Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faith, hope, charity= confidence


A gem of a book: Based on the spirituality of the Little Flower
I just began reading a book that came highly recommended to me: "I believe in Love" by Father Jean C.J. d'Elbee. It seems as though everyone has been talking about it. It is written as a sort of at-home retreat for personal reflection by laypeople based on the spirituality of the Little Flower, St. Terese of Lisieux. I am 2 chapters in, and I was struck by a particular passage in "Conference 2: Humble Confidence".


"The word, confidence, summarizes the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity- sovereign virtues which bring all the others in their train. But if these are the highest virtues, then the greatest heroism is demanded of us in order to realize them in the face of the mystery of a 'hidden God'. "(25)


He goes on to write:


"A man must be heroic to live always in faith, hope, and love. Why? Because, as a result of Original Sin, no one can be certain with the certainty of faith that he is saved, but only with a moral certainty based upon fidelity to grace; and because as sinners we are constantly tempted by doubt and anxiety." (25)


Wow...isn't this just the crux of our faith? When it is most difficult, we are especially called to remain confident in faith, hope, and charity that God has endowed us with the theological virtues and that His grace and our resolve to live in that grace. We must always be ready to repent of our sins and believe He has reserved a place for us in Heaven. The author seems to be saying that Original Sin causes us to hesitate in our faith, and yet, we must have faith anyways or risk falling into the traps of doubt and anxiety. Doubt and anxiety are not of God, but from the devil.

Let's take a look at what the Catechism says about 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." (1813)

Let us not forget that we have the theological virtues beginning at the time of our baptism. Pay attention particularly to "They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit...". Although God is a "hidden God", we can trust that He is present, especially in the person of the Holy Spirit in our capacity to manifest the theological virtues.

And now for a quick summary of each theological virtue taken again from the Catechism. This is helpful for me too as it is so easy to get caught up in the secular definition of each of these words that we use on a daily basis:

"Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself..." (1814)

"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit..." (1817)

"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God." (1822)



So yes, this new idea of confidence is a good way of understanding how the three theological virtues are combined so that we can strive for sanctity following His way and His will for our lives.

Here are some questions for you:

Do you agree that "confidence" is an adequate way to describe the unity of the theological virtues? Can they accurately be combined this way?

Is there a hierarchy to the theological virtues? Is charity more important than hope? Is faith more important than charity? Is hope more important than faith?

Which theological virtue is hardest for you? Easiest?

Last semester I received a sort of "Spiritual Evaluation" to examine which theological virtue(s) are strengths or weaknesses for a particular person. Most often, one particular theological virtue comes most easily. Personally, I tend towards charity, and I struggle most with hope. I will try and post this later today as it can be a very powerful tool for journaling and reflection. Obviously, it is important that we endeavor to be strong in all these virtues, however, I advise you to "know thy self" so that you can be fruitful in your efforts to embrace these God-given virtues.

Friends, we are all called to heroism in virtue. Let us allow God to give us the determination and strength to manifest a confidence in faith, hope, and charity with a profound humility of spirit. May we never tire of this journey, but rather, rejoice in every new opportunity to serve Him without reserve in light of our particular calling and vocation. Amen.

St. Terese of Lisieux, pray for us!

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Immaculate Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Until next time...

**Update** As promised, here is the Spiritual Evaluation on the theological virtues

The point of this exercise: to grow in self-knowledge in order to understand both what is a strength and what a weakness for the sake of clear-headed leadership

Faith

Do I easily get distracted from the most important unseen things by the immediate seen ones?

Do I tend to evaluate people and events around me according to a this-worldly judgment?

Do I tend to slide into the categories of success used by this world rather than by Christ?

Am I easily influenced by others who have not faith in my various environments, so that I begin to take on their way of thinking and acting?

Do I tend to greed, to storing things up, to delighting in having stuff, to wanting to be wealthy and secure and have nice things?

Sign of a lack: anxiety; easily distracted and tempted by things of the world

Hope

Do I find myself discouraged by setbacks, and tempted to give up?

Do I have a difficult time, remembering, or believing, the truth that I am in the thought of God, who has decided on extraordinary plans for me? Do I resist others encouraging me in this?

Do I tend to be anxious and nervous about the state of the world, or the Church, or the country, or my life?

Do I find it difficult to put off gratification or fulfillment of the present for a future good?

Do I battle to maintain fundamental joy in life?

Sign of a lack: sadness

Charity

Do I find it difficult to engage myself in matters that don't immediately touch on my interests?

Do I pay great attention to how my leadership or my performance is judged? Does praise make me soar and criticism make me sour?

Do I tend to envy others' accomplishments and praise, or become jealous of their gifts and their attentions? Do I find myself disliking certain people for no real reason except that they make me feel lessened somehow?

Am I easily offended, am I made angry when people don't pay me the respect I think I deserve?

Do I bargain with God, and find myself totaling up the things I have done for Him or given up in his service, so as to hold Him to it and demand something in return? (Peter and his question to Jesus)

Sign of a lack: anger/apathy

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