjects his sense appetite to reason in important matters of life and death.
AMONG THE INTELLECTUAL virtues wisdom is preeminent. Wisdom has as its object God as the ultimate cause of all things. Hence it surpasses in dignity the other intellectual virtues.
VIRTUES MAY ALSO DIFFER in excellence according to the degree in which a particular man possesses them. Some men are more temperate than others. Even within the same man the virtue of justice, for example, may be stronger than the virtue of temperance. This difference of virtue between men or within one man may be due either to nature, man, or God. Sometimes nature gives one man a strong push toward temperance and another a strong natural tendency to fortitude. Man himself can consciously develop one or more virtues to the extent that his justice is stronger than his fortitude or stronger than another man's justice. Since God is the cause of the infused virtues, they may differ in degree from one man to another according to the gift of God.
THE FACT THAT ONE MAN'S VIRTUES may differ in strength should not be taken as a denial of the points that the virtues are related to one another and that some cannot exist without the others. These points still remain true. But it is a matter of proportion. A regular outfielder on a baseball team should be a good hitter and a good fielder. But he maybe a better hitter than he is a fielder. Another good outfielder may be better at fielding than he is at hitting. The point is that he can be better at one aspect of his job than at another and still be good at the job simply. So one man may be more temperate than constant in fortitude and still be a good man.
BUT THE POSSIBILITY and the actual fact of a difference of degree in virtue among men is a proof that virtue makes man's world interesting instead of boring. Some people think that if all men became virtuous all men would be the same and act in the same way. Humorists sometimes think that in a world of virtuous men nobody would ever be able to go through a door because everybody would be waiting virtuously for everybody else to go through first. The infinite variety of ways in which the virtues can be realized in individual men shows that such views are based on ignorance. If all men were perfectly virtuous, they would all be good. But they would be good in different ways. And this difference would provide us with a more pleasing variety in life than vice does. Vice always leads to boredom and despair because only the good is satisfying. Virtue makes life interesting because it is concerned with good which is always pleasing.
CHARITY and the infused moral virtues are lost through any mortal sin. To preserve them man must avoid mortal sin. Faith and hope are lost only by sins opposed to them and are to be preserved by avoiding such sins. The natural virtues are lost either by neglect or by a series of actions contrary to them. They are preserved and strengthened by acting in accordance with them.
THE PRESERVATION of the virtues naturally brings to mind the question of the duration of the virtues. The virtues enable man to pursue successfully the goal of perfect happiness. But when man has attained happiness in the vision of God, will the virtues still remain? Or if a man has failed and has by his failure condemned himself to Hell, will his virtues remain in him?
IT IS OBVIOUS that the Saints in Heaven---since their souls have been separated from their bodies---have no disorderly desires for food or the pleasures of sex. Equally they no longer have any difficulties to overcome or dangers to avoid. They have no need therefore for the material element of the virtues of temperance and fortitude. But the order or conformity to reason---whether man's reason or God's law---which these virtues gave to man will still remain. Temperance will remain, as St. Augustine says, without the rebellion of the desires and will take delight in God Who knows no imperfection. Fortitude will remain without any fear of evil and will cling to God steadfastly. Justice will remain even materially in so far as it will make man give to God constantly what is due to God. The intellectual virtues will remain in the sense that the mind will retain all the ideas that it learned in the course of a lifetime. But until the soul is reunited with the body at the general resurrection the soul will not be able to use its understanding to the extent that the act of understanding depends on the functioning of the body's senses and imagination.
FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY cannot remain in Hell because the condemned sinner cannot believe or hope that he will be united to God in love. He has rejected God forever. Faith and hope cannot remain in Heaven. In Heaven a man does not believe blindly in God. He sees God face to face. In Heaven a man does not hope to possess God. He already possesses Him. But charity is love of God and man will go on loving God for all eternity in Heaven.
SINCE CHARITY ALONE remains completely and most perfectly in Heaven, charity is the greatest of all the virtues. The permanent character of charity reveals to us also the secret of the unity which the virtues give man. The problem of human life is to make human actions conform to the goal of human life. But the true goal of man is the vision of God. The natural virtues perfect man as man. By themselves they will not enable man to attain the vision of God. The infused supernatural virtues will elevate the perfect natural man and enable him to reach the vision of God. The infused moral virtues enable man to use the world in an orderly fashion to bring him to God. The theological virtues order man's intellect and will directly to God. Charity, or the love of God, directs all man's actions to union with God.
CHARITY, OR LOVE, is the answer to the problem of human life and human action. Without charity there is no prudence. Without prudence there are no moral virtues. And without moral virtues the many things which man does and must do in this life cannot be directed to the attainment of happiness.
ONLY THE FULL PANOPLY of the virtues will enable man to act efficiently as a unit in the pursuit of happiness. Without the virtues man is like a faulty machine whose operation is shaking and tearing it apart. With the virtues man is like a well-constructed machine. He is using well all his powers, both natural and infused, in the successful search for happiness.
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