As we strive to be better people, we will strive to be virtuous. Virtues are good habits. It’s important to define both those terms. First, “Noone is good, but only God” (Mark 10:18); we can only be virtuous when we participate in God’s goodness. Secondly, habits are inclinations towards something suitable to our nature. For example, my inclination to worship God is virtuous, because Jesus Christ, God incarnate, revealed it to be suitable to my nature in the greatest commandment, and He, Himself, worships and prays to God.
Virtues do increase with repeatedly doing those good actions. However, since virtues are qualities of God’s goodness, the rate that they increase in us will depend on the intensity of love we have for God. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “Increase of habits and other forms, is not caused by an addition of form to form; but by the subject participating more or less perfectly, one and the same form” (I-II.Q.52.a2). For example, let’s say we participate in the form of God’s generosity, which can be depicted in the Gospel, when Jesus feeds the 5000. This might look like us volunteering at a food bank. We would most perfectly participate in this good deed if our intellects and wills were more perfectly united to it.
Intellect: I firmly believe that this is a good thing to do.
- Why do I think it is good?
- Is it found in God’s goodness?
Will: I love this good deed
- I want to be united to this good deed, to God’s will.
- I want to want it. I want to enjoy it.
- I want to be more convinced of its goodness.
- I want to remove obstacles so I can do this deed without hindrance.
- I want this goodness to lift me outside myself and my selfishness.
- I want to prepare my heart to recognize the goodness quickly and execute the corresponding actions without hesitation.
For me, I can intellectually think about the goodness of an act all day, but I feel more fervor to do the good works by incorporating my will, by loving them. I feel stronger in my virtuous inclinations when I unite to them with an intense love.
It’s hard to love something we don’t know about. We can read the definitions of faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; however, that’s not going to help us love it. Not only do we need to intellectually understand what they are, but we have to see these virtues in action and participate in them with our wills. It is important to surround ourselves with people doing virtuous things. It will give us an idea of what it looks like and shows us that it is possible. “All things are possible with God.” May He be our ultimate guide as we do what is pleasing in His sight while loving Him with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
May God be with you always.