In the ascent towards holiness and happiness, 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 and risk losing his salvation. The Church provides a comprehensive list of Virtues which fall into two major categories: Theological Virtues (Supernatural) and Cardinal Virtues (Human).
Because it is impossible for a mere man ascend to Heaven on his own ability, God grants every Catholic man the supernatural help to grow in Virtue through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which are freely available to every Catholic man who remains in a state of grace; even if a Catholic man falls into mortal sin and loses the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, he can repent, confess his sins in the Sacrament of Penance and return to a state of grace and regain access to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Virtues, Vices and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
To grow in holiness and to receive the happiness Jesus promises, the Holy Catholic Church teaches men about Virtues, Vices and how the Gifts of the Holy Spirit help a man.
The Definition of Virtue
The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms the definition of virtues: “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions” (CCC 1803).
A virtue is a good habit. Habits are built by deliberate practice of specific acts until they become automatic. Like building any habit, building a virtue is the result of numerous small, repeated and sustained good and holy acts to the point where a man’s automatic response is to consistently do the good in any circumstance. Virtues are built by practice, practice, practice.
Virtues are summarized in The Catechism and are presented in two basic categories: Cardinal Virtues (Human) and Theological Virtues (Spiritual). The four Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude. The three Theological Virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity.
The Definition of Vice
Vices are described in the Glossary of The Catechism as “A habit acquired by repeated sin in violation of the proper norms of human morality. The vices are often linked with the seven capital sins. Repentance for sin and confession may restore grace to a soul, but the removal of the ingrained disposition to sin or vice requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired.”
Vices are bad habits which delay or stop a man from growing in holiness by the embrace of sinful acts and the failure to perform holy acts (CCC 1865). Like other habits, Vices are built by small acts of sin that are repeated, over and over. Vices are built by practice, practice, practice.
One long-held common summary of the Vices are The Seven Capital/Deadly Sins which, through a failure to reject sinful acts and by repetition, become vices (bad habits) which predispose a man to continue to sin: Pride, Avarice/Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Acedia/Sloth (CCC 1866); these are called “Capital” for once a man has the vice/bad habit of these sins, he falls pray to all sorts of other sins (e.g. Greed can lead to theft, murder, etc.).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
For those who are blessed to receive the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Spirit graciously grants The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (see “The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit” p ___; CCC 1830-1831) as supernatural powers from God to help a man grow in the Virtues and battle against Vices. Traditionally, each of The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit offer special supernatural help which correspond to the seven core Virtues (four Cardinal Virtues and three Theological Virtues) as described below.
The Cardinal (Human) Virtues
Human Virtues were first described by the Greeks (including Aristotle) and given their fuller meaning by the Church (St. Thomas Aquinas). Human Virtues are, “firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love” (CCC 1804).
The Cardinal (Latin, cardinalis, meaning “principle, chief, essential”) Virtues are the four major human virtues under which all other sub-virtues can be organized: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. In summary, the logic of the Cardinal Virtues can be remembered by considering how man achieves some noble goal: 1) Prudently set a goal, 2) act with Justice in the pursuit of the goal, 3) have the Fortitude to endure hardship, and 4) practice Temperance to avoid falling prey to obstacles/distractions.
The Virtue of Prudence
Prudence is called the “charioteer” of the Cardinal Virtues because it is the virtue that allows a man to observe, analyze, choose, and implement a strategy or action to accomplish a goal.
The Virtue of Justice
Justice is the virtue which helps set the overall way of living a righteous/just man seeks to live his life, always seeking to “give each their proper due” as he seeks to accomplish his mission.
The Virtue of Fortitude
Fortitude is a virtue which strengthens a man to firmly persevere to achieve great things despite various challenges by circumstances or opposition by others.
The Virtue of Temperance
Temperance is a virtue by which a man exerts self-control so the various pleasures and temptations of life do not stop him from achieving his mission.
The Theological Virtues
The Theological Virtues “are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as His children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being…” (CCC 1813).
The Theological Virtues “relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object…” (CCC 1812) and support with the blessing of supernatural graces to allow a man to grow in the human virtues so as to be more and more conform his thoughts, words and deeds to Christ.
The Theological (Latin, theologia, meaning, “the study of God”) Virtues are the supernaturally endowed virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, under which all other sub-virtues can be organized. In summary, the logic of the Theological Virtues ascend in understanding, conversion, and conformance of one’s life to God and His Holy Catholic Church:
The Virtue of Faith
Faith is a theological virtue which is a gift from God that allows a man to believe in, and say “yes” to God and His Holy Catholic Church and launches and sustains a man throughout his remaining life to continue on the path to Heaven by seeking to draw ever closer to God, battle against sin, and love others; Faith protects a man from turning away from God and His Holy Catholic Church in disbelief.
The Virtue of Hope
Hope is the second Theological Virtue which is a gift from God that allows a man to have an unbending trust in God and His promises of salvation and the eternal beatitude of Heaven, protecting him against despair or placing his trust in the world instead of God.
The Virtue of Charity
Charity is the third and most important Theological Virtue which is a gift from God that allows a man to continually put Faith and Hope into concrete action by seeking to love God and neighbor in all his thoughts, words and deeds, protecting him against falling into selfish and hateful acts.
Overview Chart of Vice, Virtue and Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spiri
Men, made in the image and likeness of God and raised above the animals, have an Intellect and a Will; in the Intellect resides the ability to observe and interpret the realities of the world and to make decisions about how to live. The Will is the power to take what is given by the Intellect and put it into a lived experience in the world.
The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit are given to the receptive Catholic man so that he might be able to understand and grow in holiness and happiness and receive salvation. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit (See “Receiving the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit” p ____) supernaturally infuse the Intellect and the Will in a beautiful, logical and integrated way to help a man overcome Sin/Vice and grow in Theological and Cardinal Virtues (See “Building the Theological Virtues” p ___ and “Building the Cardinal Virtues” p ___) so he can become ever more fruitful with the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Human Attribute and needed ability and action
Gift of the Holy Spirit
Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Intellect – The power of the soul to comprehend and react to knowledge
The ability to be aware of and comprehend the truth of God which allows a man to penetrate and accept the truth of divine things.
The ability to grasp reality and respond to created things which allows a man to know the teachings of God and His Holy Catholic Church.
The ability to properly grasp and internalize divine truths which allows a man to see the big picture of how God is the perfection of love Who desires for men to live lives animated by love.
Hatred of God
The ability to choose right actions which allows a man to practically choose how to act in ways consistent with the love of God and His Commandments.
Draw Lessons from Experience
Lack of followthrough
Will – The power of the soul to take action to achieve goals in the world
The ability to take just action to worship God and act justly to others which sustains a man’s action to give glory to God through prayer, the Sacraments and holy acts and give each man his due.
Unjust Agression or Pacifism
The ability to sustain action in the face of danger and suffering which strengthens a man’s firmness in courageously persevering to build the Kingdom of God, particularly in the face of persecution, martyrdom and sorrow.
Lack of Fortitude
The ability to resist falling into the various sins of Intemperance (Pride, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth) which strengthens a man’s ability to resist sin out of fear of displeasing God.
Fear of the Lord