We continue the 52-week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

This week, we start reflecting upon the fifth major habit: Major Habit 5 – Strive to Grow in Heroic Virtue which can be broken down into three smaller habits:

  • Habit 17 – Pursue a deliberate plan to grow your most needed Virtues

  • Habit 18 – Daily Practice the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity

  • Habit 19 – Systematically study and practice the Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance

We turn our attention to Habit 17. 

Habit 17 – Pursue a deliberate plan to grow your most needed Virtues

Pursue a deliberate plan to grow your most needed Virtues, focusing on those virtues needed to battle against your mortal sins.

What is sin? – Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the eternal law of God, which is an offense against God and neighbor (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] paragraphs: 1849-1851). Sin can take many forms and vary in severity. Review Habit 14 – Recognize Sin and make deliberate plans to stop sinning for more detailed information.

Individual sins which are routinely repeated become habits.

What is a habit? – “Habit” is the inclination and ability to automatically and easily respond to a situation in a routine way (CCC 1822-1833); it is both mastery and self-control, skill and will. The words “habit” and “habitat” (a home) share a common root (Latin, habere) which means to “possess, hold or wear.” A habit is something which a man possesses and comfortably wears so that the habit makes a home in him.

A man forms a habit by repeatedly responding in the same way to some situation; opinions vary, but consistently repeating a thought or behavior daily for about 90 days is associated with establishing a habit.  See The 5 Keys for Building Holy Habits for more on habit formation.

What are Vices and Virtues? – Virtues  are good habits (CCC 1803) and Vices are evil habits (CCC 1865). A Catholic man must build the good habits (Virtue, from the Latin, vir, meaning “manliness, moral strength, goodness, valor”) of the moral life and break the bad habits (Vice, from the Latin, vitium, meaning “defect, offense, blemish, imperfection”) which cause him to fall into sin (unhappiness) and risk losing his salvation (happiness). See here for a more detailed discussion on Virtue and Vice.

How are Vices and Virtues related? – For every Vice there is an opposing Virtue which is built to defeat the Vice; in essence, a man battles against his bad habits by building good habits to replace the bad habits.

How can a man determine which Virtues he needs to build? – The perfection of a saint is a life-long process (CCC 2028) and every man remains in the spiritual battle against Sin/Vice and the building of Virtue throughout his entire life (CCC 405, 409).

By identifying typical sins through a thorough Examination of Conscience, a man can discover how habitual sins become Vices and realize the Virtues he should focus upon to grow in holiness. See here for the ECM Master Chart – Examination of Conscience based on Sin/Vice/Virtue and the needed Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

How can the Holy Spirit help a man grow in Virtue? – The Catechism acknowledges the role of grace in habit formation, stating that the grace of Christ, infused by the Holy Spirit, heals the soul of sin and sanctifies it (CCC 1999).

Grace enables individuals to overcome sinful inclinations and cultivate virtuous habits, emphasizing the cooperation between human effort and divine assistance in the formation of habits. Review Habit 6 – Seek and receive the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit for more detailed information.

This week’s questions – Here are some questions to meditate upon this week’s habit:

What are my most common and troubling Sins that have become Vices?

What Virtues and Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirit might help me battle against my most common Sins/Vices?

This week’s commitments Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here is this week’s challenges:

1) Do a thorough Examination of Conscience using the ECM Master Chart to identify your most frequent Sin/Vice and needed Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

2) Make a commitment to work on at least one sin each day by recalling the sin, reviewing the needed Virtue and asking the Holy Spirit to give you the Gifts/Fruits which will help you battle against the sin.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer – During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to pursue a deliberate plan to grow in your most needed Virtues:

Holy Spirit, guide me to recognize my Sins which have turned into Vices, to identify and commit to grow in the virtues which will overcome those sins and vices, and give to me Your Gifts and Fruits so I may make progress in my pursuit of holiness and happiness. Amen.