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 9, GOD AND HUMAN HAPPINESS
GOD HAS GIVEN MAN the supernatural infused virtues to enable man to produce those divine-human acts which lead to the vision of God. But His generosity to man has not stopped here. The world of the supernatural is familiar to God. It is His own world. But it is not familiar to man. If man is to make his way safely and easily in the world of the supernatural he must be led by God. Human reason is a sufficient guide to man in the natural world of man. But in the world of God human reason, even when it is perfected by faith, is not an accurate guide. Human reason can enable man to live familiarly with other men and with his inferiors, the animals, the plants, and the earth itself. But God is infinite perfection. Human reason alone cannot give man that familiarity with God which will enable him to act easily and safely in the world of the supernatural. To overcome this difficulty, to make man's progress in God's world easy, God has given man the gifts, fruits, and beatitudes of the Holy Spirit.
MAN IS TO BE LED by God in the world of the supernatural, he must be disposed to accept that divine guidance or inspiration. A teacher cannot lead a pupil to the discovery of truth unless the pupil is docile, that is, unless the pupil is disposed to accept or follow the guidance of the teacher. When man is given the infused supernatural virtues he is ready to walk in God's world. But the unfamiliarity of man in that world demands God's guidance. Through the gifts of the Holy Ghost man is disposed to obey that guidance. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are habits that God infuses in man to dispose man to obey readily the inspirations or promptings of the Holy Ghost.
THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFTS, like that of the virtues, is to perfect man's actions. They will be found then in man's power for action, reason and appetite. The gifts of understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and counsel are found in the intellect. The gifts of piety, fortitude and fear are found in the appetite.
THE FOUR GIFTS which perfect the intellect do so by completing the virtue of faith. They enable us to know the supernatural world both speculatively and practically. Understanding gives us a swift, easy, intuitive grasp of the meaning of the troths God has revealed to us. Knowledge enables us to judge quickly the created things of the world in their relation to God. Wisdom helps us to judge Divine things. And counsel helps us to bring all this knowledge to bear upon the decisions we must make in our particular actions. Piety perfects the virtue of justice in the will by moving us to do good to all men out of reverence for God. Fortitude perfects our appetite by strengthening it divinely against the fear of danger. And fear perfects our appetite against the inordinate lust for pleasures.
THE GIFTS ARE GIVEN TO US by the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in us through charity. They are rooted therefore in charity and will remain with us as long as charity remains. Since charity remains even in Heaven, the gifts will remain with man essentially even in Heaven. That is, though some of the matter with which they deal, for example, fear of danger or lust for pleasure, will no longer plague man in Heaven, yet the gifts will remain in so far as they make man amenable to the action of God in his soul. For in Heaven God will be more perfectly in man's soul than He is while man is still here on earth.
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT are given to us to produce divine-human acts in us. God produces these acts in us but not without us. When we are moved to action by the Holy Spirit, it is still we who move. The actions are ours. They flow forth from our reason and appetite. The student surgeon who performs an operation under the direction of a master surgeon owes the success of the operation to the master surgeon. Still it is the student who has actually performed the operation. So it is with the acts which we produce under the influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
JUST AS AN APPLE TREE works to produce fruit, so man works to produce good acts. Through the gifts God works with man to produce the fruits of good acts. The good acts which flow from the gifts of the Holy Spirit are called the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we consider the great variety of good acts which man may produce under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we could say that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are innumerable. St. Paul enumerates twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity" (Gal. V, 19).
ST. THOMAS TELLS US that St. Paul's list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is an adequate list because it shows us how the Holy Spirit sets our minds in perfect order in relation to ourselves, to our equals, and to our inferiors. The mind of man is properly disposed in itself when it has the proper attitude toward good and evil. "Charity" or love gives the mind its proper disposition to good for it puts man in possession of the Holy Spirit. "Joy" is the necessary result of the union of man with God in charity. But if a man rejoices in the possession 'of God in charity, then he is at "peace" in the undisturbed enjoyment of the presence of God. As for the proper disposition of the mind toward evil, "patience" prevents a man's mind from being disturbed when evil threatens, and "longanimity" or "long-suffering" prevents the mind from being disturbed when good things are delayed in coming.
IN RELATION to his neighbors or equals, man can have the will to do good to them, and this is "goodness", or he will actually do good for them and this is "benignity." Or if his neighbor inflicts evil on him, he can bear it with equanimity, and this is "mildness" or "meekness"; or he can refrain from doing harm to his neighbor, and this is "faith" or "fidelity." In relation to his inferiors man can have "modesty", which moderates his external actions, and "continency" and "chastity", which moderate his internal actions.
THE BEATITUDES are the most heroic or perfect fruits of the Holy Spirit in man. Like the fruits they are acts which proceed from the infused virtues as perfected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But they are the most perfect divinely human acts which man can perform. Consequently Christ Himself has attached a reward to them both in this life and in the next. Christ gives us eight beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. V, 3-10)
ST. THOMAS POINTS OUT to us how wonderfully these beatitudes given us by Christ describe true happiness in this life and in the next. Men have sought happiness in sensuality, in action and in the contemplation of truth. In the beatitudes Christ first pointed out those beatitudes or actions which preserve man from the error of seeking only sensual happiness. A life of sensual happiness consists either in the use of external goods, such as riches and honor, or in following the impulses of passion. The first beatitude makes us "poor in spirit" and so preserves us from the dangers of riches or worldly honor and vanity. The second and third beatitudes safeguard us against the disturbing impulses of the passions. Meekness protects a man against unruly and disorderly impulses of the emergency passions such as anger. Those who "mourn" are moved by the Holy Spirit to give up entirely the good things to which the concupiscible passions incline them for the sake of a higher good.
TRUE HAPPINESS IS FOUND both in activity and in contemplation. The beatitudes show us how both can make us happy. Activity, or an active life, plunges a man into many relationships with his neighbor. These relationships must be regulated by justice or by liberality. The fourth beatitude makes a man happy by giving him the works of justice for which he thirsts under the influence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. With regard to liberality, we are perfected to the extent that we have mercy on the poor and the afflicted.
AS FOR THE BEATITUDES of the contemplative life, "cleanness of heart" and "peace", they are really the effect of the active life. When a man has perfected himself by humility of spirit, by meekness, by justice, and so on, he has purged himself of ignorance and passion and found cleanness of heart. When he has perfected himself by mercy and justice, then he is at peace with his neighbors. In this way the sixth and the seventh beatitudes are a foretaste of Heaven.
THE LAST BEATITUDE IS, as it were, a summary of all the other seven. Because a man is confirmed in meekness, mercy, and so on, no persecution will induce him to renounce them. Hence he has laid hold strongly on the kingdom of Heaven.
ALL THE BEATITUDES are a promise from Christ that those who perform the works of the beatitudes will achieve the blessed vision of God in the next life. But they are also a foretaste of Heaven in this life. For a man is happy to the extent that he has a reasonable hope to attain true happiness. And the man who produces the works of the beatitudes through the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit has a well-founded hope that God will reward the perfection of his human acts with the final Divine gift of the vision of God.
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